the real fa cup

Blyth Rivers Phenomenon

Jarrett Rivers hit a stunning last minute winner for Northern Premier League Premier Division side Blyth Spartans against Second Division Hartlepool United to fire his club into the 3rd Round of the FA Cup for only the fourth time in its history. The Spartans are the lowest placed team remaining in this year’s competition and host Championship side Birmingham City in the 3rd Round, a round which they have only once before progressed beyond, and we all know what happened then! (If you don’t, you can read about it here in Andy’s Hudson’s fine piece)

Blyth will be competing in their seventh tie of this season’s FA Cup equalling the achievement of Warrington Town who were finally eliminated by fellow non-league side Gateshead in their own seventh FA Cup tie in the 2nd Round. That victory for Gateshead takes the club into the 3rd Round for the first time in the club’s current guise after 37 seasons of competing in the FA Cup. The Yellows of Warrington may have fallen at the 2nd Round stage, but that is still the furthest the club has ever progressed in the competition in 35 attempts.

Also departing the competition at the 2nd Round stage, but setting a new standard in terms of FA Cup round reached, are four other non-league clubs. In only their third season of competing in the FA Cup, Conference side Chester played in the 2nd Round for the first time but lost out to Barnsley in a replay after securing a credible goalless draw against the First Division outfit at Oakwell.

AFC Telford United registered their best ever performance in 11 seasons after restricting Division One league leaders Bristol City to just one late, late goal at Ashton Gate. Maidstone United from Isthmian League Premier Division lost to Conference side Wrexham, but achieved their best FA Cup run since re-forming in 1992 and in their 13 FA Cup seasons.

However, the team who had the longest wait to appear in the 2nd Round for the first time, is Hampshire based side Eastleigh, who have achieved the feat in their 38th season, eventually losing to Conference side Southport.

That win for Southport takes the North West club into the 3rd Round for the first time this century having last appeared in it in the 1998/99 season. AFC Wimbledon are in the 3rd Round for the first time under their current name, ironically or romantically depending upon your point of view, drawn against Liverpool, the side they beat in the FA Cup final of 1988 under their original Wimbledon name (Waits for comments – Ed).

Dover Athletic make it into the 3rd Round for only the second time in their 32 years of competing in the FA Cup, equalling their best ever performance set in the 2010/11 season. Dover Athletic are one of three non-league sides drawn against Premiership ties and will be shown live on BT Sport taking on the might of Crystal Palace.

Gateshead at West Bromwich Albion and Wrexham at Stoke City have been denied the money spinning opportunity of a live TV match thanks to the crass decisions to show two non-magical all-Premiership ties, Manchester United and Liverpool, to appease global audiences rather than reflect the essence and magic of the FA Cup.

Special mention goes to Conference North club Worcester City who were eliminated in the cruellest and most dramatic of fashions losing 14-13 on penalties to League One Scunthorpe United in what is officially the second longest penalty shoot-out in FA Cup history (the longest is Tunbirdge Wells 16-15 Littlehampton Town). Now that’s the real essence of the Cup.

One final stat; by losing to Blyth Spartans, Hartlepool United have now been eliminated at the 2nd Round stage of the competition on 29 separate occasions. They now stand clear in second place in this unwanted list just one occasion behind Northampton Town who have lost 30 Second Round ties.

Click here for all Phil’s Round reviews.

Words: Phil Annets
Phil is an FA Cup historian, the designer of Whirred PLAY and is on Twitter @PhilAnnets.

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