The 3rd round of the F.A cup is essential viewing for most football fans. A chance to watch some of the best players in England take on local plumbers dreaming of seeing more of Wembley Stadium than the stadium tour had to offer. For Premier League teams this round is a nuisance, they have everything to lose as lower teams run harder than ever before for a story to tell their grandkids. This year has been no exception.
Exeter frustate Liverpool’s youngsters
Firstly Exeter welcomed the arrival of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side, well at least what was left of it. A string of hamstring injuries forced Klopp into fielding 8 youth players in his starting XI. Even the players that made it into his first team were questionable, the flappy Adam Bogdan in goal, the previously exiled Jose Enrique playing out of position and the out of form Cristian Benteke wearing the captain’s armband. Exeter manager Paul Tisdale must’ve been full of glee as he saw their team.
With a spirited performance the Grecians managed to hold Liverpool to a 2-2 draw and could’ve easily knocked the Reds out of the competition. A sublime finish from Tom Nichols gave Exeter the lead but was cancelled out by Jerome Sinclair’s equaliser after Exeter failed to clear an attack. Just before half time Exeter took the lead again with an audacious goal, Lee Holmes scoring direct from a goalkeeper past a confused Adam Bogdan. Brad Smith rescued the tie late on with a neat finish to save Liverpool from being knocked out.
If anything the draw is more important to Exeter as they look to pocket approximately £1 million from the replay at Anfield. Money like that makes a huge difference to clubs at this level. Something I have seen in the last year at Cambridge United, where last year’s two games against Manchester United have bolstered the clubs attendances and allowed them to improve their ground and squad. Exeter were previously saved in similar fashion, by securing a replay against Manchester United in 2005 they raised enough funds to keep the club from administration. The magic of the cup is dead? Pfft.
Best of Saturday
Saturday came and saw the majority of the 3rd round games, including more upsets. Wycombe Wanderers forced Aston Villa into a 1-1 draw, sparking intense discussions between captain Micah Richards the Villa fans. Wycombe who are enjoying a successful season went down to Richards goal in the 22nd minute though a second half penalty from Joe Jacobsen ensured Wycombe a trip to Villa Park. Doncaster Rovers gave Stoke City a scare, taking the lead before eventually losing 2-1 to the Premier League team. The biggest shock of the day would go to the lowest ranked team in the competition, Eastleigh Football Club.
Final Score made the journey to Eastleigh for a special broadcast from the Silverlake Stadium and were nearly let down as poor weather came close to postponing the game. Thankfully it went ahead and a late equaliser for Bolton Wanderers meant Eastleigh would get a replay at the Championship club. Eastleigh went ahead through a Dorian Derive own goal and maintained that lead until the 87th minute when Darren Pratley squeezed in the punishing equaliser. Eastleigh will again pocket a sizeable amount which could make a huge difference to the non league club.
Swans embarassed by Oxford United
Sunday still had a shock up its sleeve, with a League two side securing a surprise victory over Premier League opposition in 5 goal thriller. Step forward Oxford United, a team currently 3rd in League Two. It all looked like it would go to plan for Swansea, a skilful flick from Batefimbi Gomis sent Jefferson Montero through on goal and he slotted into the bottom left. However just before the half time whistle Oxford drew level. Kyle Bartley took down Alex MacDonald and the referee award a penalty, Liam Sercombe stepped up and slammed the ball down the centre of the goal.
Within 15 minutes of the second half Oxford were 2 goals up thanks to Kemar Roofe. Firstly the midfielder curled a wonderful effort into the bottom right corner from 20 yards before a blistering counter attack saw Roofe extend their lead. Swansea fought back through Gomis but with 25 minutes left they weren’t able to pull the result level. A huge result for Oxford ensures they are in the pot for round four of the F.A Cup and they will hope to pull off another giant killing in their future.
Whilst the Premier League clubs will shortly move on from these disappointments and concentrate on their league form these results will stick in the lower league football fans for decades. Though the winner will probably be a predictable top 4 Premier League cup, that doesn’t prevent the average Joe from attempting to walk those Wembley stairs. That’s the true magic of the cup.