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Bobby McMahon

Bobby McMahon

You can see me on Soccer Central most Mondays and Thursdays on Rogers Sportsnet in Canada. I write a regular column for and and frequently guest on various podcasts and radio shows.


FA Cup 3rd Round – Cometh the Hour Cometh the Upset?

Written by on January 6, 2012 | 11 Comments »
Posted in Cup Competitions

When we hear about teams putting out under-strength squads at FA Cup time much of it is directed at the “bigger” teams. But when you get down to the details what has been missing in the  FA Cup over the last two decades or so is the lesser lights having ago. 

In 1988 Wimbledon beat Liverpool in the last great FA Cup Final shock. Everton’s win over Manchester United in 1995 was a surprise (Everton 15th and Manchester United league runners-up), Spurs and Nottingham Forest brought two mid-table teams together and Portsmouth win over championship side in Cardiff pitted two unlikely finalists against each other. 

But since Wimbledon’s win we’ve had Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal take the trophy five times each and Liverpool one less.

The other winner came last season when Manchester City hoisted a trophy for the first time in thirty-five years and there is every indication that their fans will be celebrating on a far more regular basis than they have been accustomed to.

Liverpool successfully negotiated a tie  with Oldham on Friday and we know that we are going to lose one of the two Manchester heavyweights in this round. Arsenal should not take Leeds likely – especially with the hoopla of Henry’s temporary return.

Chelsea have a home draw against Portsmouth and that should be something they can negotiate.

A common formula for trying to zero in on possible upsets is to look at teams from lower divisions that are playing reasonably well against teams that are struggling.the other is good old gut instinct – or in other words pure guess-work.

Here are my top five that  might provide a FA Cup shock.

Barnsley at home to Swansea; Fleetwood Town at home to Blackpool; Swindon versus Wigan; Cardiff away to West Brom and on Monday Leeds away to Arsenal.

Do you have a top five that might turn the competition on its ear?

Full schedule


Birmingham v Wolverhampton,

Dag & Red v Millwall,

Barnsley v Swansea,

Brighton v Wrexham,

Coventry v Southampton,

Crawley Town v Bristol City,

Derby v Crystal Palace,

Doncaster v Notts County,

Everton v Tamworth,

Fleetwood Town v Blackpool,

Fulham v Charlton,

Gillingham v Stoke,

Hull v Ipswich,

MK Dons v QPR,

Macclesfield v Bolton,

Middlesbrough v Shrewsbury,

Newcastle v Blackburn,

Norwich v Burnley,

Nottingham Forest v Leicester,

Reading v Stevenage,

Sheffield Utd v Salisbury,

Swindon v Wigan,

Tottenham v Cheltenham,

Watford v Bradford,

West Brom v Cardiff,

Bristol Rovers v Aston Villa,


Manchester City v Manchester Utd,

Chelsea v Portsmouth,

Sheffield Wed v West Ham,

Peterborough v Sunderland,


Arsenal v Leeds

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11 responses to “FA Cup 3rd Round – Cometh the Hour Cometh the Upset?”

  1. John Bladen says:


    Time was in the FA Cup that smaller clubs drawn at home against the mighty (which happens less frequently these days than it once did thanks to additional qualifying rounds) would often choose to sacrifice their home field advantage in exchange for a significant share of the gate revenues from their opponent’s ground. Even loyal fans could hardly blame a club with an annual turnover of $500k or less for taking a once in a lifetime windfall doubling of their gross annual revenue…

    It was often suggested (not sure I believed it then or now) that a second part of such agreements was that the larger club would promise not to humiliate the lower side on the bigger stage.

    But this type of thing (smaller sides agreeing to play away instead of at home) rarely if ever happens today. In place of this, we seem to get a significant number of curious draws in the few games matching PL or Ch sides away against lower or non-league opposition.

    Is this the luck of the draw? Or do you think it represents a different kind of “gentlemen’s agreement” than the one some believe was employed in the 70s/80s?

    I don’t want to suggest anything as sordid as match fixing, but the last 5-10 years it’s struck me that when these matches are drawn, the higher league club often plays to a relatively listless draw on the road before winning comfortably at home. That could be down to many things (including fielding reserve sides, pitch condition – though the standard for pitches across the league has risen dramatically since the 80’s, etc), but it does seem to happen more than one would expect.

    Any thoughts on this?

  2. fabr04 says:

    Bobby, is there anything in the rules that say “if you make a two footed tackle it’s an automatic red card”? I can’t imagine there would be, but I’m at a loss for any other explanation for Kompany’s red.

    One thing I am NOT at a loss to explain is why it’s OK for Rooney to encourage Chris Foy to penalize Kompany, but when a foreigner does it it’s “trying to get a fellow professional booked.” I understand that perfectly well, thanks.

  3. Bobby says:

    FABR04 – just going to post the parts from the Laws of the Game as it is extensive. It will up tomorrow morning.

  4. John – I think playing a weakened side often backfires on the higher placed teams and they finish in an even worse position than if they had just gone out to win the game in the first place.

    I stand to be corrected but I believe in Germany the lower ranked sides are given home advantage automatically.

    Years ago under an old League Cup format in Scotland there used to be round robin play based on divisions. Four groups from the old first division and the same from the old second.

    The quarter final draw was seeded so it was four first first division sides against four second division teams and the lower sides could look at some good gate money.

    Now again there would be a shock and if I am not mistaken Morton (a 2nd division team) reached the final only to lose 5-0 to Rangers around 64. It was the Morton side that had a heavy representation of Scandinavians.

  5. Ed Gomes says:

    I was thrilled by Man Uniteds win. But I have to admit that I came away more impressed in City’s loss than Man Uniteds win.
    The center mids just aren’t good. Scholes signing is actually troubling. Him coming on at the 59th for Nani is down right crazy.
    The defense isn’t very good EVDS is sorely missed but he never faced this many shots. Ferdinand is done. Evra has been off all season as well. The youngsters are also being exposed.
    Goalies confidence are shattered.
    SAF came out and said that he would only sign who he wanted. He wasn’t going to bring in inferior players that would sit the bench. I agree with those thoughts, but how is Scholes not a desperation move. I’m sorry, but there’s plenty available that wouldn’t sit the bench. And no, not Cahill.

  6. J Rob says:

    Two certain ironies today. Kompany sent off for a challenge which was substantially less dangerous than 95% of the type that Paul Scholes got away with for the majority of his Man Utd career especially early in games.

    The 2nd was that very few pundits made comment of the fact that for all their money City ended up throwing on a player deemed not fit enough to play for Man Utd in Owen Hargreaves.

    Chris Foy is the clear leader in a very competitive field for worst ref this season. (Although SAF obviously disagreed as he felt compelled to affectionately touch his shoulder at the end of the game.)

    Appalling decisions for the Stoke vs Spurs EPL game and then sends off Kompany for a challenge a lot more timid than the one that he gave Lampard a yellow for when Chelsea vs Wolves over the festive period.

    Inconsistency is what really drives everyone mad. Remember seeing Raul Meireles only get a yellow for a 2 footed lunge against Kolarov of Man City in December only a few days after Spearing saw red for a lesser challenge in the Liverpool vs Fulham game?

    Bemused that De Jong made no attempt to challenge Welbeck for Man Utd’s second and that no Man City play saw fit to follow-up into the six-yard box as soon as Rooney hit his penalty. Both sloppy.

    The draw for the next-round is a potential disaster waiting to happen for Liverpool. One piece of verbal abuse from a fan to Evra, one thing thrown onto the pitch or one occasion of inappropriate chanting and you’d have to think that the FA might dock Liverpool points or worse.

    There is a real need for calm heads between Liverpool and Man Utd. With SAF and Kenny Dalglish in charge there’s probably more chance of hell freezing over than peace being declared.

  7. J Rob says:

    My bag – Chris Foy was not the referee for the Wolves vs Chelsea game last week.

  8. Ed Gomes says:

    Liverpool and the FA must take action against what took place in the stands. The thread of dark matches has to be put out there. That would mean also not televised. Fans could care less that a team or player gets fined.
    But please, let’s not confuse the stupidity of fans and the Suarez / Evra situation, like I’ve already seen.

  9. J Rob says:


    I am not trying to confuse stupidity of fans and Evra/Suarez situation.

    Rather given the fact that the FA Commission found Suarez guilty of racist abuse and that neither Liverpool and Suarez have apologised to him or Man Utd and that Liverpool’s official statements have denied culpability and questioned the integrity and honesty of Evra AND Liverpool have boxed themselves into a corner.

    Re: the FA Cup tie at Anfield – I think they are sitting on a tinder-box largely of their own making.

  10. John Bladen says:

    J Rob: Yes, it was Mr. Walton as I recall. He had a tough day too.

  11. Ed Gomes says:

    J Rob, I don’t disagree.

    On a side note in Portugal sadly, only a small uproar, has occured due to Sporting displaying of “offenssive posters” in the walkways. They basically dipicted “holligans” and activity that is determental to the game. UEFA has already prohibited them from displaying them during European competitions.
    I am far from being politically correct, and actually think people take it too far. But what Sporting decided to do was completely dumb. These holligans that are glamorized are the same people that would be fire bombing Sportings head quarters if they were in 6th place.
    Attendance is already a major issue, and the violence that occurs at so-called “Classicos” is out of control.

    Clubs have to be more responsible in the way they run their entire organization. That includes the way fans are treated and allowed to act. I’m afraid that “Dark Matches” aren’t used enough. By “dark” I mean that they shouldn’t be televised either.

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