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Tie-by-tie FA Cup 3rd Round stats and facts can be found in this blog: https://facupfactfile.wordpress.com/2018/01/03/2017-18-fa-cup-3rd-tie-by-tie-stats-facts/
For the first time in 67 years there will be no Non-League representation in the 3rd Round of this year’s FA Cup. This is extremely disappointing for all Cup romantics, particularly given the records set by Sutton United and Lincoln City last season, and some think this signals a shift in the ‘Magic of the Cup’.
However, a couple of specific factors have contributed to this outcome which is occurring for only the second time since the current FA Cup structure was put in place in the 1925-26 season. Despite representing a quarter of the clubs competing in the 2nd Round, all ten Non-League clubs were unusually drawn against EFL opposition thereby meaning there would be no guaranteed Non-League club in the 3rd Round. Additionally, the high profile nature of the success of Non-League clubs last season highlighted to lower Football League clubs the financial benefits of putting together even a half-decent Cup run, and many sides upped their game this year taking the competition far more seriously than in previous seasons.
The pairing of Liverpool and Everton in this year’s 3rd Round sets an FA Cup record. It is the 18th time the two Merseyside rivals have been drawn to face each other in the competition (including Finals) and this is a record match-up for the ‘Proper’ Rounds of the FA Cup. Liverpool have triumphed in ten of the previous 17 contests, but bizarrely have yet to be victorious in any FA Cup game against Everton played at Anfield. Will they break that duck this year?
The most common FA Cup tie of them all is Great Yarmouth Town versus Lowestoft Town who have been drawn to face each other in the competition 21 times. The Blues of Lowestoft have a 13 to eight win ratio over the Bloaters.
Potential New Territory
A victory for any one of three particular clubs in this year’s 3rd Round would mean they would appear in the 4th Round of the FA Cup for the first time ever, although for two of them it may not be as simple as that as there is debate as to whether or not they ‘own’ a previous club’s history. First, the straightforward example. Fleetwood Town are in the FA Cup 3rd Round for the second successive year and for the third time in total. Victory over Premier League side Leicester City would make the Fishermen the first club from the town to reach the 4th Round.
Next, a more complicated example. Newport County are in to the FA Cup 3rd Round for the second time since re-forming in 1989. It is that re-formation that clouds the issue as to whether a victory over Leeds United would set a new FA Cup record for the Exiles or not. For my statistical purposes I treat the current Newport County club as a separate entity to the club formed in 1912, but which folded in 1989. However, I know that many involved with the club see it as a continuation of the original Ironsiders, and therefore count their exploits to the 5th Round in the 1948-49 season as their FA Cup record run. Coincidentally they beat Leeds United in that year’s Cup run.
Now the extremely complicated and contentious example. AFC Wimbledon are appearing in the FA Cup 3rd Round for the third time since forming in 2002 and so a victory at Tottenham Hotspur would set a new record for the club in the competition. Or would it? When the FA sanctioned Wimbledon FC to be moved lock, stock and barrel to Milton Keynes and be re-named as Milton Keynes Dons the ‘who owns the history of Wimbledon’ was an unresolved contentious issue, and by association, who can call themselves ‘FA Cup winners’. Personally I believe the history more rightly belongs to AFC Wimbledon, however for the purposes of my statistical analysis I treat Wimbledon, Milton Keynes Dons and AFC Wimbledon as three separate clubs, and so regard the Dons as being one step away from setting a new FA Cup personal best. If nothing else, thanks to an away tie at Tottenham Hotspur, at least they will be able to correctly state they have played at Wembley in the FA Cup.
Another club looking to make their own FA Cup history is Burton Albion. In 66 previous campaigns the furthest the Brewers have ever been in the competition is a 4th Round appearance seven years ago. This year is only the second time that the club actually starts their campaign in the 3rd Round and an away tie at fellow EFL Championship strugglers Birmingham City represents their best chance of equalling their best Cup run.
First Cup Meetings
All four sides involved in making personal FA Cup history are facing opponents they’ve never met in the competition before. Only four other of the 32 ties also involve clubs meeting in the FA Cup for the first time despite a plethora of Cup runs between them. Cardiff City and Mansfield Town collectively have 197 FA Cup campaigns between them, Yeovil Town and Bradford City have a combined total of 198 campaigns, Shrewsbury Town and West Ham United have a total of 223 campaigns, whilst Exeter City and West Bromwich Albion are meeting for the first time with a combined total of 225 FA Cup campaigns.
Exeter City are in fact competing in the FA Cup for the 100th time, whilst West Brom are entering for the 125th time, as are Middlesbrough, Stoke City and Wolverhampton Wanderers. Another club with an FA Cup milestone this year is Rochdale who are competing in it for the 100th time. The Dale have a 3rd Round meeting with Doncaster Rovers, a tie notable for the fact it is the only one of the 32 ties to involve two clubs neither of whom have ever reached the Quarter Finals before. Additionally, Rovers have won through on both previous occasions the two sides have met in the FA Cup, both times by a 2-1 scoreline.
Of those ties involving clubs who have met in the FA Cup before, a few will instil dread into one of the clubs involved due to their abysmal record against their opponents in the FA Cup. Manchester United and Derby County are drawn together for the 10th time with the Rams only being triumphant when the Red Devils were still known as Newton Heath in the 19th Century. Manchester United have won the last seven meetings scoring 22 goals in the process.
Huddersfield Town fans may well believe a visit to EFL Championship strugglers Bolton Wanderers is a tie they should come through with relative ease. However, in five previous FA Cup pairings the best the Terriers could achieve has been a 1-1 draw in their first meeting with five successive victories for Bolton in all their other matches.
Norwich City fans may very well be excited by the prospect of Premier League champions Chelsea visiting Carrow Road but the best the Canaries could muster in six previous FA Cup games against the Blues is two draws, with Chelsea eventually triumphing in those replays and in all four past occasions.
Watch Out for the Lower League Side
Aside from Bolton Wanderers having a better head-to-head record against their FA Cup 3rd Round opponents who play in a higher league, all the following lower League clubs also have the same upper hand over higher League opposition.
EFL 1 side Wigan Athletic have beaten Premier League AFC Bournemouth in both their previous two FA Cup meetings. The last time, in a replay five years ago, was the launch-pad to the Latics’ greatest ever day at Wembley. Similarly, the only time Coventry City and Stoke City have met in the FA Cup was 30 years ago in the 5th Round, a 1-0 victory for the Sky Blues on their journey to lifting the ultimate prize. Luton Town is the only 4th tier side having to travel to a Premier League club in this year’s FA Cup 3rd Round, but the Hatters will go to Newcastle United knowing they have a two to one win ratio over the Magpies in the competition, and that Newcastle have a wretched recent FA Cup run whilst Luton are currently scoring goals for fun!
Will any of those sides continue their winning ways over their opponents to cause an FA Cup upset? The most likely Cupset, if it could be so called, could happen at Molineux as runaway Championship leaders Wolverhampton Wanderers host bottom of the Premier League Swansea City. Wolves have met the Swans twice before in the FA Cup winning through on both occasions when their opponents were still known as Swansea Town. Who would bet against them making it three out of three?
Better Concentrate on the League?
Last season Newcastle United won an FA Cup tie for the first time in six seasons, and it was only the Magpies fourth FA Cup victory in 11 seasons. However, two other clubs have more disappointing recent FA Cup runs. Queens Park Rangers recent FA Cup record can only be described as abysmal, recording just four victories in their last 20 campaigns, including failing to progress beyond the 3rd Round in each of the last four years.
On the surface it would appear Ipswich Town have a better recent FA Cup record than both of the two other clubs having won through 10 FA Cup ties in the last 20 seasons, however the club has failed to record any victory in the competition at all in each of their last seven campaigns.