What’s the biggest FA Cup third-round giant killing?
We’ve picked four of the best from over the years
We all love a cupset, but which is the biggest FA Cup third-round giant killing of all-time?
When we talk about the ‘magic’ of the FA Cup, usually we’re referring to two things.
Firstly, there’s a thrill of seeing small clubs giving everything when they play against their more highly paid and well-known counterparts. Seeing the dream of a part-time player on the pitch against his boyhood club, or a fearless youngster who plies his trade in the lower leagues shocking a complacent top-tier professional.
Secondly, we mean the schadenfreude of watching a big side fall into that complacency trap. Losing a match they almost certainly should have won. The shell-shocked look of elite players as someone they’ve never heard of celebrates a win that will go down in history for a team of more modest means.
Here are four of the biggest giant killings from the third round of the FA Cup – don’t forget to vote in our Twitter poll and let us know your favourite.
Sutton Utd 2 – 1 Coventry City (1989)
While Coventry are no longer a ‘giant’, now plying their trade in the Championship – back in 1989 they were in the old First Division. Just 19 months prior, Coventry had themselves lifted the coveted trophy for the first time in their history with a 3-2 underdog win over Tottenham at Wembley.
Paired with Vauxhall Conference side Sutton Utd, Coventry came into the tie off the back of a 5-0 win over fellow Division One team Sheffield Wednesday.
The game was even at 1-1 on 60 minutes, when Sutton Utd played a short corner, and a cross was whipped in from the right. Coventry’s defenders were nowhere to be seen, as unmarked bricklayer Matthew Haulm volleyed in from close range sending the 8,000 fans at Gander Green Lane into raptures. While Coventry had several chances to equalise, Sutton were able to mount a desperate defence, clearing the ball off the line on more than one occasion to seal a famous victory.
They went on to face Norwich City in the fourth round, where they fell to an 8-0 defeat, but that’s just a footnote – history had already been made. They held the record as the last non-league team to beat a side from the top-flight for 24 years – when Luton Town beat Norwich City in the fourth round of the cup.
Manchester Utd 0 – 1 Leeds Utd (2010)
While Leeds are now back in the top-flight, back in 2010 they were at their lowest ebb, spending their third consecutive season in League One. While teams from lower leagues have claimed more unlikely victories than this, the historic rivalry between Leeds and Man Utd make this one to remember.
Man Utd fielded a team that was nowhere near their strongest, including the likes of Gabriel Obertan, Darron Gibson, Anderson and a young Danny Welbeck alongside more experienced players including Gary Neville, Wes Brown, Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov. Yet it should have been more than enough to defeat their opposition – sat 43 places below them in the footballing pyramid.
Just 18 minutes into the game a hopeful long ball is sent over the top towards Leeds’ speed merchant striker Jermaine Beckford. A poor first touch took him wide to the left of Tomasz Kuszczak’s goal, before a sublimely cool second touch deceives the keeper and the desperately retreating Wes Brown, as the ball bobbled slowly into the bottom-right corner of the net.
Despite two penalty shouts and the introduction of Michael Owen, Utd were simply unable to peg Leeds back, exiting the competition in the third round for the first time in Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign as manager. Man Utd went to on finish second in the Premier League and picked up a League Cup win, while Leeds ended their stay in League One, securing promotion to the Championship as runners-up.
Wrexham 2 – 1 Arsenal (1992)
Back in the 1991-92 season reigning First Division champions Arsenal came up against a Wrexham side who had finished at the bottom of the entire professional football pyramid the previous year, rock- bottom in Division Four. In any normal season, they would have been relegated to non-league, but an expansion to the competition meant they were granted a reprieve.
Arsenal manager George Graham, wary of an upset, fielded a strong side, featuring Tony Adams and David O’Leary in defence, with the likes of David Seaman, Paul Merson and Alan Smith also in the starting XI. As Wrexham manager Brian Flynn noted in his pre-match comments “On paper they should murder us, but the match isn’t being played on paper.”
Arsenal took an early lead through Smith (now a long-serving Sky Sports commentator), from a Paul Merson cross and looked to be coasting towards victory. Then in the 82nd minute Wrexham were awarded a free-kick from around 25 yards out. Wales international Mickey Thomas stepped up and pretended to take it quickly, before firing home into the top corner, with David Seaman unable to divert the ball past the post, despite getting his fingertips to the ball.
Two minutes later, Wrexham took the lead, after a poor clearance from Nigel Winterburn gifted Gordon Davies (another Welsh international) a chance for a second. Instead of taking on an ambitious volley, he squared it for strike Steve Watkin. who evaded a Tony Adams challenge to poke the ball home past a hapless Seaman and claim a famous victory. At the final whistle, Wrexham fans invaded the pitch to celebrate with their heroes.
Arsenal went on to win the competition the next season, while for Wrexham, the match remains perhaps their finest ever footballing moment
Newport County 2 – 1 Leicester City (2019)
“Gary what’s the score?” was the jubilant cry of Newport County fans at the final whistle of this epic, addressing Match of the Day host and Leicester City fan Gary Lineker.
Just three years after their sensational Premier League-winning season, Leicester City were brought crashing back down to earth as they faced League Two’s Newport County in the third round of the cup.
Leicester manager Claude Puel unsurprisingly rang the changes, leaving out Jamie Vardy, James Maddison and Kasper Schmeichel. But it was the inclusion of Premier League winner Marc Albrighton that was to prove most decisive.
Just 10 minutes into the tie, Newport took the lead, after Robbie Willmott’s pace proved much for Christian Fuchs, delivering a perfect cross for Jamille Matt to nod home. But an 82nd minute equaliser from Rachid Ghezzal looked set to break Newport hearts, smashing home after a Kelechi Iheanacho header was saved by County keeper Joe Day.
Then, just two minutes later, a moment of madness from Albrighton turned the game on its head once more, as he inexplicably stuck out his arm to block a cross from deep, just inside the area. Padraig Amond stepped up to the spot, sending Danny Ward the wrong way with a coolly-taken penalty.
This was Newport’s first victory in the cup against a team from the top division since a win over Sheffield Wednesday in 1963-64 season. While it’s unlikely Gary remembers the score on that day, this one will probably stay with him.
Remember, you can vote for your favourite over on Twitter.
All odds and markets correct as of date of publication.