The FA Cup returned this weekend for the third round, where lower league teams were joined by the big boys of the Premier League.
Although there were no upsets of note on Saturday, the magic of the cup certainly remains with some giant killings already taken place in the first two rounds.
Everyone loves an underdog and the FA Cup is a great leveller that produces shock results frequently. With non-league clubs seemingly closing the gap in terms of quality on teams in the football league, there already have been plenty of giant-killing in the early rounds.
Here are the five biggest Cup shocks from rounds one and two this season…
Conference side Aldershot surprised many by defeating 2008 winners Portsmouth 1-0. The Conference strugglers put in two outstanding performances to knock out Pompey. The first match ended in a 2-2 draw, with a late Danny Holland goal forcing the replay in a match Aldershot deserved to win. Portsmouth took an early lead before Aldershot turned things around superbly in the second half, and were denied late on. Mark Molesley struck the only goal in the replay for Aldershot.
This was another cup tie in which Aldershot were the better side and Portsmouth simply were not up to mark. The Conference side forced a replay in the second round, drawing 0-0 at home to League One Rochdale in another game where they were the better side. The replay didn’t go to plan as they were comfortably beaten 4-1.
Seventh tier Maidstone United of the Isthmian Premier Division caused a huge upset when they defeated League Two Stevenage in a replay. The first match ended 0-0 at Stevenage with Maidstone delighted to just force a replay. Both teams had chances to win it, but Maidstone hung on to earn a very credible draw.
The replay was a typically scrappy cup tie with both teams desperate to progress in the cup. Frannie Collin scored after just two minutes to give the non-league outfit the lead. Darius Charles equalised early in the second half for the visitors, in a match where they were outwitted by a team several divisions below them in the league system.
Collin scored a header three minutes from time to gift Maidstone a famous win. They went through to the second round for the first time since reforming in 1992. But that is where their cup run ended, losing 3-1 to Wrexham in the next round. Although no-one can take away their tremendous achievement of knocking out League Two opposition.
One of the biggest shocks was Blyth Spartans of the seventh tier winning 2-1 away to League Two Hartlepool. Jonathan Franks gave the home side the lead in the first half. But Stephen Turnbull converted a stunning free-kick just before the hour mark to force Spartans level. Hartlepool should have taken the lead when the ball looked to have crossed the line from a Marlon Harewood effort but the goal wasn’t given.
This proved to be a massive decision as the score was level, with Blyth’s Jarrett Rivers going on to win it for the non-league outfit with a terrific solo effort in the last minute to send the fans wild.
This meant they faced Birmingham City at home in the third round, and they were leading 2-0 before City came back to win 3-2 and break Blyth’s hearts. Spartans exit the FA Cup with their heads held high after heroic performances throughout this cup run.
The very first game of the FA Cup proper saw a massive upset as 8th tier Warrington Town beat League Two Exeter 1-0. Warrington were the lowest ranked team in the first round and made this stage for the first time in their history. One hundred places separated the two sides but in the FA Cup, that all goes out the window.
Defender Craig Robinson headed home what turned out to be the winner on seven minutes to spark wild scenes at Cantilever Park. Exeter spent the rest of the match desperate to avoid embarrassment and went close on numerous occasions, albeit all in vein. But this was the day of the underdog as Warrington put their bodies on the line to defend their precious lead.
They somehow held on to create history and will forever be remembered by all at Warrington Town. In the second round, they lost 2-0 away to Conference side Gateshead.
Without doubt the biggest FA Cup shock so far this season came at the Ricoh Arena in the first Round. 1987 winners and current League One side Coventry were embarrassed at home to Conference North’s Worcester City. Worcester deservedly went ahead before half-time when goalkeeper Lee Burge conceded a penalty after he lashed out at Daniel Nti in an off the ball incident, resulting in a red card.
Sean Geddes converted to give Worcester the lead, before Reda Johnson missed a penalty of his own for the hosts on the stroke of half-time.
Geddes doubled the visitors’ lead before the hour mark and although Coventry’s Johnson pulled one back late one, Worcester held on to inflict one of the worst results in Coventry’s history. In the second round Worcester held another League One team, Scunthorpe ,1-1 away and drew again 1-1 in the replay, before a heartbreaking 13-14 defeat on penalties.