FA Cup Still has Magic
There is still magic to be found in the FA Cup as National League sides Sutton United and Lincoln City overcame EFL 1 and Championship clubs AFC Wimbledon and Ipswich Town respectively in their 3rd Rd replays. Sutton United will now at least equal their best ever FA Cup run and get the opportunity to avenge a 6-0 defeat at the hands of Leeds United in 1970 when the difference in standard between the two clubs was much greater then than it is today (Leeds were reigning League Champions). The reward for Lincoln City is their first 4th Round tie for 41 years where they will host Championship side Brighton & Hove Albion. A win for the Imps would put them into the 5th Rd for the first time in 130 years.
Another Cup upset was also caused by EFL 2 side Blackpool who won 2-1 at EFL Championship side Barnsley after extra time.
Stat of the 3rd Round
All of the Premier League clubs who lost to lower league opposition already had a poorer head-to-head record against their respective opponents in the FA Cup. Millwall had beaten AFC Bournemouth in their only previous encounter, Derby County had won five of their previous seven meetings with West Bromwich Albion, and Wolverhampton Wanderers had won six of their previous seven encounters with Stoke City, including an initial meeting that Wolves won 8-0, still the record FA Cup defeat for Stoke City.
The 3-0 win by Millwall over AFC Bournemouth is the biggest margin of victory by a club at least two levels below a top flight opponent since the Premier League came into being. However, it is not the biggest ever margin of victory as many pundits will have quoted. That belongs to Southampton who, whilst members of the Southern League in 1905/06 season, won 6-1 against Division One opponents Middlesbrough.
The only other upset of sorts saw EFL One side Oxford United win 3-2 at EFL Championship strugglers Rotherham United to make the FA Cup 4th Rd for the second successive season.
Arsenal maintained their current record of consecutive successes in the 3rd Round of the FA Cup after their late 2-1 comeback win over. It is now 21 years since they were defeated in the 3rd Round, the longest ever winning streak at this stage of the competition, although Chelsea are not too far behind on a similar 19 year unbeaten run. Manchester United would hold the record, but their 24 consecutive 4th Round appearances was interrupted by a non-participation in the competition in the 1999/2000 season.
The 2-1 victory for Accrington Stanley over their EFL Two opponents Luton Town means that the club will at least equal their best ever FA Cup run. Even the original Accrington Stanley only ever made it as far as the 4th Round, so the current squad have the opportunity of making FA Cup history for the town.
None of the five Non-league clubs in this year’s 3rd Round were able to win at the first attempt, although both Lincoln City and Sutton United from the National League have another opportunity to make the 4th Round. Northern Premier League Premier Division side Stourbridge matched their EFL Two opponents Wycombe Wanderers falling to a late goal after having previously levelled the score. The club, the players, the fans, the management and the volunteers can all be really proud of setting a new record for FA Cup round reached.
The other two National League sides in the 3rd Round, Barrow and Eastleigh, both exited the competition at the hands of EFL opposition, but both clubs have equalled their best ever FA Cup run this season. It’s the 3rd successive season the Spitfires have set or equalled their FA Cup personal best, whilst the Bluebirds have extended their (probably) unwanted record of 3rd Rd exits without ever making the 4th Round. This year was the 12th time Barrow have fallen at this hurdle.
Also exiting at the 3rd Rd stage are Queen’s Park Rangers, although this is a common occurrence for the South London club who have only managed to go beyond this round three times this century. QPR now sit just one 3rd Rd exit behind the record 49 held by Plymouth Argyle, who had a fantastic result drawing 0-0 at Liverpool, to give themselves another chance to not add to this tally.