Despite games having to be played behind closed doors due to the pandemic, the third round of the FA Cup provided plenty of cup magic. Non-league Chorley knocked out a Derby side riddled with COVID-19, while Leeds United crashed out at the hands of League Two side Crawley Town, who rubbed salt into the wounds by bringing on The Only Way Is Essex star Mark Wright in the closing stages. Round four will see Liverpool take on Manchester United in the most eye-catching tie, but many will be looking elsewhere for further cup upsets. With that in mind, here are the five greatest FA Cup upsets in the history of the greatest domestic cup in football.
5 biggest FA Cup upsets
Sutton United 2-1 Coventry City (1989, third round)
A classic cupset kicks us off, with non-league Sutton knocking out Coventry in 1989.
Although Coventry have slipped down the leagues since, at the time they were in the top tier of English football and had even won the FA Cup 18 months earlier.
This is considered one of the biggest FA Cup upsets ever as non-league sides beating top division sides is extremely rare. Sutton skipper Tony Rains gave the hosts the lead at Gander Green Lane in front of a capacity crowd of 8,000, but David Phillips hit back for Coventry.
It was Matthew Hanlan who proved the hero for Barrie Williams when he hit the winning goal to write his name into FA Cup folklore. Conference side Sutton went on to the fourth round, where they were given an 8-0 hiding away to Norwich City.
Shrewsbury Town 2-1 Everton (2003, third round)
Ex-Everton star Kevin Ratcliffe led Shrewsbury Town to a famous defeat of his old club in the third round back in 2003, despite a gap of 80 league places between the two sides.
It was Nigel Jemson – the veteran Shrews striker – who came up trumps at Gay Meadow with a brace to book a place in the fourth round. Niclas Alexandersson came off the bench to head the equaliser for the Toffees but Jemson struck the decisive goal with a couple of minutes to go.
The prize for Shrewsbury for their giant killing was another glamour tie at home to Premier League opposition, but Chelsea ran out 4-0 winners in the fourth round.
Hereford United 2-1 Newcastle United (1972, third round)
For Newcastle fans, the FA Cup third round brings up bitter memories of one man: Ronnie Radford. This FA Cup upset came in a replay after Hereford had managed a 2-2 draw in the initial tie, earning the right to take on the Magpies in front of their own fans.
Hereford, of the Southern Football League, went into the competition at the Fourth Qualifying Round stage but battled through to set up one of the great days in the club’s history.
It was Newcastle’s brilliant number nine, Malcolm Macdonald, who netted the opening goal at Edgar Street but then came a classic FA Cup goal that will be shown again and again. Radford let fly with an unstoppable strike from 30 yards out to level the tie and spark a pitch invasion. He then had a hand in creating the extra-time winner for Ricky George.
Hereford took West Ham to a replay in the fourth round only to succumb to a Geoff Hurst hat-trick. But they will always have memories of Radford’s amazing goal.
Wrexham 2-1 Arsenal (1992, third round)
Arsenal manager George Graham described this defeat as his “lowest moment in football”, but for Wrexham supporters this FA Cup upset was exactly the opposite.
The Gunners were huge favourites to progress against the Fourth Division side and they took the lead through Alan Smith. Wrexham would not surrender though, levelling through a Mickey Thomas free-kick before completing the comeback through Steve Watkin’s goal just a couple of minutes later.
As Arsenal were England’s champions at the time, this is up there with the FA Cup’s biggest ever shocks for sure. Wrexham earned a replay against West Ham in the next round, then lost.
Chelsea 2-4 Bradford City (2015, fourth round)
Winning against the odds in the cup is hard enough at home, in front of your own fans, but it is even harder when you have to play away to the Premier League leaders. Chelsea went 2-0 up thanks to first-half goals from Gary Cahill and Ramires against Bradford of League One in this fourth-round tie a few years ago.
Most teams would have rolled over and simply tried to keep the scoreline respectable at that stage, but Bradford had other ideas. Jon Stead’s goal just before the break gave the Bantams some hope heading into the interval at Stamford Bridge.
Jose Mourinho’s Blues were then rocked when Filipe Morais levelled, with Andy Halliday putting Bradford ahead in the last 10 minutes. With Chelsea pushing for an equaliser, Bradford added an incredible fourth in added time through Mark Yeates.
Chelsea had a perfect home record in the Premier League but, roared on by 6,000 away fans, Bradford inflicted one of the worst results of Mourinho’s managerial career and one of the greatest FA Cup upsets ever.
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