Five non-league clubs are through to the 3rd Round draw with four clubs having terrific wins over EFL opposition . First up was National League side Sutton United who came from behind to win 2-1 at home to EFL 2 club Cheltenham Town, avenging their 1-0 defeat to the same club in the competition 19 years ago, and making the 3rd Round for the first time in 23 years.
This was followed up by a fantastic 2-1 win by National League Barrow away from home at EFL 1 side Bristol Rovers, also avenging a past FA Cup defeat of 10 years ago, and making the 3rd Round for the first time in seven years. It will be the 12th time the Bluebirds will appear in the 3rd Round, but they have yet to progress any further. The club holds the record for the most 3rd Round appearances without ever having made the 4th Round.
Then it was the turn of Lincoln City, the National League side winning 3-2 at home to EFL 1 club Oldham Athletic, to exact revenge for losing by the same scoreline when the two clubs met in the FA Cup previously, 80 years ago.
Putting the icing on the cake was Stourbridge from Northern Premier League Premier Division winning 1-0 at home to EFL 1 side Northampton Town, four levels above the Glassboys. The win takes Stourbridge into the FA Cup 3rd Round for the first time ever in what is their 112th campaign, can consigned the Cobblers to a record 31st Second Round exit in the process.
Joining these four clubs in the 3rd Round is National League side Eastleigh, who reach their record best round in the FA Cup for the second successive season after winning 2-0 in a replay at National League North club FC Halifax Town, who themselves set a new personal best since re-forming on 2008.
Five non-league clubs in the 3rd Round has only ever been bettered twice before since the current FA Cup format was put in place in 1925.
It looked to all intents and purposes that these five non-league clubs would be joined by a sixth in the shape of National League North side Curzon Ashton, for whom Adam Morgan scored a hat-trick to put the Nash three goals up, maintaining that lead until 10 minutes to go. And then there came about one of the most remarkable comebacks in FA Cup history as EFL 1 club AFC Wimbledon score three goals in the space of just over three minutes, before grabbing a last gasp winner to seal the win. Heartbreak for Curzon, but their fans, players, volunteers and management team can all be rightly proud of equalling the club’s best ever FA Cup run despite the manner of the defeat.
The Cup upsets weren’t just confined to the non-league clubs, two EFL 2 clubs overcame higher league opponents, too. First up this time were the Chairboys of Wycombe Wanderers who stormed to a 5-0 victory at EFL 1 club Chesterfield thanks in large part to a Scott Kashket hat-trick. Then it was the turn of Cambridge United who beat Coventry City 4-0 with Luke Berry grabbing all four goals. Surprising as these results were, the outcomes were exactly the same when both sets of teams previously met in the FA Cup.
Some other non-league clubs saw their terrific runs come to an end with personal FA Cup records being set or equalled along the way. National League sides Braintree Town and Solihull Moors both set new FA Cup records for round reached in the competition. The Iron had had five successive 1st Round exits prior to this season so at least they now have finally progressed to the 2nd Round despite losing 5-2 at EFL 1 club Millwall for whom Harry Smith scored a hat-trick. And the Moors achievement this season eclipses the best runs for both of their predecessor clubs, Solihull Borough and Moor Green, who both only made it as far as the 1st Round. It’s some consolation for a dramatic turnaround of events in their game at EFL 2 side Luton Town whom they led 2-0 at half-time only for the League side to dominate the second to run out 6-2 winners.
Along with the aforementioned unfortunate Curzon Ashton, fellow National League North side Brackley Town also went out of the FA Cup whilst equalling their best run in the competition. The Saints only lost 1-0 at EFL 2 side Blackpool and can be proud of the fact they are the current second highest scorers in the competition with 20 goals with Jimmy Armson the second top goal-scorer with seven.
Port Vale and Hartlepool United met for the second time in the FA Cup. On the previous occasion the Valiants inflicted the biggest ever FA Cup defeat on the Pool with a 6-0 victory. This time it was only 4-0, but Hartlepool will be hoping to avoid their opponents in the competition for a long time to come. Another repeat winner was Rochdale who defeated Carlisle United in the FA Cup for the second time in two meetings.
More familiar FA Cup opponent came in the shape of EFL 1 pacesetters Bolton Wanderers and Sheffield United. The two clubs had been drawn together in the FA Cup for the 10th time with the Blades having won five of the previous nine encounters, with all nine settled at the first time of asking. The first meeting in 1889/90 season had resulted in a 13-0 victory for the Trotters. This time they won just 3-2, but that defeat for the Blades means it is the first time in 35 years that they won’t be in the hat for the 3rd Round draw.