For the first time since a national Non-League division was introduced ahead of the 1979-80 season, there will be two clubs from Level Eight of the English football pyramid in the Second Round of the FA Cup.
(There were two Northern League clubs in the 2nd Round in the 1981-82 season, Bishop Auckland and Penrith, but as there was only one National League and one division of the Northern Premier League at the time, technically they would have been Level Seven.)
Essex based club Maldon and Tiptree, of Isthmian League Division One North, and West Sussex side Chichester City, of the Isthmian League Division One South East, have both fought their way through six FA Cup ties to be part of the last 84 clubs standing in this year’s competition.
Chichester City have actually come through seven rounds, having started with a 3-1 victory over Erith Town in the Extra Preliminary Round way back on the 10th August, but were the beneficiaries of a ‘bye’ in the 1st Round ‘Proper’, following the disqualification of Bury FC.
Maldon and Tiptree secured their Second Round appearance courtesy of a terrific FA Cup giant-killing away at former Semi-Finalists, Leyton Orient, and have scored 20 goals already en route to this round with Jorome Slew the joint top scorer in the competition with eight goals himself.
There have actually only been five Level Eight clubs who’ve made it to the 2nd Round in the forty years since the National League was established. Harrogate Railway Athletic of the Northern Counties East League Premier Division were the first to do so in 2002-03, then Chasetown in 2007-08, Redbridge in 2011-12, Warrington Town in 2014-15 and Northwich Victoria in 2015-16.
Both clubs will be looking to become the first Level Eight side in the FA Cup 3rd Round since Staffordshire based Chasetown achieved the feat in the 2007-08 season, when as a Southern League Division One Midlands outfit, they progressed to face Cardiff City in the last 64, but succumbed to a 3-1 reverse.
Chasetown are also the only Level Eight club to make it as far as the FA Cup 3rd Round since the Alliance Premier League (now National League) was created in 1979, which established the concept of the football pyramid (that is still evolving to this day), but which didn’t become fully integrated with the Football League until eight years later when automatic promotion and relegation was introduced.
The definition of what is a Level Eight division in the pyramid has changed over the 40 years since the national Non-League division was established. For the first 25 years of its existence, Level Eight was defined by Isthmian League Division Two (for a while Two North and Two South).
Additionally, from 1982-83 onwards, the top divisions of the Wessex League, the Western League, the Kent League and the Sussex County League were also considered as Level Eight as they fed into the second level of either the Southern League or the Isthmian League.
The top divisions of the Northern League, the Northern Counties East League (formerly Yorkshire League and Midland Counties League), the North West Counties League (formerly Cheshire County League and Lancashire Combination), and the West Midlands Regional League, typically fed into the Northern Premier League which initially only had one division, so technically they did not become Level Eight until the 1987-88 season.
A second tier of the National League was introduced for the 2004-05 season, North and South, thereby adding an extra layer to the pyramid resulting in Level Eight being defined as the lower tier 1st Divisions of the Northern Premier League, the Southern League and the Isthmian League (in all their regional guises). The top divisions of all the more concentrated regional leagues became either Level Nine or Level Ten in the pyramid alongside those that had been feeding into the old Isthmian League Division Two.
Before the Alliance Premier existed, the structure of non-league was even less easy to define, and so defining levels of clubs competing in the FA Cup was also more difficult to determine. From the 1968-69 season there were three Level Five leagues when the Northern Premier League was created to sit alongside the more established Southern League and Isthmian League. The top divisions of all these leagues were shunted down to Level Six in 1979, and to Level Seven in 2004.
Prior to the development of the Northern Premier League, other regional leagues were considered to be on a par with the Southern League and Isthmian League at Level Five, including the Cheshire County League, the Lancashire Combination, the Midlands Counties League, the Northern Regional League, and the West Midlands (Regional) League (formerly the Birmingham and District League).
Below this Level Five in the ‘pyramid’ at the time were a whole plethora of regional leagues across which it was very difficult to compare and contrast the standards and therefore make an assessment as to exactly at what level clubs were competing.
And just a decade before the Northern Premier League was founded came the introduction of a fourth tier in the Football League and so the top divisions of the Southern League, the Isthmian League and all the other aforementioned leagues could retrospectively be classed as Level Four.
And, of course, if you go back to just after the end of World War I, there were only two divisions in the Football League and so the top non-league divisions could be referred to as Level Three prior to then, at least as far back as 1892 which saw the introduction of a second tier in the Football League.
Suffice to say that over time the level the top divisions in Non-League occupy in the Football Pyramid have diminished, from Level Two in the early days of the Football League to Level Five in the current structure. This change in level classification and the lack of a formally recognised pyramid prior to 1979 means that it is nigh on impossible to say whether or not equivalent Level Eight clubs have appeared in the FA Cup 3rd Round.
They definitely did not do so prior to the 1925-26 season when the structure of the competition was changed to reflect its current format, as the 3rd Round prior to then would be regarded as the 5th Round nowadays. However, there has been a smattering of clubs who have reached the 3rd Round since the 1925-26 season who might be regarded as equivalent to the modern day Level Eight clubs.
In that very first season of the adopted current format of the FA Cup, two clubs appeared in the 3rd Round from below the major Non-League divisions. The first, Corinthians FC, were unique in that the club didn’t have to qualify for its 3rd Round berth, being exempted until the last 64 for the first eight years of the current structure format. They were actually not members of any League at the time, but were an amateur side who regularly competed with and defeated top flight professional Football League clubs. They twice made the 4th Round in those eight years, but eventually merged with Casuals in 1939 to form the current Corinthian-Casuals club.
The other lower level non-league club to reach the 3rd Round in that 1925-26 season was Chilton Colliery Recreation from the Northern Alliance. However, the club only began its campaign that season in the 4th Qualifying Round which suggests that their League status may be regarded as slightly higher than the currently defined Level Eight divisions.
Exemptions based on league status were not as clearly defined in the 1920s as they are today, so there was a lack of consistency between perceived standard of a league and the round in which clubs from that league were exempt in the FA Cup. In fact, prior to World War II, clubs from the same league division might find themselves starting their FA Cup campaigns in much different rounds.
Carlisle United reached Round Three of the FA Cup in the 1926-27 season whilst members of the North Eastern League Division One, but they also began their campaign in the 4th Qualifying Round. However, in the 1931-32 season, another member of the North Eastern League Division One appeared in the FA Cup 3rd Round, but they began their campaign that season in the Preliminary Round.
Crook Town defeated Durham City 3-0 in that Preliminary Round, then saw off Blackhall Colliery Welfare, Horden Colliery Welfare, Murton Colliery Welfare, Bishop Auckland, Stockport County and Aldershot before finally succumbing 7-0 at Leicester City in their seventh tie of the campaign. I would argue, though, that even though Crook Town started their campaign so early, their League status was still not equivalent to a modern day Level Eight club.
Two years later, in the 1933-34 season, a club went from the Extra Preliminary Round all the way to the 3rd Round for the first time ever. Cheltenham Town were members of the Birmingham Combination that season and they began their FA Cup campaign with a 2-0 victory over Mount Hill Enterprise of the lower level Bristol and District League Division One. The Birmingham Combination was below the Birmingham and District League, but their opponents in that Extra Preliminary Round suggest that Cheltenham Town were playing at an equivalent higher level than today’s Level Eight.
Two further years later still, Southall of the Athenian League replicated the feat of starting in the Extra Preliminary Round and going on a run all the way to the 3rd Round. In 1935-36, the Athenian League fed directly into the Isthmian League which was regarded as Level Four at the time, so it is difficult to say that Southall then were the equivalent of a Level Eight club nowadays. This is not to diminish their achievement (they are after all the last club to make the 3rd Round having started in the EP Round), but there were clubs in the competition that year from lower standing leagues.
Nuneaton Borough reached the 3rd Round as a Birmingham Combination side in the 1949-50 season having started in the Preliminary Round that year. Finchley made a similar journey as an Athenian League side in 1952-53 having started in the 1st Qualifying Round, but neither side could be regarded as being at a level any lower than one below the Southern League and the Isthmian League, that being Level Five.
The last Athenian League side to reach the FA Cup 3rd Rd was Barnet in the 1964-65 season. The club started in the earliest round possible that year, the 1st Qualifying Round, and won through six ties before a narrow 2-3 defeat at home to Preston North End brought the run to an end. During the 1960s and 1970s the FA limited entry to the FA Cup to certain standard of clubs, so whilst the Athenian League may have been the lowest level league in the competition it was regarded as a feeder into the Isthmian League and therefore would now be classed as Level Six.
Following the foundation of the Northern Premier League in 1968, the first club from below the top level of Non-League to reach the 3rd Round was Cheshire County League side Rhyl. The North Wales club reached the 3rd Round in the 1970-71 season having started their campaign in the 1st Qualifying Round, but like Barnet before them, would now be classed as Level Six.
Then in the 1973-74 season, Alvechurch made the same journey from the 1st Qualifying Round to the 3rd Round as members of the West Midlands (Regional) League Premier Division. The Church were already famous for being the victors in the longest FA Cup tie with Oxford City just two seasons earlier, and now arguably were the first Level Seven club to reach the 3rd Round. It’s debatable as many West Midlands (Regional) League clubs could be promoted to either the Northern Premier League (which had one division) or the Southern League (which had two divisions), but as Alvechurch eventually joined the latter it’s fair to say they were Level Seven.
The most famous Level Seven club to reach the 3rd Round (and beyond) was Blyth Spartans in the 1978-79 season whilst members of the Northern League. Having started in the 1st Qualifying Round that season they actually competed in a record equalling nine FA Cup rounds in total, finally exiting to Wrexham in a 5th Round replay.
After the Alliance Premier League was established in 1979, Chesham United became the first Level Seven club of the formal pyramid to reach the 3rd Round, during its inaugural season. They were members of Isthmian League Division One at the time and began their campaign in the 1st Qualifying Round before going on to lose 2-0 at home to Cambridge United seven rounds later.
Whitley Bay were the next Level Seven club to reach the 3rd Round in the 1989-90 season, but they started one round earlier in the Preliminary Round whilst members of the Northern Premier League Division One. After seven FA Cup victories that season they eventually were knocked out 1-0 by Rochdale.
Other Level Seven clubs to reach the 3rd Round since then are Eastwood Town in 2008-09 and Blyth Spartans in 2014-15, both as members of Northern Premier League Premier Division. Both started their campaigns in the 1st Qualifying Round.
So history beckons for both Maldon and Tiptree and Chichester City. A 3rd Round appearance for either club would be monumental, but if both clubs achieved it then it would be record breaking. And Chichester City also have the chance to become the first club since Southall 86 years ago, to go from the Extra Preliminary Round all the way through to the 3rd Round.
As usual thirty-two non-league clubs have made it through to the 1st Round ‘Proper’ of this season’s FA Cup, but unusually one of them has already progressed through to the 2nd Round.
The lowest ranked side remaining in the competition, Chichester City, were the fortunate recipients of a bye caused by the unfortunate Bury FC’s expulsion, and become the first club since Mossley in the 1949-50 season to go all the way to the 2nd Round having started their campaign in the Extra Preliminary Round.
At least eight other non-league sides will join them in the 2nd Round. There are five all-National League encounters, plus Level seven clubs Carshalton Athletic, Stourbridge and Nantwich Town who are all hosting higher level non-league opponents; Boston United, Eastleigh and AFC Fylde respectively.
The Robins have reached this stage of the FA Cup for the first time in 22 years, whilst the Glassboys are in the ‘Proper’ Rounds for the sixth time in the last 10 years. The Dabbers are appearing in this round for their third time, all three of which have occurred in the last nine of their 96 campaigns, but they have yet to go further in the competition.
Chichester City’s bye, Carshalton Athletic taking on Boston United along with York City versus Altrincham means that there will be at least three clubs in the 2nd Round of this season’s FA Cup from below the top National League division.
Mind the Gap
There are two ties involving clubs who are four levels apart in the football pyramid. Level eight club Maldon and Tiptree are appearing in the ‘Proper’ Rounds for the first time in their 23rd campaign and they travel to former Semi-Finalists Leyton Orient of EFL Two.
Hayes and Yeading United are equalling their best FA Cup run and the Middlesex based Level seven side host Oxford United of EFL One, who made the 5th Round as recently as three years ago.
Hang on a Second
Three more clubs are equalling their best FA Cup runs, too, most notably Dulwich Hamlet who are appearing at this stage of the competition for the 15th time, the record for a club yet to appear in the 2nd Round. Another FA Cup record Hamlet now hold is the 82 year gap between hosting Football League sides in the competition, with Carlisle United the visitors for Friday night’s live BBC match, the first since Aldershot in 1937-38 season.
Chippenham Town, however, are hosting a Football League club for the very first time ever with Northampton Town being their visitors, equalling the record set by Stourbridge in 2009-10 by not doing so until their 105th campaign.
Billericay Town have made it this far for the sixth time, and for the third successive season, and they travel to EFL Two side Forest Green Rovers to try to make the 2nd Round for the first time ever.
Anyone for a Cupset?
Amongst other non-league clubs hosting Football League sides is Maidenhead United, looking to make the 2nd Round for the first time since 1886-87. They may never get a better chance of doing so given that their opponents, Rotherham United, have not won an FA Cup match for six years. If they did cause a Cupset the Magpies would set a record gap between 2nd Round appearances.
Last season’s giant killers, Barnet, host EFL One side Fleetwood Town in the knowledge that they went further in the competition last season, matching their best run to the 4th Round, than the Cod Army have ever achieved (although they equalled their best run, too).
The Monday night TV game sees National League side Harrogate Town looking to equal their best run to the 2nd Round as they host two times former FA Cup winners Portsmouth of EFL One.
Another National League side, Dover Athletic, host another EFL One club, Southend United, in another live TV match broadcast on Sunday lunchtime.
Stats, Stats, Stats!
Special mention to Darlington who have made the 1st Round for the first time since the club’s financial challenges in 2012. It’s notable because before this season they had only won one FA Cup match since then. Could Walsall become their fourth scalp this campaign?
The most common tie of the 1st Round involves National League side Wrexham and EFL One club Rochdale. This will be the seventh FA Cup meeting between the two sides with the North Wales club being victorious in all previous six.
Rochdale also hold the record for most FA Cup 1st Round exits, having gone out at this stage of the competition 51 times, in exactly half of their total number of FA Cup campaigns.
Within the all-EFL ties, Ipswich Town will be looking to try to win their first FA Cup match for ten years as they take on Lincoln City, who won more FA Cup games in 2016-17’s journey to the Quarter Finals alone (including a Cupset victory over Ipswich) than their opponents have done across their last 16 campaigns.
AFC Wimbledon host fellow EFL One side Doncaster Rovers in what will be the start of the 100th FA Cup campaign for Wimbledon / AFC Wimbledon.
It’s a close call as to who has the furthest to travel in this 1st Round, with Carlisle United’s trip to Dulwich Hamlet comparable to Hartlepool United having to travel to Yeovil Town. It’s about a 650 mile round trip for both clubs.
It is the 15th time Dulwich Hamlet have made the FA Cup 1st Round ‘Proper’. The club currently holds the record for most 1st Round appearances without ever making it to the 2nd Round. Will they be 15th time lucky?
First time in 1st Round ‘Proper’ ever
Maldon and Tiptree (23rd campaign, 10th since amalgamating Tiptree United)
Chichester City (18th campaign since 2000 merger with Portfield)
Darlington (6th campaign since 2012)
Into 1st Round ‘Proper’ and at least Equalling Best FA Cup Run
Dulwich Hamlet (15th time in 94th campaign)
Billericay Town (6th time in 43rd campaign)
Chippenham Town (3rd time in 105th campaign)
Nantwich Town (3rd time in 96th campaign)
Hayes and Yeading United (2nd time in 13th campaign)
First time in 1st Round ‘Proper’ in a while
22 years – Carshalton Athletic
21 years – Dulwich Hamlet
19 years – Kingstonian
14 years – Chippenham Town
13 years – Boston United
9 years – Hayes and Yeading United
7 years – Harrogate Town
Into 1st Round ‘Proper’ and long time since last KO before Round 1
96 years – Hartlepool United
6 years – Maidstone United
Never KO as early as 4th Qualifying Round (Min 3 campaigns)
Notts County (133rd campaign)
First time Knocked-Out before 1st Rd ‘Proper’ for a while
5 years – Boreham Wood
Consecutive 4th Qualifying Rd Exits
3 – Barrow, Dagenham and Redbridge, Havant and Waterlooville
2 – Poole Town, Wealdstone, Welling United
Knocked Out in 4th Qualifying Round but Set Best Run
Royston Town (42nd Campaign)
Colne (18th campaign)
Bowers and Pitsea (16th Campaign)
Kings Langley (10th campaign)
Peterborough Sports (9th campaign)
Knocked Out in 4th Qualifying Round but Equalled Best Run
Belper Town (5th time in 64th campaign)
Potters Bar Town (3rd time in 25th campaign)
King’s Lynn Town (3rd time in 9th campaign)
Knocked Out in 4th Qualifying Round for the First Time in a While
95 years – Chesterfield
Avenged Previous FA Cup Defeat(s)
FC Halifax Town 1-2 Harrogate Town
Chorley 2-0 Spennymoor Town
York City 2-0 Stockport County
Bromley 4-3 Aldershot Town
Billericay Town 5-2 Sutton United
Biggest Wins of the 4th Qualifying Rd
AFC Fylde 6-1 Peterborough Sports
Gateshead 5-0 Colne
Carshalton Athletic (3) 2-1 Dagenham and Redbridge (1)
Royston Town (3) 1-3 Maldon and Tiptree (4)
Bowers and Pitsea (3) 1-2 Chichester City (4)
Dartford (2) 2-3 Kingstonian (3)
Nantwich Town (3) 1-0 King’s Lynn Town (2)
York City (2) 2-0 Stockport County (1)
Billericay Town (2) 5-2 Sutton United (1)
Hat-tricks and more
Danny Rowe (AFC Fylde)
Jake Robinson (Billericay Town)
Chichester City have now won through 6 FA Cup ties, the first club since Westfields in 2016-17 season to do so. If a Premier League club won 6 FA Cup ties, they would be lifting the Trophy itself.
Sixty-four non-league clubs are just 90 minutes away from a potential FA Cup tie against the likes of Football League sides Sunderland, Portsmouth or Ipswich Town.
Having kicked-off their FA Cup campaign at the beginning of August, Isthmian League Division One South East side Chichester City is the only club left standing in the competition who started in the Extra Preliminary Round. They have already played the same number of FA Cup ties as a Premier League club would need to do to reach the Final itself. Their 4th Qualifying Round tie at Isthmian League Premier Division side Bowers and Pitsea guarantees at least one club will be appearing in the First Round ‘Proper’ for the first time ever.
The tie between Royston Town of Southern League Premier Division Central and Maldon and Tiptree of Isthmian League Division One North also guarantees FA Cup history will be made for the winning club, whilst the one between Isthmian League Division One South East club Whyteleafe and Chippenham Town from National League South ensures a club is guaranteed to at least equal its best ever FA Cup run.
There are also four ties where both sides currently play below Step Two, so there are guaranteed to be at least four clubs in the 1st Round ‘Proper’ who sit below the National League. And seven other lower level clubs host National League sides, so that number could potentially rise to double figures.
The lowest ranked club in the competition, Colne of Northern Premier League Division One North West, are also looking to make the ‘Proper’ Rounds of the FA Cup for the first time, as are Peterborough Sports and Kings Langley (both from Southern League Premier Division Central), King’s Lynn Town (National League North) and Potters Bar Town (Isthmian League Premier), who host local rivals Barnet from the National League.
Also looking to make the First Round ‘Proper’ for the first ever time in their 64th FA Cup campaign is Northern Premier League Division One South East side Belper Town. The Nailers have been drawn away to Notts County, who are competing in the Qualifying Rounds of the FA Cup for the first time since 1888-89 season and who have never failed to appear in the ‘Proper’ Rounds in any of their previous 133 FA Cup campaigns. It’s also the biggest gap between two sides in the 4th Qualifying Round and has the makings of the ultimate FA Cup upset.
Notts County are also the first former FA Cup winners to have to participate in the Qualifying Rounds of the competition since Nottingham Forest did so in the 1914-15 season!
There are a dozen ties involving two clubs who’ve met in the FA Cup before. Of the multiple meetings, Hayes and Yeading United and Poole Town have one win apiece, whilst FC Halifax Town defeated Harrogate Town both times they’ve met in the competition.
Ebbsfleet United have a two wins to nil record against fellow National League side Woking in their three previous meetings, whilst Altrincham are ahead two wins to one against Southport, also from the National League North.
The most common tie of the Round, however, involves two other National League sides, Chesterfield and Wrexham, and their FA Cup history is intriguing indeed. They have met in the FA Cup four times before with two wins apiece. Most notably, though, their last head-to-head in the competition came in the 1996-97 season … in the Quarter Finals!
Leeds United were formed 100 years ago in October 1919 on the back of the demise of Leeds City who were wound up by the FA following illegal payments made by the club during the war years.
The new Leeds United club were invited to join the Midland League for the 1919-20 season, but their formation came too late to participate in the FA Cup that season.
The club submitted entry to the FA Cup for the 1920-21 when at the time they will still members of the Midland League. However, by the time the 1920-21 season began Leeds United had been accepted into the Football League. They played some FA Cup matches in the qualifying rounds but it was untenable to play League and Cup matches on the same day, so they decided to withdraw from the FA Cup to concentrate on their League campaign.
Leeds United’s first FA Cup match occurred on the 11th September, 1920, a home Extra Preliminary Round tie against Boothtown who were members of the lower Halifax and District League at the time. Unsurprisingly, Leeds United ran out 5-2 winners in their debut match with Eugene O’Doherty scoring the club’s first FA Cup hat-trick, alongside a brace for Len Armitage.
Two weeks later, in the Preliminary Round, Leeds United easily dispatched Leeds Steelworks 7-0, a local works side who were members of Leeds Invisa Alliance league. The tie was played at Elland Road after it had initially been drawn as an away tie. This time it was Walter Butler’s turn to keep the match ball scoring three goals in front of approximately three thousand fans.
Ahead of the Leeds Steelworks tie, the club had already decided to scratch from the FA Cup and play just the League games that were scheduled on the same day, but they played the local works side to satisfy local interest in the match. They had been drawn to face Harrogate of the Yorkshire League in the 1st Qualifying Round on 9th October that year but the tie was awarded to the North Yorkshire side.
The club’s predecessor, Leeds City, had had an inauspicious FA Cup history, winning just six times in their 22 matches across eleven seasons, reaching the 2nd Round ‘Proper’ four times representing their best FA Cup runs. They had defeated Morley 11-0 in the 1905-06 1st Qualifying Round, but had never caused a cup upset in any of their ‘Proper’ Round victories, and it would take Leeds United twenty-three FA Cup campaigns before they made any serious inroads in the competition, too.
Leeds United lost 2-1 at Division Three South side Swindon Town in their own debut 1st Round ‘Proper’ tie in the 1921-22 season with Jack Swan scoring the club’s first ever goal at that stage of the competition.
The following season Leeds United achieved their first ‘Proper’ Round victory, winning 3-1 at home to another Division Three South club, Portsmouth, after a goal-less game at Fratton Park. Armitage and Swan were among the goals in this first ever win over League opposition, alongside a Percy Whipp effort (who also had a penalty saved, the first awarded to Leeds United in the FA Cup), but the club lost by the same scoreline to First Division Bolton Wanderers in the Second Round, with Jack Swan scoring once again.
The 1923-24 season saw Leeds United go one round further still. Twenty-six and a half thousand fans saw Whipp score the only goal in their 1st Round 1-0 home win over fellow Second Division side Stoke, who became the highest League side Leeds United had defeated in the FA Cup to date.
This win was followed by the club’s first ever giant-killing in the Second Round. After holding Division One side West Ham United to a one-one draw, thanks to a Walter Coates strike, over 31,000 fans saw Percy Whipp score the only goal in the last minute of the replay. The run that season came to a shuddering halt with a 3-0 reverse at Aston Villa in front of over 51,500 fans at Villa Park.
A first ever promotion to Division One came at the end of that 1923-24 season, but Leeds United came up against fellow First Division side Liverpool in the 1st Round the following season and were well beaten by the same 3-0 scoreline as at Villa Park.
The FA Cup was restructured in time for the 1925-26 season to more or less reflect the structure it has now whereby teams in the top two divisions are exempted until the 3rd Round ‘Proper’. For comparison the new 3rd Round would be the equivalent of the old 1st Round, so for Leeds United to emulate their best FA Cup run to date they would need to progress to at least the 5th Round from here on in.
However, their second season as a Division One club ended in the same way as their first in the FA Cup with defeat in their first tie. This time, though, they would be on the wrong end of a humiliating giant-killing, going down 5-1 at Second Division Middlesbrough, with Jimmy McLellan scoring all five goals. The only notable fact for Leeds United from the game was that John Armand became the first player to convert a penalty for the club in the competition.
The 1926-27 season witnessed Leeds United win their first FA Cup game as a First Division side, winning 3-1 against Championship contenders Sunderland thanks to a Tom Jennings brace (including one penalty) and a Harry Duggan effort. They were then beaten 3-0 by Bolton Wanderers, after a goal-less draw at Elland Road, who became the first club to knock Leeds United out of the FA Cup twice. At the end of the 1926-27 season, the club was relegated back to the Second Division.
Life in the Second Division would be short-lived, with Leeds United finishing runners-up to Manchester City. Unfortunately, it was Manchester City whom they met in the 3rd Round of the FA Cup that season. Leeds United lost by a solitary goal at Maine Road, despite City playing with 10 men for an hour and with an outfield player in goal during that time.
Leeds United would spend three years in the First Division before suffering relegation at the end of the 1930-31 season. In those three years the club always progressed beyond the 3rd Round, in successive seasons recording their biggest FA Cup wins, and culminating in their furthest run to date, a bittersweet moment that resulted in an embarrassing defeat.
In the 1928-29 season they drew two-two at Third Division South Exeter City before setting their biggest FA Cup win to date in the replay, 5-1. The goals were spread out across four players and an own goal. The margin of victory was aided by the lower league side playing with 10 men for forty minutes. Leeds United were then well beaten by local rivals Huddersfield Town 3-0 in the 4th Round.
The following season the club recorded its biggest ever FA Cup margin of victory, an 8-1 thrashing of Third Division South Crystal Palace in the 3rd Round. Tom Jennings and John White both scored two, Bobby Turnbull grabbed himself one, and Russell Wainscoat bagged himself a hat-trick. Leeds United were brought back down to earth in the 4th Round with a heavy 4-1 loss at fellow Division One side West Ham United, with Vic Watson scoring all four goals. Jennings was on the scoresheet again with the consolation goal for Leeds United.
The 1930-31 season would see Leeds United make the 5th Round for the first time, although this was the equivalent of the 3rd Round they achieved before the 1925-26 season. They avenged their defeat by local rivals Huddersfield Town with a 2-0 win at Elland Road in the 3rd Round, and this was followed up by a 4-1 home victory over Newcastle United, with Wainscoat bagging a brace.
They were paired with Third Division South side Exeter City in the 5th Round, a side they had comprehensively beaten just two seasons earlier, and would have been confident of making the Quarter Finals for the first time. Alas, it was not to be, with Tom Mitchell’s strike cancelled out by three from the lower league side, and it was they and not Leeds United who made the Quarter Finals for the first time.
Leeds United were relegated along with Manchester United at the end of that season and it would be almost 20 years before the club finally made that step on to the last eight of the FA Cup.
The club returned to Division One again after just one season away, and this time had a more sustained period in the top flight consisting of eight seasons that spanned across World War II. The first FA Cup season after the War witnessed the club’s heaviest FA Cup defeat and the first League season after the War saw the club relegated back to the Second Division once more.
They had had a couple of attempts of reaching the Quarter Finals in those Division One years, but ultimately fell at the last hurdle. In their first season back in the top flight, in 1932-33, they defeated Newcastle United 3-0 in the 3rd Round with Arthur Hydes becoming the latest Leeds United player to score an FA Cup hat-trick. Tranmere Rovers were disposed of 4-0 in a 4th Round replay after a hard-earned goal-less draw in the original game, played with 10 men for 85 minutes following an early injury to Charlie Keetley. That run ended with a 2-0 defeat to Everton at Goodison Park in the 5th Round.
Three years later they made the 5th Round once again, beating Wolverhampton Wanderers 3-1 after a one-one draw in the 3rd Round, Bury 3-2 at Elland Road in the 4th Round, before losing 3-1 at Sheffield United in front of their biggest FA Cup crowd to date, over sixty-eight thousand.
FA Cup runs up until the outbreak of World War II were pretty nondescript after that last run to the 5th Round, but the FA Cup campaign in the season immediately after the cessation of hostilities would be remembered for all the wrong reasons.
There was no formally recognised League football in the 1945-46 season, so for one season and one season only, the FA decided that ‘Proper’ Round FA Cup matches up to and including the Quarter Finals would be two-legged affairs.
Leeds United were drawn to face fellow Division One side Middlesbrough in the 3rd Round with the first game at Elland Road on the 5th January and the return game at Ayresome Park four days later.
The first match was a ding-dong eight goal thriller ending with both sides scoring four goals apiece, but no-one could have imagined that the second leg would witness an even higher number of goals in a one-sided affair.
Mickey Fenton proved to be Leeds United’s undoing scoring a hat-trick in Boro’s 7-2 victory, still to this day Leeds United’s heaviest FA Cup defeat. The club had scored six goals in one FA Cup round but had gone out of the competition on an 11-6 aggregate.
More cup woe was to follow in the 1946-47 season with a 2-1 defeat at the Hawthorns against Second Division West Bromwich Albion, and this was followed by relegation back to Division Two at the end of the season. And this time there would be no immediate return.
However, during this nine year hiatus from Division One the club would record their best FA Cup run to date, making the last eight for the first ever time in the 1949-50 season.
The run that season started with a 5-2 away win at Brunton Park against Carlisle United from Division Three North, their biggest away victory in the competition to date, with Frank Dudley bagging a brace amongst the goals. This was followed by a 3-2 away win at Burden Park against Division One side Bolton Wanderers after a one-one draw at Elland Road. Dudley grabbed his second brace of the run in the giant-killing win.
Leeds United’s first ever FA Cup 5th Round victory came at the expense of Cardiff City of Division Two with Harold Williams, David Cochrane and Ray Iggleden scoring the historic goals in the 3-1 win. A trip to Highbury to face Arsenal was the reward, and Leeds United gave a good account of themselves against the eventual Cup winners that year, going down to a solitary Reg Lewis goal. Arsenal would go on to become the most common opponents Leeds United have had to face in the FA Cup.
The next few years in the FA Cup before Don Revie took charge in 1961 were pretty inconsequential with just one run to the 5th Round, and are now known more famously for the club’s three consecutive 3rd Round matches against Cardiff City.
In the 1955-56 season Leeds United were still a Second Division side and were drawn at home to First Division Cardiff City. Harold Brook scored for Leeds United but Cardiff ran out the 2-1 winners. The following season, with both teams maintaining their respective League status, Leeds United were drawn at home against Cardiff City again. This time the legendary John Charles scored for Leeds United, but Cardiff once again ran out 2-1 winners.
At the end of the 1956-57 season Leeds United were promoted and Cardiff City were relegated, but remarkably they were drawn to face each other again in the 3rd Round the next season, and at Elland Road for the third successive time, too. Surely, with League statuses being switched, it was time for Leeds United to win. But it was not to be. Bobby Forrest scored for Leeds United but astonishingly yet again Cardiff City ran out 2-1 winners.
Leeds United actually went 10 consecutive seasons without winning an FA Cup match going out in the 3rd Round every time, even in the first season after Don Revie took charge. By then Leeds United were back in Division Two, and they didn’t break their FA Cup poor run until eventually defeating Stoke City 3-0 in the 3rd Round of the 1962-63 season (a game postponed a dozen times due to extremely bad weather) thanks to goals from Jackie Charlton, Paul Reaney and Grenville Hair.
After 10 years without a win of course two came along in the same season as Middlesbrough were defeated 2-0 away from home with goals from Albert Johanneson and Jim Storrie. A 3-0 defeat at Nottingham Forest prevented a second Quarter Final appearance, but much better was to come along in the not too distant future.
Promotion to Division One was secured as Champions at the end of the 1963-64 season, a season that had seen Leeds United win 1-0 at nemesis Cardiff City in the 3rd Round thanks to a Billy Bremner strike, before going down 2-0 to Everton at Goodison Park in the 4th Round. And what a return to the top flight it would be.
Leeds United were denied the 1964-65 First Division title on the narrowest of margins, having a poorer goal aggregate than Champions Manchester United when tied on points, and were defeated in the FA Cup Final only after extra time by Liverpool.
The Cup run that season began with a 3-0 win at Fourth Division Southport in the 3rd Round, and then a 2-1 victory at Goodison Park against Everton in the 4th Round after the two sides had drawn one apiece at Elland Road.
Division Three side Shrewsbury Town were dispatched 2-0 at Elland Road in the 5th Round to take Leeds United into the Quarter Finals for only the second time. This time they faced Second Division Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park, and an Alan Peacock brace and a Jim Storrie effort secured the 3-0 win that took the club into the Semi-Finals for the first ever time.
Their last four opponents were to be eventual League Champions Manchester United and the two sides played out a goal-less draw in front of 65,000 people at Hillsborough on the 27th March. Four days later at the City Ground in Nottingham, Billy Bremner scored the only goal of the game to send Leeds United to Wembley for the very first time.
Remarkably, their opponents Liverpool had never won the FA Cup before either, and so a brand new name was to be etched onto the famous trophy. Unfortunately, that name would be Liverpool and not Leeds United as despite Billy Bremner scoring again, the club was undone by a normal time goal by Roger Hunt and an extra time winner by Ian St John.
This would be the start of a golden ten year period for Leeds United incorporating two League Championships, two Fairs Cup / UEFA Cup victories, a League Cup win, four FA Cup Final appearances and a lifting of the FA Cup Trophy for their one and only time to date.
In the 1965-66 season Peter Lorimer became the latest Leeds United player to score a hat-trick in the FA Cup in the club’s 3rd Round 6-0 victory over Bury, but they lost to Chelsea 1-0 at Stamford Bridge in the next round.
The following year Leeds United made it all the way to the Semi-Finals only to lose 1-0 against Chelsea again. Goals were spread across the team on the way to the Semi Finals that year with a 3-0 win over Crystal Palace, a 5-0 thrashing of West Bromwich Albion, a 2-1 victory over Sunderland at the third attempt after two one-one draws, and a 1-0 win over Manchester City all leading to the eventual Semi Final loss.
In 1967-68 Leeds United won the League Cup Final at Wembley with a 1-0 win over Arsenal thanks to a Terry Cooper strike that he had dreamt of scoring the night before. In the FA Cup that season Derby County, Nottingham Forest, Bristol City and Sheffield United were all sent packing before the club experienced another Semi Final defeat, on this occasion by losing 1-0 against Everton at Old Trafford.
The following 1968-69 season would see Leeds United be crowned Football League Champions for the first time, but their FA Cup exploits that season were limited to a replay 3-1 defeat to Sheffield Wednesday after securing a one-one draw at Hillsborough four days earlier.
The club would return to Wembley for the FA Cup Final in the 1969-70 season. A 2-1 home win over Swansea Town in the 3rd Round was followed by a 6-0 demolition of Isthmian League side Sutton United in the 4th Round. In that win Allan Clarke became the first and only Leeds United player to score four goals in one FA Cup match.
Lower level clubs Mansfield Town and Swindon Town were both defeated 2-0 in the 5th and 6th Rounds respectively to set up another FA Cup Semi-Final marathon against Manchester United. This time there were two goal-less draws, one at Hillsborough and one at Villa Park, before once again Billy Bremner settled it by scoring the only goal at Burnden Park in the second replay.
Their opponents in the Cup Final were to be Chelsea, and as with the 1965 Cup Final neither side had as yet managed to get their name on the Trophy. This is the last FA Cup Final to date to be contested by two clubs who had never won the Cup before.
The 1970 FA Cup Final went down in history as being the first Wembley Final to require a replay, with Leeds United being the first club to take the lead three times and still lose, and for being the last Final to be settled at a League club’s ground, Old Trafford.
The 1970-71 campaign would end up being famous for a completely different reason. A 3-2 replay win over Rotherham United and a 4-0 home win over Swindon Town (in which Mick Jones became the latest Leeds United player to score an FA Cup hat-trick) led to a fifth round tie at 4th Division Colchester United.
The Essex based lower league side raced into a three goal lead, and despite Norman Hunter and Johnny Giles getting on the scoresheet, the 3-2 victory for Colchester United is regarded by many as the greatest ever FA Cup giant killing feat between two league sides. However, the 1971-72 season would be famous for all the right reasons.
It was the FA Cup’s centenary season and the competition became even more highly regarded in the eyes of players, managers and fans than the high esteem it was already held in. Leeds United began their campaign with a straightforward 4-1 home win over Third Division Bristol Rovers, with both Johnny Giles and Peter Lorimer bagging a brace apiece.
Then a goal-less draw was secured at Anfield against Liverpool, before an Allan Clarke double secured a 2-0 win in the replay. Johnny Giles then scored twice more as Leeds United won 2-0 at Cardiff City in the Fifth Round before Jackie Charlton and Allan Clarke netted in the 2-1 home win over Tottenham Hotspur in the Quarter Finals.
Second Division Birmingham City were the opponents in the Semi-Final at Hillsborough and Leeds United easily won through 3-0, thanks to a brace from Mick Jones and a Peter Lorimer strike, to set up an FA Cup Final at Wembley against the previous season’s double winners Arsenal.
A tightly contested affair was settled by an Allan Clarke diving header and Leeds United were crowned FA Cup winners for the first, and to date only, time. Mick Jones memorably had to be helped up the steps to collect his medal after dislocating his elbow in one of his many crosses into the Arsenal box.
A year later Leeds United would be back at Wembley as overwhelming favourites, but the fates were not so kind to them on that occasion.
Norwich City were eventually beaten 5-0 at the third attempt in the 3rd Round in that 1972-73 season, after two one-one draws, with Allan Clarke becoming the first Leeds United player to score a second hat-trick in the FA Cup. This was followed by a 2-1 home win over Plymouth Argyle and a 2-0 victory over West Bromwich Albion at Elland Round in the 4th and 5th Rounds respectively.
The Quarter Final at Derby County’s Baseball Ground was settled by a solitary Peter Lorimer effort, and the Semi-Final against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Maine Road was won through a Billy Bremner effort, the third time he had scored the solitary winning goal in an FA Cup Semi-Final.
Bizarrely, Arsenal were the other beaten Semi-Finalists, preventing the first repeat FA Cup Final for 88 years, and instead it was mid-table Second Division side Sunderland who Leeds United would face. The 1-0 victory for Sunderland is regarded by many as the greatest FA Cup Final upset and the double save by Jim Montgomery is fated to be shown every year whenever either side progresses in the competition.
Leeds United have only twice come close to appearing in another FA Cup final since 1973. They were surprisingly defeated by Second Division Bristol City in the 1973-74 season 5th Round tie when they were in the latter stages of a 29 game unbeaten start to the League season. Leeds United would go on to be crowned Champions of England at the end of the season, the last trophy of the Revie era.
The 1974-75 season culminated in unjust defeat in the European Cup Final, a mid-table finish in the League, and a Quarter Final exit in the FA Cup at the hands of Ipswich Town, losing 3-2 at the fourth time of asking.
The Semi-Finals were reached two seasons later after victories over Norwich City (5-2 in the 3rd Round), Birmingham City (2-1 away), Manchester City (1-0 at Elland Road) and Wolverhampton Wanderers (1-0 away). In the Semi Final Leeds United faced Manchester United in the last four for the third time, but this time it was Manchester United who were victorious, 2-1, with Allan Clarke scoring for Leeds United.
Within five years of this Semi-Final defeat Leeds United would be relegated to the Second Division and their FA Cup exploits would become nondescript again. Well for the next ten years at least. In those 10 years the club was in the doldrums League wise and never went beyond the 4th Round of the FA Cup. But that all changed in the ‘nearly’ 1986-87 season.
Managed by club legend Billy Bremner, the club participated in the first season of the play-offs being re-introduced and went on a Cup run that came oh so close to a return visit to Wembley. Those re-introduced play-offs ran slightly differently to the current format, with the third lowest club in Division One participating alongside three clubs from Division Two.
And the Finals were a two-legged affair as well, with Leeds United and Charlton Athletic having to go to a third game at St Andrews in Birmingham to settle it. Leeds United were ahead in extra time in the third game with seven minutes to go thanks to a John Sheridan strike but two late goals by Peter Shirtliff won the game for Charlton.
This play-off Final echoed the fortune of Leeds United in the FA Cup Semi-Final. Conference side Telford United were defeated 2-1 at the Hawthorns in the 3rd Round thanks to an Ian Baird brace, and then Third Division Swindon Town were beaten by the same score in the 4th Round.
Another 2-1 victory against First Division Queens Park Rangers was followed up by a 2-0 Quarter Final win at Wigan Athletic to set up a Semi-Final against Coventry City, a club into the last four for the very first time. A late equaliser by Keith Edwards took the Semi-Final at Hillsborough into extra time, and it was Dave Bennett who would settle it for Coventry City in extra time.
Three years later Leeds United won the Second Division title and returned to the top flight after an absence of eight years, but their FA Cup performances didn’t start improving until the mid-1990s, and not until after the club had been crowned English League Champions for the third time in 1992, the last season before the Premier League began.
In the 1994-95 season, after eight years without going beyond the 4th Round, Leeds United were drawn away at fourth tier Walsall in that season’s 3rd Round. A one-one draw was followed by a 5-2 after extra time win at Elland Road in the replay with Phil Masinga becoming the latest Leeds United player to score a hat-trick in the FA Cup, the first substitute to do so, and all being scored in extra time.
That victory was followed by another in the 4th Round, 3-2 at home to Oldham Athletic, before they lost 3-1 at Manchester United in the 5th Round, with Tony Yeboah scoring his first FA Cup goal.
The following season, 1995-96, the Quarter Finals were reached after a 4-2 win over Derby County, a 1-0 victory at Bolton Wanderers, and a 2-1 replay win at Port Vale with Gary McAllister scoring twice. The run ended with a 3-0 replay defeat to Liverpool at Anfield.
Leeds United have only appeared in two more Quarter Finals to date since then. The 1997-98 season began with a 4-0 home win over Oxford United, then a 2-0 victory over Grimsby Town and a narrow 3-2 win over Birmingham City, before a surprising 1-0 home defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Quarter Finals who were playing in the lower Division One at the time, a defeat made more unpalatable as Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink missed a penalty.
Five years later a similar run ended in a similar way. Scunthorpe United were defeated 2-0, then Gillingham were beaten 2-1 in a replay, followed by a 2-1 away win at Crystal Palace. In 2002-03, however, it was a 1-0 defeat at Division One side Sheffield United that ended the run.
Not only is it Leeds United’s last FA Cup Quarter Final appearance to date, but the club was relegated a season later, and at the end of the 2006-07 were relegated to the third tier for the first time in their history. Leeds United lost to lower league Hereford United in the 1st Round the following season, the clubs first ever 1st Round exit since the new structure was put in place over 80 years earlier. But more FA Cup wretchedness was to come.
The 2008-09 season saw Leeds United be knocked out of the FA Cup by non-league opposition for the first time in their history. They had eventually progressed to the Second Round with a 5-2 replay victory at Northampton Town, a result notable for Jermaine Beckford becoming the latest Leeds United player to score a hat-trick in the FA Cup. But it was a false dawn as they were drawn away at Conference Premier Side Histon, and went down to a humiliating 1-0 defeat. However, the following season it was to be Leeds United who were to inflict a humiliating defeat.
The 2009-10 FA Cup campaign began with a 2-0 win at Oldham Athletic in the 1st Round, followed by an eventual 5-1 after extra time replay win over Conference Premier side Kettering Town in the 2nd Round. It was the first time Leeds United had scored four goals in extra time and it set up an away trip to Old Trafford to face Premier League reigning Champions Manchester United.
Despite the two division gap it was Leeds United who came away from Old Trafford victorious thanks to a first half Jermaine Beckford strike. Despite taking them to a replay at Elland Road, the trick could not be repeated against Tottenham Hotspur in the next round and they fell to a 3-1 defeat.
The club were promoted back to the second tier at the end of the 2009-10 season and in the intervening years playing at that level they have reached the FA Cup 5th Round twice. In 2012-13 season they beat Birmingham City 2-1 in a 3rd Round replay after a one-one draw, then did finally beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 at Elland Road in the 4th Round, before going down 4-0 at Manchester City in the 5th Round.
Three years later they beat Rotherham United 2-0 in the 3rd Round, Bolton Wanderers 2-1 away in the 4th Round, before losing 1-0 at Watford in the 5th Round. The 2016-17 season saw Leeds United lose to a second Non-League side as Conference side Sutton United avenged their heavy defeat of 1970 with a 1-0 win in the 4th Round.
In a nutshell, the story of Leeds United in the FA Cup is one of slow starters, leading to a fabulous peak followed by an all-time low. They have experienced the extremes of having competed in four FA Cup Finals, winning just once in the competition’s Centenary season, to having suffered embarrassing defeats to lower league and non-league sides.
But Leeds United are one of only 43 clubs to lift the famous trophy out of over 3,200 plus teams who have competed in it over 138 seasons. They have scored 407 FA Cup goals and won 106 FA Cup games across 93 campaigns and are the 27th most successful club in the competition’s history.
So, it is true to say, for Leeds United in the FA Cup, the highs definitely far outweigh the lows.