First Round Moments | FA Cup | Sporting Index
FA Cup First Round Proper: History, Records & Memorable Moments
Every year 80 teams enter the first-round draw of the world’s oldest football competition in a bid to make a name for themselves. It features 32 qualifiers from non-league football, some of whom have battled their way through six preliminary rounds in order to seize a spot in the draw. They join the 48 professional teams from League One and League Two in the hat and the clubs then learn which opponent they have been paired with. The first round always serves up an intoxicating blend of shock results, individual heroism, wondergoals and howlers. Read on for a roundup of the key stats, the best moments and the greatest games from first round history.
First Round Records
The biggest ever victory in FA Cup history came in the first round of the 1887 tournament, which saw Preston North End thrash Hyde 26-0. A post-match report in the Lancashire Evening Post report described Preston’s start as being “a most determined one”. That was an understatement, as they were 12-0 up at half-time. They fired in another 14 goals unanswered after the break to wrap up the most comprehensive victory the cup has ever seen. Inside-right Jimmy Ross scored seven times, John Gordon scored five and there were hat-tricks for George Drummond and Sam Thomson. The only Preston players not to score were goalkeeper Fred Addison and defender Bob Howarth. They went all the way to the final, but lost 2-1 to West Bromwich Albion at the Kennington Oval.
Heaviest Away Win
The biggest away win in FA Cup history came four years later. Nottingham Forest headed to east London to take on Clapton at Upton Park and they coasted to a 14-0 victory. It remains the most emphatic win in Nottingham Forest’s history. They drew 1-1 with Sunderland Albion in the following round, then 3-3 in the replay and then finally won the next replay 5-0. However, that was the end of the road for Forest, who lost 4-0 to Sunderland FC in the third round.
Alvechurch staggered into first round of the FA Cup in 1971 after securing victory in the longest tie in the competition’s history. Their fourth qualifying round showdown with Oxford City dragged on for 660 minutes, spanning six matches in total. Alvechurch finally won 1-0 in the fifth replay, by which point they were thoroughly exhausted. They had just a two-day break before the first-round tie with Aldershot, which they promptly lost 5-2.
Later that year Bournemouth striker Ted MacDougal broke the record for the most goals scored in an FA Cup match. SuperMac scored nine times during their 11-0 first round demolition of Margate. He hit five in the first half and the Margate manager jokingly asked Bournemouth boss John Bond if he would substitute MacDougal at the break. Yet the Scottish striker was having none of it, and he scored four more in the second half. That remains a record to this day. It helped earn MacDougal a move to Man Utd, while he won seven caps for Scotland too.
By 1991 everyone had grown sick and tired of multiple FA Cup replays. There were none quite as bad as that clash between Alvechurch and Oxford City, but Arsenal and Leeds had to play their fourth round replay three times that year. The FA decided that multiple replays were to be replaced by one replay and a penalty shootout after extra-time from the 1991-92 season onwards. It did not take long for the first shootout to take place, as the first-round replay between Rotherham and Scunthorpe finished all square, and Rotherham won 7-6 on penalties. From 1999, the FA decided to scrap semi-final replays entirely.
In 2002 a team representing the University of Bath became the first university team to enter FA Cup qualifying since Gonville & Caius in 1881. Team Bath were not given much chance of success, but they made it through every single qualifying round to land a first-round tie with Mansfield Town. Alas that was the end of the road for the university students of Team Bath, who found themselves 5-0 down after 56 minutes. Yet Carl Heiniger and Caleb Kamara-Taylor pulled back two late goals to leave a respectable scoreline of 4-2 against a team five leagues above them.
George Williams became the youngest FA Cup goalscorer when he was on target for MK Dons in their first-round match against Nantwich Town in 2011. The Dons were already 5-0 up and cruising when he came on as a substitute, took the ball around Nantwich goalkeeper Jonny Brain and calmly slotted in the sixth. “Forget the goal, he (16-year-old George Williams) held the ball up three or four times and looked like a seasoned professional, he plays like he is in his mid-20s,” raved his manager, Karl Robinson. “And the goal, to put a goalkeeper of that quality on the floor, go around him and do what he did, the kid is exceptional.”
Five Classic FA Cup First Round Matches
Walton & Hersham v Brighton & Hove Albion, 1973
Brighton pulled off a significant coup when they convinced legendary manager Brian Clough to take over as manager in 1973. He already had a top-flight title under his belt from his time at Derby County, but he fell out with the board and decided the time was right for a new challenge. Brighton were languishing in the Third Division back in 1973, but they secured his services. Their first-round replay against the minnows of Walton & Hersham gained widespread media attention due to Clough’s presence in the dugout.
The Seagulls were expected to steamroll their Isthmian League opponents, but they ended up suffering a humiliating 4-0 defeat. The Argus described it as the worst result in their 75-year history. A schoolmaster called Russell Perkins put Walton & Hersham 1-0 up and a sense of doom gripped 9,857 Brighton fans inside the Goldstone. Things went from bad to worse, as a 28-year-old called Clive Foskett banged in a hat-trick in the final eight minutes of the match.
“We were whacked, we were thrashed,” said Clough. “I can’t remember a worse result in my career.” He followed it up with an 8-2 league defeat to Bristol Rovers a few days later, and he left Brighton after just one season after finishing 19th in the standings. The next season saw Clough last just 44 days as Leeds Utd manager – a time immortalised in The Damned Utd – but he then moved to Nottingham Forest and won two European Cups, the league title and four league cups, although he never won the FA Cup.
Huddersfield v Port Vale, 2008
Port Vale found themselves thoroughly outplayed when they visited Kirklees Stadium to take on League One side Huddersfield in 2008. Louis Dodds rounded Matt Glennon on 27 minutes and slotted in to put them 1-0 up, but it was all one-way traffic after that. Goals from Michael Collins, Ian Craney and Robbie Williams handed Huddersfield a commanding 3-1 lead and the score should have been higher, as the hosts were wasteful in front of goal. Vale were chasing shadows in the second half, and they found themselves two goals down and on the brink of an exit with just 11 minutes left on the clock.
Yet Dave Howland sparked tension among the home faithful when he pickpocketed Andy Burler and beat Glennon with an exquisite chip. With five minutes left on the clock, Dodds levelled the scores with a powerful drive. Thoughts turned to a gruelling replay, but then Vale skipper curled in a 20-yard free-kick in the third minute of stoppage time to cause scenes of jubilation among the travelling supporters. It was a classic first round cup tie that will live long in the memory of both sets of fans.
Wycombe Wanderers v Brighton & Hove Albion, 2009
This match had everything – penalties, red cards, controversial moments and great goals. Elliott Bennett opened the scoring for Brighton in just the third minute and that set the tone for a madcap cup clash. The away fans were incensed when Adam Virgo was harshly adjudged to have pushed Matt Harrold inside the box, and the Chairboys forward pickled himself to fire in the equaliser from the penalty spot.
It all went wrong for Seagulls defender Gavin Hoyte in the 33rd minute. He was all over Jon-Paul Pittman as the Wycombe striker held up the ball on the halfway line, but he could not win the tackle. He ended up attempting to kick and slap Pittman at the same time, and made a pretty poor job of both attacks. A furious Pittman then chased him down the pitch like The Terminator, before the referee intervened and sent Hoyte off.
The hosts were able to capitalise on their man advantage as Scott Davies swept in a pinpoint cross from Kevin Betsy. Yet the referee had his red card out once more in the first half as Craig Woodman was handed his marching orders for bringing down Glenn Murray, who was through on goal. Nicky Forster made it 2-2 from the spot. Murray made it 3-2 to Brighton after the break with a deflected strike, but Pittman levelled it up with a poacher’s finish.
A fine goal from Harrold put Wycombe 4-3 up and Brighton were staring down the barrel of an early FA Cup exit. Yet there was more controversy to come, as Wycombe were penalised from a harsh handball call seven minutes from time and Murray made it 4-4 from the spot. Gus Poyet had been appointed as Brighton manager in time for the replay, and he guided the Seagulls to a 2-0 win courtesy of goals from Andrew Crofts and Bennett.
Boreham Wood v Blackpool, 2017
Unheralded National League side Boreham Wood pulled off a massive upset against relative heavyweights Blackpool in the first round of the 2017 FA Cup. Luke Garrard’s men defended doggedly in their first half and kept the score at 0-0 by the break. Their resistance was finally broken in the 62nd minute, as Nathan Delfounso fired the League One side into the lead after latching on to Danny Philliskirk’s through ball.
However, Boreham Wood rallied in impressive fashion following an inspired double substitution from Garrard. He threw on forwards Blair Turgott and Dan Holman just three minutes after seeing his team go 1-0 down, and Boreham Wood really went for it. The manager’s boldness was rewarded Turgott grabbed the equaliser with an unstoppable finish just two minutes after coming onto the pitch. “I looked at the clock and I thought if the referee blew the whistle then, I would be happy,” said Garrard.
But the best was yet to come, as Boreham Wood won a corner with less than two minutes left of the game. They whipped it in and Keiran Murtagh rose highest with a powerful header across goal, and there was Holman to turn it in at the far post. “It’s about the glory of beating a league side for the first time in our history,” said Garrard. “It puts a marker down.” Boreham Wood lost to Southport in the second round, but they can cherish the memory of that impressive win.
Guiseley v Cambridge, 2018
National League North part-timers Guiseley delivered an eye-catching upset of their own when they beat League Two outfit Cambridge at Nethermoor in 2018. A sensational long-range strike from Will Hatfield put Guiseley 1-0 up on 25 minutes and that set them up for a strong first half. Cliff Moyo banged in the second from the edge of the area, but it looked more of a cross than a shot before it flew past the hapless Cambridge goalkeeper.
The hosts came out all guns blazing after the break. Kane Felix displayed excellent footwork in the box before firing in their third goal, and Kingsley James flicked in Moyo’s cross to make the result look safe for Guiseley. Yet Cambridge then staged a stirring comeback. Jabo Ibehre bundled in to make it 4-1 and George Maris – a former Guiseley player – made it 4-2 with a minute remaining. A smart finish from Ibehre made it 4-3 in injury time to give the League Two side hope. The tension was palpable at Nethermoor, but they managed to hold on for a famous triumph.
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