There’s nothing quite as exciting as when a non-league team is able to defeat a top-flight club.
The FA Cup is a competition where playing fields can be levelled, and underdogs can beat giants.
It’s the oldest cup competition in the world, and is often known for its earlier games when fans got the chance to see miraculous victories. This has helped make it one of the most beloved cups among players and fans alike. There are more legendary matches than can be counted, but a few stand out for their drama. Here are 5 of the most famous unlikely defeats from the past decades notable to any non-league fan.
1. Hereford United vs. Newcastle United
One of the biggest upsets in the FA Cup was in 1972, when First Division club Newcastle United was defeated by non-league Hereford United.
The match took place at Edgar Street, and was a replay after a third round tie which finished 2-2. The winning goal was scored by Ronnie Radford, whose name will forever be associated with this triumph.
For sheer excitement and drama, this one is hard to beat. Newcastle striker Malcolm MacDonald had scored in the 83rd minute, making it seem like victory was in their hands. A mere three minutes later, Radford burst in with a strike of his own that slammed straight into the roof of the net, leading stunned fans to invade the pitch in celebration.
Extra time was given, during which Ricky George was able to score again to cement Hereford’s win. They became the first non-leaguers in 23 years to beat a top-flight side.
2. Sutton United vs. Coventry City 1989
Another memorable giant killing took place in 1989. Coventry was considered one of top teams to beat, having already won the FA cup at Wembley only two years earlier. However, goals from both Matt Hanlan and Tony Rains managed to push Sutton United straight to victory.
3. West Bromwich vs. Woking
When Woking faced West Bromwich in 1991 for the third round of the FA Cup, they pulled off an incredible 4-2 win. This is an upset that fans still relish to this day, with the seemingly disadvantaged non-leaguers managing to defeat a Division Two team. A good 5,000 Woking fans travelled to see Tim Buzaglo carry off a second-half attack that defeated West Bromwich’s defence thoroughly. Woking had trailed West Bromwich 1-0 at halftime, before Buzaglo roared to life and made three goals. Terry Worsfold pulled off the fourth, completing the team’s success.
4. Luton Town vs. Norwich City
One of the most famous non-league giant killings in recent years is Luton Town’s victory over Norwich City. Norwich City started off as giant killers themselves, defeating Sheffield Wednesday and Sunderland in upsets before their admission into the Third Division in 1920. Norwich’s next game against Everton has Betsafe odds favour the toffees in the FA Cup match on May 15th even though Everton themselves have had their fair share of defeats against lower league teams, namely against Shrewsbury Town in 2003, or more recently Oldham Athletic in 2008.
Luton has had a long and illustrious past, having at one time been a top-flight team before sliding down to non-league status. At one point Luton one a FA Cup final, defeating the Canaries in 1959 before achieving greater notoriety in the 1980s.
They fell three divisions to the Blue Square Bet Premier in 2009. Yet with this victory in 2013, they managed to pull off the first win of a non-league side over a top-tier team in the FA Cup since Sutton over Coventry back in 1989. Norwich hadn’t lost to a non-league team in over 50 years, back in 1956. Naturally, Luton’s hardcore fans were delighted, and the team has since gained a bevy of new ones.
5. Yeovil vs. Sunderland
Yeovil’s a non-league team that’s managed more anomalous wins than just about anyone over the years, but it’s their 1949 fourth-round game against Sunderland that is truly one for the history books. Southern League club Yeovil put Sunderland out of the competition in this match.
They played through foggy conditions, which played some role in the game as the pitch was sloped and visibility poor. The game was close to being abandoned altogether due to the weather, but the teams persevered and Yeovil came out on top in a dramatic finish. Alex Stock was both player and manager at the time, intimidating Len Shackleton-led Sunderland beforehand by playing up stories of Huish Park’s sloped pitch.
Stock started off the proceedings with a left-footed goal, which Sunderland matched before Eric Bryant finished off the game for the home team.
Although Yeovil was then defeated 8-0 by Manchester United in the fifth round, they made history that day along with the other teams on this list.