The Biggest FA Cup 3rd Round Shocks of All Time

Ben Wylie

Hereford 2-1 Newcastle United 1972

Perhaps the most infamous of all FA Cup upsets, and where the term giant-killing came from, Hereford United faced Newcastle United in the 3rd round of the 100 year anniversary FA Cup. This was a third round replay after fifth tier Hereford drew 2-2 at St. James' Park, frustrating the First Division outfit throughout. Heading back to Edgar street, Hereford played the same 11 that got the draw in the first game, made more remarkable that they only had one professional player in their side, Colin Addison.

Addison had also taken the role as player-manager, leaving him in charge not just of the midfield, but the entire team. The first half was dominated by Newcastle, hitting the crossbar multiple times and having a goal disallowed for a foul on goalkeeper, Fred Potter.

Hereford began to grow in confidence as the second half progressed, but it was Newcastle who scored on the break with Malcolm McDonald providing a powerful header from a cross to give the away side the expected 1-0 lead in the 82nd minute. Three minutes later, came one of the best FA Cup goals ever seen, with Ronnie Radford, a part-time carpenter, hitting a 30-yard strike into the top corner.

“What a goal, what a goa,l” exclaimed John Motson, helping launch his legendary commentary career and sending the game into extra time.

Substitute Micky George proved to be the match-winner for the non-league side, turning just outside of the box and placing his shot in the far bottom corner. The Bulls managed to hang on, producing one of the greatest FA Cup upsets of all time and being the first non-league side since 1949 to knock out a top flight opponent.

Wrexham 2-1 Arsenal 1992

Fourth Division Wrexham welcomed First Division champions Arsenal to their home soil in the third round in 1992.

Wrexham knew the odds were firmly against them, playing a side who only lost one league game in the entirety of the previous season, conceding just 18 goals. Wrexham, on the other hand, finished bottom of the entire football league the previous season, but expansion meant they were saved from relegation.

No sense of a giant killing was present at a packed Racecourse Ground in the first half, despite Arsenal not being able to take all the chances they created. The men from Highbury eventually took the lead in the 43rd minute, with Alan Smith poking a Paul Merson cross home to give the Gunner’s a well deserved 1-0 lead.

Wrexham’s youthful team - with five of their players being under 20 - didn’t read the script, however, and kept themselves in the game heading into the final 10 minutes. However, It was veteran and former Wales international, Mickey Thomas, who provided the moment of quality for Wrexham as his freekick soared past David Seaman into the top left corner of the net to level the game at 1-1.

The Welshmen were now inspired and Arsenal were there for the taking. Two minutes later, there were Wrexham raptures as Steve Watkins placed his shot under the body of Seaman to compile Arsenal’s humiliation and send Wrexham through to the fourth round. Legendary Arsenal manager, George Graham, called the defeat his “lowest moment in football”, but the magic of the FA Cup was providing another glorious upset for neutrals.

Manchester United 0-1 Leeds United

From Champions League semi-finals in 2001 to relegation into League One in 2010, Leeds United’s financial collapse had seen them drop down to the third in just six years later. The reunion with one their fiercest rivals came on the back of their third and last season in League One as they crossed the Pennines to face the current Premier League champions.

Simon Greyson took his Leeds side to Old Trafford with nothing to lose and a determination to put the Whites back into the limelight. It only took the League One outfit 18 minutes to get the only goal of the game, with academy graduate Jonny Howson looping a ball from his own half over Wes Brown’s head to top goalscorer, Jermaine Becford.

Beckford’s first touch took him wide of the goal to the left and gave goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak a chance to close down the ball. He was smart, and produced a shot with his left foot that went in between goalkeeper and defender Brown, trickling into the bottom right corner of the net to give Leeds the lead.

“That’s the one big thing I look back on. We had a great team of players but also a group of individuals and the respect we had for each other,” Greyson said years after the defeat, but in reality, it was one of the biggest upsets of the century, despite the years competing together in the top flight.

Manchester United, despite having players such as Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov and Ryan Giggs on the pitch, couldn’t produce an equaliser. As the final whistle went, the Leeds players and their 9000 supporters celebrated one of the biggest FA Cup 3rd round upsets ever.


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