The roar of a full-to-capacity non-league ground. The only time you’ll get in to Anfield for £20. The mud-soaked pitches. The excitement of the draw. The biggest sides faltering. It can only be the first full weekend of football of the year. It can only be the FA Cup.
Nothing beats it. Nothing will top the excitement of setting an alarm for 2am. No meal will taste as good as a brekkie of diet coke, ale and skips on the coach to Wembley. And no goal will be as sweet as the first goal you see your side score in an FA Cup final at the home of British football.
The FA Cup 2014 has yet to disappoint. We’ll start at Blundell Park, where a determined Grimsby side saw mud as a late Huddersfield winner denied the non-league side a chance to progress to the fourth round. Meanwhile, a grumpy Mourinho looked on as his Chelsea side were held by Derby County at Pride Park until a 66th minute Mikel header. A deflection off the keeper saw Oscar’s shot hit the back of the net and the match finished 2 nil. Moving north to Anfield, , Liverpool saw off an Oldham side that could easily have become their bogey team after losing to them in the fourth round last season. Aspas’ debut goal for Liverpool, in front of the Kop, was a screamer; catching the ball on the volley he fires it into the back of the net. Stirling’s deflection added a second for Liverpool, turning what was looking to be a scrappy, awkward game in to a comfortable win for Liverpool.
There are three contenders for shock of the third round. One such instance is undoubtedly the flaying the Swans offered Moyes’ Utd side; even I, a Liverpool fan guilty of chanting “ten more years” at Moyesy on many a derby day at Anfield, feel for the man. Routledge’s quality finish after a lovely through ball signalled the commencement of the misery for the thousand packed into Old Trafford, but a Hernandez equaliser four minutes later kept the dream alive. An unyielding Swansea defence held their own in the Theatre of Dreams, keeping this normally creative side fairly subdued. An unpleasant challenge, in which his studs could be counted, saw substitute Fabio sent off. A succinct, sharp header from Bony was shortly followed by a steady stream of Utd fans heading for the doors in the 90th minute. In a sad reflection on the state of the game, it is refreshing to see Moyes commend and support the referee’s decision to show a red to Fabio; he deserves recognition for that.
The second contender has to be the thrashing dealt to West Ham at the City Ground. Patterson skilfully controls the ball but is brought down in the box- a beautiful penalty kick by Abdun seems to just float down the centre of the box and tickle the back of the net. A beautiful Patterson shot slices in off the post after Halford rips into the heart of Big Sam’s defence; these two have linked up incredibly well throughout the tie and Patterson makes it three in the 71st minute. He gets his inevitable hat trick after taking on three defenders in the immediate vicinity of the goal- Nottingham’s answer to a certain Uruguayan international forward. Andy Reid gets the fifth after making a dream run to the centre of the box; the shot in landing perfectly at his feet.
The third contender is, of course, Villa Sheffield United. A beautiful Murphy shot deflects off defender Clarke, rattling the net for the League One side in the 20th minute. Villa equalised in the 75th minute, with Helenius scoring his cup debut, a lovely volley after the ball bounced off a defender. Ryan Flynn put Sheffield United ahead late on with an accurate, powerful shot that easily cleared the flailing keeper. At the final whistle, Villa Park erupted in boos; it is clear that the fans were not happy with the performance of their side.
I’ll let you be the judge; the third round certainly did not disappoint.
Image from the BBC.