This year’s FA Cup shows the magic is still well and truly alive
There’s nothing quite like the FA Cup, and this year’s iteration of the oldest trophy in world football has been sensational viewing as always.
There’s nothing quite like the FA Cup, and this year’s iteration of the oldest trophy in world football has been sensational viewing as always. With the fifth round round the corner, in this article we look at all the twists and turns we’ve already had in the competition and what’s in store for the remaining rounds, as well as the favourites to lift the trophy at Wembley on May 14.
The story so far
The third round of the FA Cup is always a huge weekend in any fan’s diary at the beginning of the year. Everyone is hoping for some classic cup upsets, goals galore and late drama and this year’s third round delivered all three in abundance. It was a day to forget for the newly dubbed ‘richest club in the world’ Newcastle United, as they were bundled out by League One Cambridge United with a 1-0 defeat. The man who scored the winner Joe Ironside told BBC Sport that “It’s stuff I dreamed of, Alan Shearer was my hero, I grew up idolising him – now I have scored the winner at St James’ Park!” Ironside wasn’t the only hero for The U’s, with goalkeeper Dimitar Mitov making multiple incredible saves to deny Newcastle late on.
Two non-league sides pulled off famous victories in the third round: Kidderminster Harriers and Boreham Wood. ‘Kiddy’, who ply their trade in the National League North, the sixth tier of English football, knocked out Championship side Reading thanks to a late winner from Amari Morgan-Smith while Boreham Wood of the National League in the fifth tier beat League One side AFC Wimbledon 2-0 with goals from Tyrone Marsh and Adrian Clifton.
These two teams didn’t want their magical FA Cup journeys to be over there though, and produced the two biggest talking points of the fourth round. Boreham Wood produced a sensational performance to defeat Championship promotion hopefuls Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium thanks to a winner from 37 year-old Mark Ricketts. They became just the tenth non-league team to qualify for the fifth round since the end of the Second World War in 1945. Kidderminster were so close to joining them, and nearly produced one of the greatest upsets in the history of the FA Cup against West Ham, who are in the midst of a Champions League Charge in the Premier League. They took the lead in the 19th minute through Alex Penny and kept hold of it until the dying stages when Declan Rice netted the equaliser in added time. It looked set to be heading for penalties, but Jarrod Bowen broke Kidderminster’s hearts when he scored a tap-in at the back post in the final seconds of extra time.
That game wasn’t the only tie with late drama in extra time. League One side Plymouth Argyle put up an incredible effort to draw with European and World champions Chelsea in 90 minutes, but conceded in the 105th minute to Marcos Alonso. They could have taken it to a penalty shootout too, but Ryan Hardie had a penalty saved by Kepa Arrizabalaga in the dying seconds of extra time.
Nottingham Forest of the Championship have made it to the fourth round the hard way – knocking out Arsenal in the third round, and smashing rivals and last year’s FA Cup champions Leicester, while Middlesbrough knocked out Manchester United on penalties in the fourth round after sneaking past League Two Mansfield Town thanks to a 95th minute own goal to make it 3-2 in the third round.
The fifth round
If the fifth round can serve up half the drama we’ve had in the previous rounds we’re in for an absolute treat. Boreham Wood have been rewarded for knocking out two Championship sides with a big Premier League away to Frank Lampard’s Everton at Goodison Park on March 3. Boreham Wood manager Luke Garrard has been honest about his side’s chances in the tie, saying his side “can’t beat” Everton. He said: “I’ve had a load of league managers text me over the last few days saying ‘make sure you get the brick layers out to build you a brick wall in the goal.’ Listen, it’s going to be tough. For me, it’s going to be about going there, I’ve got Z-cars playing in my ear now and the hair on the back of my neck stood up. To have that infront of 40,000, going to Everton, it’s a massive, massive club. I believe they’ve won the cup five times.”
Boreham Wood striker Kane Smith will be living his childhood dream when he walks out at Goodison Park, as he is a lifelong fan of Everton. He told evertonfc.com: “The reaction I’ve had from Evertonians is just incredible. The thought of playing at Goodison is one thing…and now I’m getting tweets from Everton fans telling me I’m going to get a great reception. Things like this don’t happen to people like me! It’s amazing. It shows you why Everton, for me, are the best club in the world. It is The People’s club.
Premier League champions and favourites to win the title this year Manchester City are expected to comfortably beat Peterborough, who are struggling for survival in the Championship, while Luton Town host Chelsea and Antonio Conte’s Tottenham face a trip to Middlesbrough. The other ties in the fifth round are Crystal Palace vs. Stoke City, Southampton vs. West Ham, Liverpool vs. Norwich, and Nottingham Forest vs. Huddersfield.
Who are the favourites?
The top three teams in the Premier League are undoubtedly the top three favourites to win the FA Cup with the bookies at UK gambling sites. Man City are the current favourites with odds at 2/1, while Liverpool are 4/1. Chelsea have the next best odds at 5/1, while Tottenham are fourth favourites at 8/1. Boreham Wood are obviously the biggest outsiders, with some operators offering 1500/1 to those who want to dare to dream.
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