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The Roar


Potential upsets in the FA Cup third round

The iconic Wembley Stadium. (Image supplied)
Roar Guru
4th January, 2017

The FA Cup third round is one of those rare times during the football season when the average fan cares about leagues lower than the Premier League.

The other is usually around April, with the realisation that three clubs will come up from the Championship to join the EPL.

But keeping an eye below the EPL can be a profitable exercise this time of the season, as the FA Cup third round sees the 20 EPL sides and 24 Championship sides join the survivors from the previous rounds.

There’s bound to be an upset or two, as some of the EPL sides with an eye on survival take their eye off the ball against a lower league side hungry to capture some limelight.

It’s not always about the EPL sides either. Some of the most embarrassing exits in the FA Cup happen to sides in the Championship, and this year’s edition has a few Championship-Non League match ups.

Previous FA Cup third round stats

In past six FA Cup third rounds, there have been 37 wins for sides over a team in a higher division.

• More than half of those upsets came at the expense of a Championship side. This includes three exits at the hands of non-League teams in the past six editions.

• The biggest category for upset is League One (third) beating Championship (second) with two a year on average and four last season.


• League One teams are the kings of the upset, with just under half of the surprise results coming for the third-tier sides.

• On average, two EPL sides are knocked out at this stage by lower league clubs.

• Four non-League teams have beaten higher opposition in the past six seasons.

• Last season’s biggest upsets were EPL side Swansea being knocked out by then fourth tier Oxford United, and Portsmouth from the same division taking Ipswich Town from the Championship to a replay and beating them at home.

• Three EPL sides needed replays to get past lower league sides last year, Liverpool (fourth-tier Exeter), Aston Villa (fourth-tier Wycombe) and West Brom (second-tier Bristol City).

Pick of the FA Cup third round potential upsets

Some of the prime EPL upset candidates have been removed from potential upsets as they are playing each other, as in the case of Swansea vs Hull.

But here are a handful of potential upsets worth a look and possibly a wager.


Bolton Wanderers vs Crystal Palace
Possibly a bigger chance before Alan Pardew got the boot, but Sam Allardyce might still have bigger worries than an FA Cup run.

Bolton are motoring in the third-division League One and look set to bounce back to the Championship at first go. They are doing especially well at home, with just one loss in 12 games and a +12 goal difference.

Middlesbrough vs Sheffield Wednesday
Middlesbrough aren’t going great at home, with three wins in nine and just nine goals scored, three of them in the most recent match against Swansea.

The Boro only just snuck in to automatic promotion last year, on the last day, while Sheffield Wednesday made the playoffs, so there wasn’t much between the two.

Sheffield look likely promotion candidates again this year, sitting in sixth overall and sixth on home-and-away form, although their away scoring isn’t any better than Middlesbrough, with 12 goals in 13 games.

West Bromwich Albion vs Derby County
Depending on the side put out by Tony Pulis, this could be another potential upset, even though West Brom are having one of their better seasons.

Derby County are on a great run of ten unbeaten, which included a seven-game winning streak. Their defence is Heart Foundation approved, with just 15 goals conceded in 24 games. Their ultimate goal is to make up for near misses in EPL promotion, but taking a Premier League scalp would build great confidence in a side that has badly choked in two previous promotion campaign.

Brentford vs Eastleigh
Non League Eastleigh took then-Championship side Bolton Wanderers to a replay at this stage last season. They are going okay in the Non League Premier division, where they sit 11th, but they average more than a goal a game away from home, and knocked out third-tier Swindon Town in the first round of this season’s competition already.


Championship side Brentford are inconsistent at home with just one win in their last seven home matches, and they sit in the midfield of the Championship, where a good number of the upsets come from.

Ipswich vs Lincoln City
Ipswich Town have threatened to break out of a cycle of mediocrity by flirting with relegation from the second tier. Their home form has been ordinary at times, as is their recent cup record. They were knocked out by fourth-tier Portsmouth in 2015-16.

Anything less than a full strength side will be tempting a loss to a Non League side, who are going very well in second in the National League Premier (one below League Two), and averaging two goals per away game. Ipswich rarely look like scoring multiple goals.

Don’t put out too weak a side

The EPL sides should win here given the strength of their sides, however they won’t want to get too cute against some good lower league sides.

Watford vs Burton Albion
Burton Albion aren’t going great in the Championship, and aren’t great away from home, but Watford aren’t going too well lately either, and are in just the ladder position of EPL sides that can take their eye off the ball.

Manchester United vs Reading
Jose Mourinho has Man United back on track, luckily as third placed Championship Reading are in good form, and have had plenty of recent success in the FA Cup.

Liverpool vs Plymouth Argyle
Liverpool needed a replay to get past a fourth division Exeter City last season, but that first game was away. Plymouth are in the same division, but going much better.


Either way, Plymouth win with a share of the gate proceeds. Great for a club where the manager paid the staff wages a few years back.

Non-league minnows

A point of interest at this stage is the number of teams from outside the top 92 Football League sides. Five sides have made it through to the big stage, four from the National League Premier, which is just below the top four divisions, and one from the Northern Premier League, which is the seventh tier of English football.

Here’s a quick glance at who is left.

Lincoln City
National Premier League (fifth tier), currently first, playing Ipswich Town away – see potential upsets.

National Premier League, Currently sixth (-9 points to leader), playing Rochdale at home. Also a good chance of an upset but not listed above as didn’t want to bore anymore with a third division side being knocked out.

National Premier League, currently 11th (-16 points to leader), playing Brentford away – see potential upsets.

Sutton United
National Premier League, currently 14th (-20 points to leader), playing AFC Wimbledon at home. No upset here says the AFC Wimbledon fan with one eye opened.


Northern Premier League (seventh tier), currently ninth (-9 points to leader), playing Wycombe Wanderers. Could have been another upset if not for the man mountain that is Wycombe’s Adebayo Akinfenwa, aka ‘The Beast’.

Full FA Cup third round draw

(All times GMT)

Friday 19:55 West Ham vs Manchester City
Saturday 12:30 Manchester United vs Reading
Saturday 15:00 Hull vs Swansea
Saturday 15:00 Sunderland vs Burnley
Saturday 15:00 Queens Park Rangers vs Blackburn
Saturday 15:00 Millwall vs Bournemouth
Saturday 15:00 Blackpool vs Barnsley
Saturday 15:00 Wigan vs Nottingham Forest
Saturday 15:00 Birmingham vs Newcastle United
Saturday 15:00 Bolton vs Crystal Palace
Saturday 15:00 Norwich vs Southampton
Saturday 15:00 Sutton United vs AFC Wimbledon
Saturday 15:00 Accrington vs Luton
Saturday 15:00 Ipswich vs Lincoln
Saturday 15:00 Brighton vs Milton Keynes Dons
Saturday 15:00 Rotherham vs Oxford
Saturday 15:00 Wycombe vs Stourbridge
Saturday 15:00 Bristol City vs Fleetwood
Saturday 15:00 Brentford vs Eastleigh
Saturday 15:00 West Bromwich Albion vs Derby
Saturday 15:00 Everton vs Leicester
Saturday 15:00 Watford vs Burton
Saturday 15:00 Stoke vs Wolverhampton Wanderers
Saturday 15:00 Huddersfield vs Port Vale
Saturday 15:00 Barrow vs Rochdale
Saturday 17:30 Preston vs Arsenal
Sunday 11:30 Cardiff vs Fulham
Sunday 13:30 Liverpool vs Plymouth
Sunday 15:00 Chelsea vs Peterborough
Sunday 15:00 Middlesbrough vs Sheffield Wednesday
Sunday 16:00 Tottenham vs Aston Villa
Monday 19:45 Cambridge U vs Leeds