The FA Cup first round is a standout feature in every English football season. While for the members of the Football League it is the first step of what they hope to be a lucrative journey, the non-league teams that make up the forty fixtures will have fought tooth and nail just to make it this far. One of the reasons the FA Cup remains special is the opportunity it provides the underdogs to upset the established order and become household names across the land. As the bigger clubs are often thrown into the unknown, more than a few famous names have fallen victim to the unpredictable nature of the cup.
1971/72 Third Round Replay: Hereford United 2-1 Newcastle United (AET)
One of the most stunning results in the FA Cup’s history also featured one of the most stunning goals seen in the competition courtesy of Hereford midfielder Ronnie Radford. Then of the Southern League, Hereford had defied the odds after a 2-2 away draw earned them a replay against Newcastle, who were playing in the top tier of English football. However, it looked like it would be heartbreak for Hereford when Malcolm Macdonald gave Newcastle the lead with just under ten minutes of normal time to play. Cue Radford to save the day and write his name into FA Cup folklore. Almost immediately after Macdonald’s goal, the ball fell perfectly for Radford, who fired in an unstoppable effort from 30 yards out to level the scores. Ricky George’s winner in the first period of extra time secured a memorable victory.
1971/72 Fifth Round: Leyton Orient 3-2 Chelsea
Just a few weeks after Hereford’s incredible result, Division Two strugglers Leyton Orient produced a huge upset of their own as they knocked out fellow Londoners Chelsea. Everything looked to be going to plan for the Blues as David Webb and Peter Osgood put them 2-0 up and a comfortable victory looked on the cards. However, the O’s were not to be denied as a superb strike from Phil Hoadley to make it 2-1 began a remarkable comeback. The home side were gifted an equaliser when Mickey Bullock was left to tap home into an empty net after a mix up between the Chelsea goalkeeper and a defender following a long ball forward. With Orient now in the ascendancy, they went on to take full advantage as more uncertainty at the back allowed Barrie Fairbrother to score the winner.
1991/92 Third Round: Wrexham 2-1 Arsenal
Having won the league title the previous season, Arsenal will have travelled to North Wales as one of the favourites to win the competition. However, a late fightback from the Fourth Division outfit saw the Gunners fall victim to one of the biggest shocks in recent history. George Graham’s men looked on course when Alan Smith put them in front in the first half as they dominated proceedings. But they were unable to add to their lead, which set the stage for a dramatic final ten minutes. Mickey Thomas smashed in a free kick to equalise, and when Steve Watkin put Wrexham ahead the home fans were sent into raptures. Brian Flynn’s side held out for the victory, leaving Arsenal to rue their missed chances.
2002/03 Third Round: Shrewsbury 2-1 Everton
David Moyes’ Everton were deservedly beaten in this brilliant tie as the struggling Shrews, who would go on to be relegated from the Football League at the end of the season, claimed a notable scalp. Shrewsbury rightly took the lead late in the first half through Nigel Jemson before the Toffees, with 17-year-old Wayne Rooney among the ranks, struck back in the second half and grabbed an equaliser through Niclas Alexandersson, which looked to have spared their blushes. However, Jemson struck again to secure the victory for the home side, sparking wild celebrations among the Shrewsbury faithful.
2007/08 Third Round: Havant and Waterlooville 4-2 Swansea City
After defying the odds to defeat York and Notts County in previous rounds, Havant continued to exceed expectations by knocking out League One high-flyers Swansea. After earning a replay following a 1-1 draw in South Wales, the Hawks raced into a 3-0 lead in the opening 40 minutes thanks to a Garry Monk own goal and efforts from Jamie Collins and Rocky Baptiste. Guillem Bauza reduced the deficit for the Swans before half time before Leon Britton wasted an opportunity to make it 3-2 by missing a penalty. Jason Scotland did grab a second for Roberto Martinez’s side, but Tom Jordan wrapped up a superb win for the home side by grabbing a fourth halfway through the second half. The excitement did not end there for Havant. They were rewarded with a dream away tie to Liverpool and even took the lead twice at Anfield before eventually being beaten 5-2.
2010/11 First Round: Rochdale 2-3 FC United of Manchester
FC United claimed a historic victory over near neighbours Rochdale as they advanced to the second round of the competition. Nicky Platt gave FC United the lead just before the interval and Jake Cotterill sent the visiting fans into delirium by doubling the lead just minutes into the second half. League One Rochdale responded immediately when Anthony Elding’s header made it 2-1 just four minutes later. Craig Dawson looked to have rescued Keith Hill’s side when he equalised with just over ten minutes to go. The underdogs were not to be denied though as Michael Norton grabbed an injury time winner to send FC United through. The winner was controversial, with Rochdale claiming Norton kicked the ball out of the goalkeeper’s hands, but their objections were to no avail.
2015/16 First Round: Salford City 2-0 Notts County
The TV cameras were in town for Salford’s first ever appearance in the FA Cup first round as they witnessed a superb performance and a momentous result. The Greater Manchester side, co-owned by Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Gary and Phil Neville, outplayed County from the first whistle and took the lead just seconds into the second half as former Watford and Sheffield United striker Danny Webber bundled home a cross from the right. Steve Howson brilliantly preserved the home side’s lead when he just managed to clear Adam Campbell’s effort from rolling into the net. Salford scored a brilliant second through Richie Allen to secure a deserved win and inflict an embarrassing defeat on the Magpies. It was the fourth season in a row that they had been knocked out by lower league opposition.