The FA Cup is the greatest cup competition in the world. Fans of non-league teams dream of playing one of the ‘big boys’ and, even better, knocking them out. With 32 non-league teams left in the competition, all dreaming of reaching the second round, here at Non-League Daily, we will be looking at five of our favourite non-league scalps.
Sutton United's memorable FA Cup victory over Coventry City in 1989 remains one of the competition's most iconic moments. This David versus Goliath encounter saw the non-league side defy all odds to defeat the top-flight Coventry City, then playing in the English First Division (now known as the Premier League).
On January 7, severe underdogs Sutton United, who hailed from the Conference, the lowest tier of the English football pyramid, hosted Coventry at Gander Green Lane Ground in front of a bumper 8,000-strong crowd. Despite the vast difference in financial resources and stature, Sutton's players, led by manager Barrie Williams, prevailed 2-1.
The home side took the lead in the 42nd minute, with Tiny Rains volleying home from a corner kick. Early in the second half, the away side were level when David Phillips slotted home. Sutton were ahead again a couple minutes later from another corner, with Matthew Hanlan putting the Yellows in front and helping them progress to the fourth round.
Before the first round, Sutton were given odds of 5000/1 to win the cup, whereas Coventry were 16/1 7thfavourites. Sutton’s cup run was short-lived after this, losing 8-0 at Carrow Road to Norwich. Despite this, it was a historic cup run for the Conference side, who were the last non-league team to beat a division-one team until 2013, when Conference side Luton knocked out Premier League Norwich City.
Unlike the Sutton vs. Coventry game, which was a third-round tie, the match between Norwich and Luton was in the fourth round. Blue Square Premier (5th tier) defeated Premier Division side Norwich 0-1.
It was the first time in the Premier League era that a top division side was beaten by a non-league team, and the first time since Altrincham beat Birmingham City in 1986 that this feat was achieved when the non-league team had been away from home. In achieving victory, Luton became the seventh non-league team since World War II to reach the fifth round of the FA Cup.
Luton’s performance was not a typicalsmash and grab'; Paul Buckle’s side fully deserved their victory. Scott Rendell’s 80th-minute strike secured the victory for the Hatters. Unfortunately, their historic cup run ended in the fifth round, losing 0-3 at home to Millwall.
The result of the game between Hereford and Newcastle United in February of 1972 will live long in the memory of any older football fan and is notable for being one of the greatest shocks of all time in the history of the FA Cup. Hereford were the lowest-ranked non-league side to beat a top-flight opposition in English football history. It was the first time in 23 years that a non-league club had beaten a top-flight side in a competitive fixture when Yeovil Town triumphed over Sunderland in 1949.
The match was a replay after the two sides had played out an entertaining 2-2 draw at St. James Park 12 days earlier. The original fixture had been postponed twice due to the weather, and then the replay three times, and this only added to the drama surrounding the game. Prior to the replay, Newcastle travelled down on three separate occasions, and it has been argued that this unrest contributed to the shock of the game.
Hereford somehow managed to survive a barrage of Newcastle attacks, with the Toon’s star man Malcolm Macdonald, known as ‘Supermac’, having the majority of those chances. The Hereford resolve was broken eight minutes from time, however, and Supermac found the back of the net with a header at the far post. It looked as if that would be the winner for Newcastle, but Hereford and midfielder Ronnie Radford had other ideas, with the part-time carpenter unleashing a ferocious strike from 30 yards out that nestled into the top corner and sent the Edgar Street crowd barmy. Radford’s 85th-minute equaliser meant the game went to extra time and that the two teams had another 30 minutes to endure.
Radford would have a hand in the winner on 103 minutes as his pass out wide was whipped into Ricky George, who turned and fired into the far corner, sparking jubilant scenes. Hereford would miraculously hold on for a most famous FA Cup victory.
Perhaps the most famous of non-league cup runs in recent times, Lincoln City’s journey to the quarterfinals in the 2016–17 season is the stuff of legends for the now-league-one side. It was the first time in 103 years that a non-league side reached the last eight of the FA Cup, with Queens Park Rangers in 1914 being the last team to do so. The Imps’ biggest scalp during that incredible run was a 1-0 victory away to Premier League Burnley.
Being a National League team, Lincoln City actually started in the fourth qualifying round of the competition and, prior to the game against Burnley, played in seven games in the competition, including replays against Guiseley and Ipswich Town. Burnley, on the other hand, started in the 3rd round, overcoming Sunderland after a replay and then Bristol City.
Burnley went into the game with just three home defeats in their previous 29 games and were fully expected to emerge victorious and advance to the quarterfinals. Lincoln had other ideas, though, and set up their tactical plan perfectly as they stifled many of the chances that Burnley threw at them. Lincoln’s resolute attitude was rewarded on 89 minutes when Sean Raggett’s headed finish was given via goal-line technology, sparking mass scenes of joy in the away end.
Lincoln’s fairy tale run would come to an end at the hands of Arsenal in the quarterfinals, but it was certainly one to remember for all football fans.
Perhaps one of the lesser-known FA Cup shocks, particularly to modern football fans, Altrincham’s victory away to First Division side Birmingham City remains arguably the biggest result in the club’s entire history.
In the 1985–86 season, Birmingham City were in the midst of a crisis, with the club in financial ruin. At the time they played Altrincham on January 14, 1986, the Blues were 21st in the First Division, where they would remain for the rest of the season, eventually being relegated to the second tier. It was the perfect time for Altrincham to be facing Birmingham, and they used that to their full advantage.
With a young David Seaman in between the sticks, Birmingham were left shell-shocked when Kevin Ellis put Altrincham in front. That wouldn’t last long, though, as Robert Hopkins quickly levelled things up for the First Division side. The non-league team from Chesire would battle back though and find an incredible winner when Hopkins’ misplaced pass travelled beyond Seaman and into his own net, summing up the state of Birmingham City and sealing the shock for Alty. Unfortunately for the Robins, their cup run would be abruptly ended by a 2-0 defeat away to York City in round four.
This listicle is proof that upsets can happen. With than in mind, here are some of the biggest prices for the FA Cup this weekend (with Bet365) :
7th tier Horsham made the first round proper by defeating fifth tier Dorking. Can they prevail away at League One Barnsley on Friday night? They are a massive 15.00 to do so.
The eighth-tier side are the lowest ranked side left in the competition. The Kent based side host League 2 Walsall at a sold-out Holm Park in front of the television cameras on Friday night. They are priced at 7.50 for the victory.
The Moors currently sit fourth in the National League. They are 8.00 to beat Bolton away. Ian Evatt's side are third in League One.
Whitby's heroic cup run means they sit in 14th in the NPL Premier Division due to having many games in hand. They defeated sixth tier side Chelmsford at home in a replay, but travelling to League One Bristol Rovers presents a whole other challenge. Bet365 have priced Whitby at 13.00 for the victory.
Bracknell sit 10th in the Southern League South Division, seven points off the playoffs. Their games are chaotic, averaging over four goals per game. The Robins have already claimed a couple of scalps in qualifying, winning at home to National League South side Havant and Waterlooville (2-1) and National League side Dagenham and Redbridge (1-0). A trip to League 1 side Cambridge prevents an ever bigger task, and you can back Bracknell to win at 10.50.
Worksop are currently in fourth place in the NPL Premier Division. The Seasiders have already beaten two National League North sides in Blyth Spartans and Boston United to get this far. They travel to League 2 leaders Stockport who have won 11 straight games in all competitions. It would take a very brave punter to back Worksop at 10.50.
Users must be 18+. If you are having trouble with gambling then help and advice can be found at begambleaware.org. Please Play Responsibly.
Trading financial products carries a high risk to your capital, especially trading leverage products such as CFDs. CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage. Between 74-89% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs. You should consider whether you understand how CFDs work and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.
This site is using Cloudflare and adheres to the Google Safe Browsing Program. We adapted Google's Privacy Guidelines to keep your data safe at all times.