Saturday, 16 January 2016

FA Cup Third Round Review Part One

The dawn of a new year means a resuming of the FA Cup which is at the hallowed third round stage, traditionally full of excitement and few 'cupsets' but unlike previous seasons, I will be covering the round in full which means a huge 32 games and as such, the review will be in two parts with the replays forming a separate piece later in the month.

The round began on Friday night as League Two side Exeter City entertained a depleted Liverpool side at St James' Park. The Reds recent injury crisis left them with the ability to name only five senior players in their 17 with only Christian Benteke in the starting XI having made more than four appearances for the club. Exeter stormed into the lead as expected but it was a surprise that Tom Nichols slotted in after only nine minutes.

The youthful Reds replied with an equaliser from Jerome Sinclair just three minutes later for 1-1 but went into the interval 2-1 down after a stunning corner from Lee Holmes fooled Adam Bogdan and went straight in in the 45th minute. Liverpool avoided defeat but will have to replay up at Anfield after Brad Smith salvaged a 2-2 draw with a 73rd minute effort.

This part includes all of Saturday's action with the exception of the evening game but the action began early on as League Two play-off hopefuls Wycombe Wanderers hosted top flight basement boys Aston Villa. Remi Garde's Villans had yet to secure a win under his charge and with a strong side named there would be no excuses in this game. Micah Richards started the pursuit of success with a 22nd minute opener but the lead lasted until the 50th minute when the hosts were awarded a penalty which Joe Jacobsen slotted in for 1-1 to secure a replay at Villa Park.

In a battle between two sides at either end of the Premier League, Arsenal hosted Sunderland as they began the pursuit of becoming the first side since Blackburn (1884-1886) to win the competition in three consecutive seasons. However, their title defence suffered an early blow as the visitors took the lead with a 17th minute effort from Jeremain Lens but parity was soon restored as Joel Campbell equalised in the 25th minute.

Arsenal looked the stronger of the sides as the score remained level long into the second half but the tie was wrapped up by two goals in three minutes as Aaron Ramsey (72) and Olivier Giroud (75) sealed a 3-1 triumph.

Championship side Birmingham City hosted top flight AFC Bournemouth at St Andrews hoping to avoid a repeat of the 8-0 humiliation that the Cherries handed them in their last visit.  The Blues ensured such a repeat was dead in the water by taking the lead through Michael Morrison in the 40th minute but they would go into the interval on level terms as Lee Tomlin slotted in a penalty on 44 minutes for 1-1. The game seemed destined for a replay at the Vitality Stadium with the sides still level into the final ten minutes but Bournemouth had other ideas and sealed a 2-1 win with an 85th minute winner from Glenn Murray.

After leaving League One side Walsall to take charge at Championship side Brentford, Dean Smith must have been cursing the fact the draw had paired them together and was wary of an upset from his former side. His worries were confirmed before half-time as Sam Manton fired the Saddlers into the lead in the 34th minute in superb style. The hosts battled to draw level and even force a replay but to no avail as the first real 'cupset' of the day was completed with the visitors claiming a 1-0 success.

Last season, Bradford City dumped top flight Chelsea out in the fourth round but to have a chance of a repeat they would have to get past fellow League One side Bury at Gigg Lane. The sides sat just two places apart in the league standings so it was no surprise that they played out a 0-0 draw and will go again at Valley Parade in a replay.

League One side Colchester United hosted Championship side Charlton Athletic looking to stage a shock against the former Premier League team and after just 28 minutes, they were on course for success with an opening goal from Moncur.

Their 1-0 lead became 2-0 just before the half-time break as Marvin Sordell struck in the 41st minute but the Addicks set up a tense finish with a late strike from Reza Ghoochannejhad for 2-1 in the 90th minute but the hosts held on to secure a famous win.

Championship side Doncaster Rovers hosted top flight Stoke City with hopes of a 'giant-killing' against the Capital One Cup semi-finalists. However, it came as no surprise that the visitors took the lead as Peter Crouch fired them 1-0 ahead inside 15 minutes but the hosts battled back and drew level on 25 minutes through Nathan Tyson for 1-1. Stoke secured a place in the next round just before the hour mark as Jon Walters slotted in a 57th minute effort to claim a 2-1 win.

The third round traditionally has a number of non-league sides but this year, just one featured as Eastleigh played host to Championship strugglers Bolton Wanderers. The hosts did superbly to hold their higher league opponents to 0-0 in the first half before being gifted a shock lead just six minutes after the restart as Dervite deflected into his own net. The biggest 'cupset' of the round looked to be on the cards as the 1-0 lead remained with just five minutes left but the visitors spoiled the impending joy with an 87th minute leveller from Pratley to salvage a 1-1 draw and force a replay.

Top flight Everton looked to avoid a 'giant-killing' as they hosted League Two side Dagenham and Redbridge having slipped up to lower-league opponents in recent years. The sides were evenly matched in the first half hour before a breakthrough came for the hosts on 32 minutes as Arouna Kone made it 1-0 to the Toffees. The visitors did well to keep the gap to just a single goal but were unable to draw level as the game went on and their fate was sealed with five minutes left of the 90 as Kevin Mirallas slotted in a penalty to complete a 2-0 win.

League Two strugglers Hartlepool United harboured hopes of a staging a 'cupset' as they hosted Championship promotion hopefuls Derby County.  The hosts did well to hold the Rams to a goalless first half before taking a surprise lead in the 61st minute with an effort from Gray but they were rapidly pegged back by a 67th minute leveller from Butterfield for 1-1. The tie looked to be heading towards a replay with the sides remaining locked at 1-1 into the final ten minutes but the Rams secured a spot in the next round with a 2-1 win as Darren Bent struck in the 85th minute.

In an all Championship battle, Huddersfield Town hosted Reading with both keen to advance with hopes of drawing a top flight teams in the fourth round. A tight first half saw the sides go into the break level at 0-0 but the hosts took the lead with 57 minutes played with Paterson making it 1-0, Vydra replied for the visitors in the 71st minute before Hal Robson-Kanu looked to have sealed a 2-1 win with an 87th minute strike. However, the hosts were awarded a late penalty which Wells slotted in to make it 2-2 and force a replay.

Another all Championship battle saw Hull City host Brighton and Hove Albion at the KC Stadium with the Tigers looking to move a step closer to repeating their 2014 run to the final. The hosts did just that as they secured a spot in the fourth round with a narrow 1-0 win courtesy of a 41st minute penalty from Robert Snodgrass.

Two former top flight sides faced off as Championship side Ipswich Town hosted League Two side Portsmouth with the visitors hoping to move a step closer to repeating their 2008 win in the final. The sides remained level into the interval before a goal each in the space of two minutes livened up the tie. Ipswich struck first with a 53rd minute opener before Bennett made it 1-1 on 55 minutes. The tie looked to be heading for a replay until Chaplin fired the visitors into a 2-1 lead on 86 minutes but the replay as confirmed within two minutes as Fraser made it 2-2 in the 88th minute.

A Championship face-off saw Leeds United host Rotherham United with both looking to boost a season to forget so far. The hosts struck a lead late in the first half as Carayol marked his debut with the opener in the 45th minute. The narrow lead continued late into the second half when just alike the first half, the hosts struck late on as Doukara sealed a 2-0 win.

Two former top flight sides who are in the promotion battle for a return met at the Riverside Stadium as Middlesbrough hosted Burnley. The hosts sat atop the Championship table ahead of the tie so it was no surprise that they struck first as Fabbrini made it 1-0 in the 36th minute. The Clarets avoided a deficit into the interval as Hennings levelled in the 45th minute for 1-1. The visitors completed the comeback with a 71st minute strike from Ward to secure a 2-1 win and a spot in the next round.