A Brief History of FA Cup Replays

Do you know what happened the first time two clubs played out a draw in the FA Cup?

Well, it was a long time before the concept of penalties to resolve a tie, and the idea of a replay hadn’t been considered.

When the original Hitchin FC and the original club called Crystal Palace drew a blank in their 1st Round tie on the inaugural day in FA Cup history on 11 November 1871, the decision makers at the FA concluded that both clubs should progress to the 2nd Round.

Yes, that’s right, a draw was as good as a victory for getting through to the next round!

However, in the 2nd Round, Barnes and Hampstead Heathens played out a one-one draw, but instead of both clubs progressing to the Quarter Finals, they underwent a replay which Hampstead Heathens won by scoring the only goal of the game.

It wasn’t FA policy then for a replay to take place, but it happened anyway.

In the Quarter Finals, Crystal Palace once again drew a blank, this time against The Wanderers and both clubs progressed to the Semi-Finals, where it got a little complicated for the FA.

Both semi-finals in the inaugural FA Cup competition ended in goal-less draws, and because all four teams naturally couldn’t progress to the Final the games were replayed.

However, all semi-finals had to take place at the Oval, and whilst Royal Engineers and Crystal Palace could easily manage and afford to replay their game, the same could not be said to be true for The Wanderers’ opponents Queen’s Park, who were based in Glasgow.

As a consequence, Queen’s Park withdrew from the competition, and The Wanderers effectively were awarded a bye to the Final, which they went on to win by one goal to nil against Royal Engineers.

However, the double draw dilemma in the Semi-Finals that the FA were faced with forced their hand to make a definitive rule about replays.

The decision was made that any game resulting in a draw would require a replay, and if that replay also ended in a draw then a third game would be played, and so on until there was a clear winner.

The justification for replays, aside from avoiding problematic FA Cup Finals involving four teams, was that they would provide an opportunity for the team who had the misfortune to be drawn away from home to take the tie back to their home ground. Initially any third game would be played at one of the two team’s ground, being decided by a toss of a coin.

As it turned out, there was no requirement for replays in the second running of the FA Cup, the only time the competition was run as had been originally proposed, as a challenge cup competition, whereby the winners of the previous season would be exempted until the Final, where they would be ‘challenged’ by the club winning through the knockout element.

The following season saw Sheffield FC and Shropshire Wanderers play out two goal-less draws in the 1st Round. Instead of going to a third game, the match was decided on the toss of a coin, the only time this occurred in FA Cup history, a toss which Sheffield FC won at a ceremony a few days after the replay.

That season also saw Barnes have to replay their 1st Round tie against 1st Surrey Rifles thereby becoming the first club to be involved in two replays.

In the 2nd Round that season Clapham Rovers and Cambridge University became the first two clubs to be involved in a second replay, played at Cambridge University, but won 4-1 by Clapham Rovers.

The following season, 1874-75, saw Shropshire Wanderers become the first team to progress through two replays in the same campaign, although Civil Service did actually scratch before their second game was played.

The feat was quickly matched by Royal Engineers who defeated Oxford University in a replay in the Semi-Finals before repeating the trick against Old Etonians in what was the first ever FA Cup Final replay. The two sides had drawn one apiece in the first game, which also witnessed the first instance of extra time played.

Old Etonians would make the Final again in the following season, only to be defeated once more in a replay, this time by The Wanderers, to become the first club to lose successive FA Cup Finals. There would only be a dozen more occasions when replays were used to settle FA Cup Finals.

One of the most famous matches that went to a second replay occurred in the 1878-79 Quarter Finals, and once again involved Old Etonians. It’s famous because it is cited as being the FA Cup tie that first highlighted there was a potential swing in power from the amateur old boys teams of the south to the working class men’s team of the north.

Their opponents were Darwen, and all seemed normal in the first match as Old Etonians led 5-1 with a quarter of an hour remaining, only for the Lancashire side to level the match before full time.

A second game ended two apiece after extra time, and only because all three matches had been played at the Oval, did Darwen finally succumb 6-2 in the third game. However, as a result of the Lancashire side having to fund and travel to London every time, the double replay caused a change in rule that regionalised the competition and only used the Oval for semi-finals and Finals.

Second replays were still typically being played at the ground of whichever side won the toss of a coin, but an exception came in the 1882-83 season which witnessed the first ever second replay played on a neutral ground.

The famous Welsh club, Druids, met Bolton Wanderers in the 3rd Round that season and played out a goal-less draw at their ground and drew one apiece in Bolton. The third game was held at the Racecourse ground, home of Wrexham FC, and resulted in a 1-0 win for the Welsh side.

The 1886 FA Cup Final between Blackburn Rovers and West Bromwich Albion became the third that required a replay, and in doing so became the first FA Cup Final match to be played outside of London. The game took place at the Racecourse Ground in Derby. Blackburn Rovers won the replay 2-0 to claim their third successive Cup Final win.

The first FA Cup tie to require four games to settle it came in the 3rd Round of the 1886-87 season and featured two West Midlands arch rivals. Aston Villa and Wolverhampton Wanderers drew two apiece in the first match, despite agreeing to play extra time in attempt to resolve the tie.

The replay in Wolverhampton ended one each after extra time, and the third game at the same ground finished three all after another two hours of play. The tie was finally settled in Aston Villa’s favour at Villa Park, winning by two goals to nil seven weeks after the first game had been played.

The Football League was formed in 1888 and the FA introduced qualifying rounds to the FA Cup as a way of weeding out the weaker teams before the more professional clubs took part, in a bid to try to minimise the number of high scoring mismatches, epitomised by Preston North End’s record 26-0 victory over Hyde in the previous season’s 1st Round.

It wasn’t as well defined as it is today as some League clubs still had to qualify, but the 1st Qualifying Round did produce its first multiple replay in the Lincolnshire derby between Lincoln City and Grimsby Town.

The other change to the competition introduced by the FA for the 1888-89 season was that second and subsequent replays would take place on neutral territory. Thus, the third match won by Grimsby Town was the first official second replay to occur on neutral territory. Alas, I have not yet identified the location.

The first ‘Proper’ Round second replay to happen on neutral territory came in the 2nd Round tie between Chatham and Nottingham Forest that same season, with the third match taking place at the Oval won 3-2 by the Kent side.

Nottingham Forest were also involved in the first FA Cup Semi-Final to require three games to resolve the tie when they faced West Bromwich Albion in the 1891-92 season. The first two matches were played at Molyneux and both ended one apiece, but the third tie happened at the Racecourse ground in Derby, and the Baggies stormed to a 6-2 victory.

The first FA Cup tie to require five matches to determine the winner was a 3rd qualifying round tie between Arsenal and Gillingham in the 1899-1900 season, although both clubs were still playing under former names at the time, Woolwich Arsenal and New Brompton.

All five games were played in the space of 17 days, and after the first game ended one apiece, followed by a goal-less draw, a four goal thriller and another one-one draw, New Brompton finally won through by a solitary goal.

Arsenal were also involved in a more famous five game FA Cup marathon almost 80 years later, when as a top flight club they took five attempts to see off Sheffield Wednesday who were playing in the third tier at the time.

Over a period of seventeen days, nine hours of football was played at three different venues, in front of a combined gate of almost 144,000, with 16 goals being scored. An original one-one draw at Hillsborough, was followed by the same scoreline at Highbury three days later.

The first of three games at Leicester City’s Filbert Street ended in a two-two draw, but amazingly in the fourth match the two teams shared six goals, before Steve Gatting and Frank Stapleton netted without reply in the fifth game finally winning the tie for the higher league side.

The five match marathon didn’t do Arsenal any harm as they went on to lift the Trophy that season.

Just over seven years before this ding-dong battle between Arsenal and Sheffield Wednesday, two non-league sides required six matches just for the prize of reaching the FA Cup 1st Round ‘Proper’, in what is a record number of games for one tie in the competition.

Midland Combination League Division One side Alvechurch were drawn at home against Oxford City of the higher Isthmian League in the 4th qualifying round of the 1971-72 FA Cup.

The first game played at Alvechurch on the 6th November, 1971, ended in a two-two draw, and the replay three days later finished one apiece.

The third game was played at Birmingham City’s St Andrews ground six days later and ended one apiece again after extra time. Two days later at Oxford United’s Manor Ground, the two sides played out a goal-less draw over two hours, a feat repeated at the same venue three days further on.

The sixth and final game took place at Villa Park on 22nd November and was won by a solitary goal for Alvechurch, 11 hours of football after the first kick off. Both sides celebrated the end of the marathon with champagne provided by Doug Ellis.

Unfortunately for Alvechurch, the combination of six games in 17 days (plus a League game after the first replay) and having to undertake full time jobs, proved too much for their players, who gallantly went down 4-2 at Aldershot just two days after the sixth game.

Returning to Arsenal, the Gunners were also involved in the most high profile multiple replayed tie, when they required four games to see off Liverpool in the FA Cup Semi Final of the 1979-80 season.

The clubs played out a goal-less draw at Hillsborough on the 12th April, and then played out two one-one draws at Villa Park, before a Brian Talbot effort proved the difference between the two teams at Coventry City’s Highfield Road on the 1st May, just nine days before the scheduled Final.

This time Arsenal did not recover, and lost 1-0 to West Ham United, the last time to date a club from outside the top flight has lifted the famous Trophy.

It was as a consequence of another high profile multiple replay FA Cup tie involving Arsenal that eventually led to the end of the concept and to the introduction of penalties to determine the winner.

Arsenal and Leeds United required four matches in the 1990-91 FA Cup 4th Round before the London club progressed, and in the next round Everton and Liverpool met three times before the Toffees eventually won through.

And so penalties were introduced for the 1991-92 season. The first two clubs to benefit from this new rule were Exeter City and Rotherham United who defeated Colchester United (4-2 on pens) and Scunthorpe United (7-6) in their respective 1st Round replays.

AFC Bournemouth became the first away side to win an FA Cup tie on penalties, doing so in the 3rd round in the same season 4-3 against Newcastle United. And in that season’s semi-final, Liverpool became the first club to progress to the FA Cup Final on the back on a penalty shoot-out, winning 3-1 against Portsmouth at Villa Park.

However, multiple replays remained the method to determine the winners in qualifying rounds for another seven seasons, not introducing penalties at that level until the 1997-98 season. The last club to win a tie in a second replay was Morecambe, winning 4-2 in their 4th qualifying round tie against Lancaster City in the previous year, the last season multiple replays were used.

The first non-league clubs to progress to the next round of the FA Cup by winning a penalty shoot-out were Whitley Bay, Burnham and the now defunct Dorking, in the Preliminary Round in 1997-98.

Multiple replays had been removed in the ‘Proper’ Rounds in 1991-92, but within a couple of seasons, the option of Cup Final replays were removed.

The last FA Cup Final to require a replay happened in 1993, and by a twist of fate involved Arsenal and Sheffield Wednesday (who had also met in that season’s League Cup Final). The first match ended one apiece with Ian Wright and David Hirst goals cancelling each other out.

The replay five days later also ended one-all after 90 minutes with Ian Wright once again on the scoresheet, but matched by a goal from Chris Waddle. Andy Linighan settled the Final in Arsenal’s favour with a last minute of extra time header.

FA Cup Finals were to have no more replays, and FA Cup Semi-Finals soon followed suit. And it will come as no surprise to anyone that Arsenal were involved in the last Semi-Final to go to a replay.

Their 1998-99 Semi-Final replay against Manchester United is now famous for the solo winning goal scored by Ryan Giggs in extra time at Villa Park, facilitating the opportunity for the club to go on to win the treble that year. Replays for semi-finals were scrapped the following season.

And replays in Quarter Finals were dispensed with in the 2016-17 season with Manchester United also involved in the last Quarter Final replay the season before. A one-one draw at Old Trafford against West Ham United was followed up exactly a month later by a 2-1 win at the Boleyn Ground.

And Fifth Round replays were scrapped in the 2018-19 season with Swansea City and Tottenham Hotspur a day later, being the final beneficiaries of winning through a Fifth Round replay.

And there is a clamour to do away with replays as a whole, well from the 3rd Round onward, allowing all matches to be resolved at the first time of asking, a la the League Cup.

So far, just two FA Cup Finals have required penalties to determine who lifts the Trophy. Liverpool did so in 2006, winning 3-1 on penalties, following their dramatic 3-3 draw with West Ham United.

And the other occasion happened two season’s earlier when Arsenal beat Manchester United 5-4 on penalties. What was significant about that Cup Final is that it ended goal-less after two hours of football, meaning Arsenal became the first club to win the FA Cup without scoring a goal in the Final.

And with plans to scrap replays from the 3rd Round onward how long before we see an FA Cup winner not only not winning a single game over any 120 minute period, but also potentially lifting the famous trophy without actually having scored a goal en route to doing so?

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The FA Cup Factfile is THE most comprehensive resource for FA Cup facts & stats. Spanning almost 150 years of FA Cup history, covering over 3,200 clubs playing more than 71,500 FA Cup matches, the FA Cup Factfile contains facts and stats for Arlesey Town to Arsenal, from Liversedge to Liverpool, and from Mangotsfield United to Manchester United. Visit my website https://facupfactfile.co.uk/ for more details on how you can access my vast FA Cup database

One thought on “A Brief History of FA Cup Replays”

  1. I thought the principal reason penalties were introduced in 1991 was the police insisting on 10 days notice of any replay, making replay sagas wholly impractical?


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