This weekend was a real reminder of just how special the FA Cup can be, with so many thrilling matches featuring lower league opposition really trying the giant killing hat on for size. I won’t bore you by listing the scores of the all Premier League matches, or even those lower league confrontations that went the way of the higher placed team, but will instead just walk you through some of the more unexpected results that really showed just how little salary and reputation count for when the FA Cup rolls around.
Oldham 1 – 0 Everton
After James Vaughn and James McFadden squandered chances to put the Premier League outfit ahead early on, Gary McDonald unleashed a spectacular 25-yard wondergoal to win the tie. The second half was tight, but a superhuman display of resilience from John Sheridan's side kept the Merseysiders out, despite Yakubu hitting the post late on, to seal the historic victory.
Bolton 0 - 1 Sheffield United
Bolton rested seven regulars, including hitman Anelka, but take nothing away from Sheffield United who dominated the game from the outset. Australian Dave Carney bagged the winner for the Blades just before halftime and they were more than worth their win over the 90 minutes. Bolton had chances late on safe the round but committed defence from United secured the result.
Blackburn 1 - 4 Coventry
Huddersfield 2 – 1 Birmingham
An incredible moment for Chris Brandon as he scored the winner just 9 minutes from time to shock Premier League Birmingham in a game that was frantic and riveting from start to finish. After equalising just after Huddersfield got the opener, Birmingham nearly went 2 – 1 ahead, but a linesman’s flag stopped the celebrations prematuraly. Then, with a replay looming, Brandon pulled free at the backpost, and his sweet volley sends the league 1 outfit marching on. The textbook mascot celebration that followed was undoubtedly the STT highlight of the round.
Swansea 1 – 1 Havant & Waterlooville (replay Wednesday January 16th)
And the Havant go marching on, but they left it late at Swansea, with Rocky Baptista’s (amazing name by the way) equaliser coming just 3 minutes from time. The scrappy but passionate game came alive with 25 minutes to go as Swansea took the lead, but following a bloody mass-brawl both sides were left to play the last portion of the game with 10 men each. As Swansea defenders Austin and Orlandi tangled up with each other, Baptista snuck in on 87 minutes to expertly drill the equaliser past keeper De Vries.
Derby 2 – 2 Sheffield Wednesday (replay Tuesday January 15th)
After 25 minutes Wednesday were in dreamland, two goals up away at Derby and completely running the show, but equalisers from Miller and the in-form Barnes spared further despair for the Rams. The gulf in fitness was undoubtedly a factor in the second half, and as the game got stretched Derby dominated possession, but Wednesday stood firm to earn themselves another bite at the metaphorical apple in 8 days time.
Fulham 2 – 2 Bristol Rovers (replay Tuesday January 15th)
Struggling Fulham twice came from behind to stay in the cup against an impressive Rovers side who nearly lived up to their pirate nickname at Craven Cottage. Equalisers from Healy and then Murphy saved the Premier League side’s blushes but you can be certain that they are not relishing the return leg in Bristol next week.
Luton 1 – 1 Liverpool (replay Tuesday January 15th)
In 2006, a phenomenal match-up between the sides saw Liverpool fight back from 3 – 1 down to win 5 – 3. This didn’t have the same number of goals, and Alonso failed to repeat scoring from inside his own half, but the game was as frantic and hard-fought as its predecessor. When Crouch put Liverpool ahead it looked like game over, but extensive Luton pressure forced John Arne Riise to score at the wrong end to gift Luton an awesome return leg at Anfield.
Stoke City 1 – 1 Newcastle (replay Wednesday January 16th)
The last game of the round and a true cup spectacle for the neutral at the Britannia, as fourth-placed Championship side Stoke did everything but score against a desolate Newcastle side, lacking not only in creativity but passion as well. If not for the second half heroics of Steven Taylor and Shay Given, this would’ve already been decided, but now you can’t help but fear that Stoke may have missed their chance. Don’t listen to Allerdyce’s claims that they ran the game, the Magpies were hapless, and a weekend trip to Old Trafford before the replay could see them there for the taking on their own soil a week on Wednesday.
Hearty back-patting must also go out to lowest-ranked side in the round Chasetown, who put up a valiant performance against a strong Cardiff side, eventually going down 1 – 3, despite scoring first.
Further hand-shaking to a resilient Burnley team who gave Arsenal a run for their money, even after having a man unjustly sent off early in the second half.
Round 4 Draw (ties to be played over the weekend of January 26/27)
Arsenal v Stoke City/Newcastle
Coventry v Walsall/Millwall
Oldham v Huddersfield Town
Swindon/Barnet v Fulham/Bristol Rovers
Wigan v Chelsea
Luton/Liverpool v Swansea/Havant & Waterlooville
Southend v Barnsley
Southampton v Norwich/Bury
Man Utd v Tottenham/Reading
Portsmouth v Plymouth
Derby/Sheff Wed v Preston
Watford v Wolves
Peterborough v Charlton/West Brom
Sheff Utd v West Ham/Man City
Mansfield v Middlesbrough
Tranmere/Hereford v Cardiff
Nice trip to Portsmouth there for Plymouth, while Sheffield United await the winners of West Ham and Manchester City. Picks of the round though are the great potential rewards for Havant & Waterlooville or Stoke City, while uber-giant killers Oldham and Huddersfield have unfortunately drawn each other…