From Ronnie Radford’s wonder strike at Edgar Street that rocked Newcastle United to Sutton United’s heroics against holders Coventry City, the FA Cup Third Round has been the setting to some of English football’s most memorable moments. Today, we remember ten times the current Premier League elite succumbed to Third Round upsets – from the hypnotist who played havoc with Manchester City to the international cricketer that bowled out the Baggies.
Chelsea 1 Crewe Alexandra 2
Saturday 7 January 1961
2017 arrived with Antonio Conte’s Chelsea a full five points clear at the top of the Premier League – and the Stamford Bridge faithful had much to cheer about in 1960-61 as well. That season saw the Blues (spearheaded by prolific forward Jimmy Greaves) net some 98 goals in England’s top flight, establishing a record that would stand until 2009-10. However, there would be little to celebrate in the FA Cup, as Chelsea were toppled at home by fourth tier Crewe Alexandra. With goalkeeper Peter Bonetti beaten by Billy Stark and Barrie Wheatley, the local press called it the biggest win in Crewe’s history – and who are we to argue?
Burnley 0 Wimbledon 1
Saturday 4 January 1975
With seven victories and a draw from eleven outings, Burnley’s record on home turf this season has been among the best in the Premier League. In contrast, Turf Moor would be anything but a fortress in January 1975, as the Clarets became the first top flight outfit in over 50 years to lose a home FA Cup tie to non-league opponents. Just shy of 20,000 spectators witnessed the event, as Mick Mahon added his name to competition history with the Dons’ famous winner. Wimbledon’s reward would be a date with then-champions of England, Leeds United – and while the South London club would be edged out by Jimmy Armfield’s men, the Southern Leaguers would soon embark on a whirlwind ascent of the pyramid, capped by FA Cup Final glory the following decade. Fantasy football indeed.
Halifax Town 1 Manchester City 0
Saturday 5 January 1980
Nowadays, the gulf between money-spinning Manchester City and reformed, fan-owned Halifax Town is nothing short of cavernous, yet back in 1980, the unlikely weapon of hypnotism proved to be an irresistible leveler. Hypnotist ‘Romark’ had previously lent a hand to City boss Malcolm Allison during the manager’s Crystal Palace days. However, a dispute over pay had left the watch-wielder eager to exact retribution, with the Third Round seen as the perfect platform. Convincing Town’s Paul Hendrie he was the country’s leading midfielder, the unorthodox ingredients were soon in place for another colorful chapter in the cup’s oddball history – and, with a mud bath of a pitch causing City further difficulties, it was Hendrie’s strike in the 75th minute that proved the knock-out blow. Coincidentally, as the Mancunians slumped to the third tier years later, this particular pairing would be an FA Cup First Round tie in 1998, with City taking sweet retribution with a 3-0 victory at Maine Road.
Harlow Town 1 Leicester City 0
Tuesday 8 January 1980
No club has reached the FA Cup Final more times than Leicester City without actually winning the thing, with the current Premier League champions making the national showpiece on no fewer than four occasions. Nevertheless, barely a decade after the forth of their appearances, the Foxes suffered one of their most notable FA Cup humblings – and it came at the ever-treacherous Third Round stage. Chasing promotion to the English top flight (a goal they would accomplish on the final day of the season), Leicester may have taken one eye off the ball when they hosted non-league Harlow – and after Neil Prosser’s 89th minute equaliser secured a replay, they were soon left ruing a Third Round exit, in front of the television cameras. Exiting the competition with a dizzying 4-3 defeat to Watford, underdogs Harlow would play a grueling 11 ties that season, making 1979-80 their greatest FA Cup campaign.
AFC Bournemouth 2 Manchester United 0
Saturday 7 January 1984
Capturing a record-equaling 12th FA Cup last May, Manchester United would win the silverware twice in the 1980s, lifting the trophy in 1983 and 1985 alike. In 1984 however, Big Ron’s Reds found themselves on the receiving end of a dreaded FA Cup upset, handed their cards by then-minnows Bournemouth in a memorable Third Round shocker. Today’s AFC Bournemouth are a relatively-established EPL outfit but the Cherries of 1984 were languishing near the bottom of the old Third Division when Milton Graham and Ian Thompson’s goals in the span of three minutes secured their place in Bournemouth footballing folklore. United came to Dean Court with eight of the XI fielded against Brighton in the final eight months earlier. For the likes of Frank Stapleton, Norman Whiteside and skipper Bryan Robson however, this FA Cup meeting with south coast opponents was very much one to forget. Questioned after the match, Bournemouth boss Harry Redknapp meanwhile proved the polar opposite, remarking: “It’s got to be the greatest day of my life, and I’m sure it’s the greatest day of all the players’ lives”. United would avenge their loss almost exactly a year later, beating Bournemouth by three clear goals at Old Trafford in another Third Round tie.
West Bromwich Albion 2 Woking 4
Saturday 5 January 1991
Few have encapsulated the FA Cup’s potential for instant cult hero stardom better than Tim Buzaglo, the obscure cricket international/non-league forward who emerged from the game’s periphery to take the Third Round by storm. Buzaglo and friends at Ishmithian League Woking had started their FA Cup campaign in inconspicuous fashion, with victories over Conference foes Bath City (at the qualifying stage) and Merthyr Tydfil sandwiching a narrow replay win at Kidderminster Harriers. On the opening Saturday of 1991 though, the Cardinals would enjoy their finest hour to date, with Buzaglo’s stunning hat-trick helping the men from the Kingfield Stadium earn a shock 4-2 win over West Bromwich Albion, after overturning a one-goal deficit at the Hawthorns. The undoubted crowning moment of his semi-professional career, Buzaglo’s footballing exploits would soon be curtailed by injury, yet this did not stop the Londoner from representing Gibraltar in one-day cricket’s ICC Trophy until as late as the summer of 2001.
Wrexham 2 Arsenal 1
Saturday 4 January 1992
One of the most celebrated Third Round upsets of the entire FA Cup canon, the story of Fourth Division cellar dwellers Wrexham and their improbable victory over George Graham’s Arsenal is one often told, yet nonetheless enthralling. Arriving in North Wales as reigning champions of England, Arsenal’s starting XI was home to a host of Three Lions internationals, but from skipper Tony Adams to goalkeeper David Seaman, each and every one of them returned across the border with their tail between their legs; Graham later calling the outcome his “lowest moment in football”. For much of the encounter, all seemed unfolding to plan, with forward Alan Smith’s 43rd-minute opener poised to be the signature 1-0 Arsenal winner. Unfortunately for the Gunners, former Manchester United maverick Mickey Thomas had other ideas, firing home a wonderful free-kick to equalise, before Steve Watkins popped up with Wrexham’s second, two minutes later. In storybook scenes befitting of the historic Racecourse, a spirited pitch invasion would greet the final whistle and while Wrexham’s cup journey would end at West Ham in Round 4, that victory over Arsenal continues to live vividly in the memory of their supporters, a full 25 years later. Learning the lessons of their Third Round collapse, Arsenal would recover to clinch a sixth FA Cup the following season.
Liverpool 0 Bristol City 1
Tuesday 25 January 1994
Liverpool are another of the clubs most synonymous with the FA Cup, but the Reds have not been immune to the occasional Third Round upset, right back to an infamous 1959 humbling at the hands of Worcester City. In 1992, the Mersey men lifted their fifth FA Cup trophy with a 2-0 win over Sunderland. Few at the time though could have expected their cup form to subsequently drop off a cliff. In 1993, the holders were held to a 2-2 draw with Bolton, before falling 2-0 at Anfield in the replay. Any attempt to cast this as an aberration were then left in tatters the following season, as lightning struck twice in the shadow of the famous Kop. Despite their initial Third Round encounter at Ashton Gate resulting in a 1-1 draw, Bristol City arrived at Anfield as marked underdogs six days later. City’s blinding fusion of purple shirts and green shorts might have caught the eye that night, but it was the stunning 1-0 result that made the headlines; Brian Tinnion beating Bruce Grobbelaar in the first minute, before the visitors battled their way to a titanic triumph. Meanwhile, the result would have further consequences at Anfield, as boss Graham Souness swiftly tendered his resignation.
Shrewsbury Town 2 Everton 1
Saturday 4 January 2003
In 2003, the Third Round phenomenon claimed yet another high-profile victim, this time from the blue half of Liverpool. David Moyes’ Everton travelled to Gay Meadow in January 2003 in the midst of a record 100th season in the English top flight – and 80 places above their Football League adversaries in the pyramid. However, former Toffees team captain Kevin Radcliffe would be the architect of their downfall on this FA Cup Third Round Saturday, as the Welsh international guided his Shrewsbury Town charges to their finest result of his four-year managerial tenure. On the field, the glory belonged to veteran journeyman Nigel Jemson, who both opened the scoring with a pinpoint free-kick and headed the decisive winner past England international Richard Wright, after Everton’s Niclas Alexandersson’s equaliser had temporarily tamed the Shrews on the hour mark. Less than 8,000 fans were on hand for this Third Round upset, but as has become customary, few who were there will ever forget it.
Havant and Waterlooville 4 Swansea City 2
Wednesday 16 January 2008
Finally, Swansea City had been responsible for several of their own FA Cup upsets, including a famous 1-0 replay win over West Ham United in the 1998-99 competition. At the time, City’s success was quite the scalp, with the Swans treading water near the foot of the Football League. Nearly a decade later though, the boot was firmly on the other foot, as Conference South campaigners Havant and Waterlooville took their own place in FA Cup Third Round infamy. With the likes of future EURO 2016 star Joe Allen in their midst, Swansea were months away from securing promotion to the Championship – yet after Rocky Baptiste’s late equaliser at the Liberty clinched a replay, the Hawks would seize their opportunity on home Hampshire soil, racing into a three-goal lead en route to a 4-2 win. Founded in 1998, Havant had been a Southern League side as recently as 2004, but their prize this day would be a Fourth Round glamour tie with Liverpool. The magic of the cup was truly alive and well. AC