The 130th FA Cup competition got under way back on the August 13, 2010 when the first of six qualifying rounds was staged. Many non-league sides have seen their cup dreams dashed in the process, but three sides have successfully reached the third round proper, where a massive opportunity lies in wake.
Blue Square Premier side Crawley Town caused one of the shocks of round two when turning over League one outfit Swindon Town 3-2 in a replay at The County Ground. Their reward is a mouth-watering home tie against Nigel Clough’s Derby County, and they’ll be hopeful of extending an unbeaten run of nine games in all competitions and adding another high profile scalp on the way to round four.
Despite their current non-league status, York City are no strangers to the third round having reached the same stage last season before bravely going down 3-1 to Premier League side Stoke City. With that experience under their belt they will relish a trip to the Reebok stadium to face another Premier League side in Bolton Wanderers and hope to build on the promise of last season
The lowest ranked side left in the draw, Dover Athletic, face a tough assignment when they take on League one high-flyers Huddersfield Town. Dover, currently fifth in the Blue Square North and hoping to mount a sustained promotion challenge, defeated Aldershot Town 2-0 in the second round with star striker Adam Birchall scoring a brace to take his FA Cup tally to an impressive 11 goals in just six games.
Last years winners Chelsea begin their defence with a home tie against Ipswich Town. With their current form in the Premier League far from inspiring, Blues boss Carlo Ancelotti will be hoping a return to the competition they’ve won three times in the last four years can spark a revival.
The third round draw sees both Premier League and Championship sides enter the hat for the first time and often throws up some classic encounters, with this year being no different. Manchester United are the most prolific winners of the trophy with 11 victories but were handed a tricky opening tie with fierce rivals Liverpool, who themselves have lifted the trophy seven times. Both sides saw their cup run end prematurely at this stage last season, Manchester United going down 1-0 to Leeds United while Liverpool lost 2-1 to Reading in a replay at Anfield and will be keen to avoid a similar fate this time round.
Leeds United have made rapid progress under Simon Grayson in their quest to get back into the top flight of English football. The belief he has established at Elland Road was evident in this competition last year when they shocked Manchester United 1-0 at Old Trafford before taking Tottenham Hotspur to a fourth round replay. Another Premier League outfit awaits this time in the shape of 10-time FA Cup winners Arsenal. Arsene Wenger has often used domestic cup competitions to rest his first team regulars and there’s even more reason for doing so this time around with the Gunners firmly involved in the title race.
Elsewhere, Newcastle United must negotiate a potential banana skin when they travel to League Two side Stevenage, League one leaders Brighton & Hove Albion take on fellow south coast rivals Portsmouth while Southampton will be hoping to cause an upset on their way to the fourth round when they entertain Blackpool.
Finally, Lincoln City and Hereford United’s second round replay will finally take place this Saturday after numerous attempts were thwarted in recent weeks by the big freeze. The victors will have little respite before a third round encounter with Wycombe Wanderers on Tuesday night.
At this stage : 10 years ago – 2000/01
Conference side Kingstonian survived a second half bombardment to narrowly defeat Southend United 1-0 at Roots Hall while Chelsea eased into the fourth round draw with a comfortable 5-0 victory over Peterborough United.
Five years ago – 2005/06
Liverpool produced a stunning comeback, coming from 3-1 down to beat Luton Town 5-3 with Xabi Alonso scoring a remarkable goal from inside his own half, while fellow Premier League side Fulham were defeated 2-1 by local rivals Leyton Orient.
One year ago – 2009/10
Jermaine Beckford scored the only goal as Leeds United sent Manchester United crashing out at the first hurdle, while Championship side Reading progressed to the fourth round with a 2-1 victory over Liverpool in a third round replay at Anfield.
FA Cup Third round fixtures
Saturday January 8, 2011
Arsenal vs. Leeds Utd – 12.45 – Live on ITV 1
Millwall vs. Birmingham – 15.00
Blackburn vs. QPR- 15.00
Bolton vs. York – 15.00
Brighton vs. Portsmouth – 15.00
Bristol City vs. Sheffield Wednesday – 15.00
Burnley vs. Port Vale – 15.00
Reading vs. West Bromwich Albion – 15.00
Scunthorpe vs. Everton – 15.00
Sheffield Utd vs. Aston Villa – 15.00
Southampton vs. Blackpool – 15.00
Stoke City vs. Cardiff – 15.00
Sunderland vs. Notts County – 15.00
Swansea vs. Colchester – 15.00
Torquay vs. Carlisle – 15.00
Watford vs. Hartlepool – 15.00
West Ham Utd vs. Barnsley – 15.00
Stevenage vs. Newcastle Utd – 17.30 – Live on ESPN
Sunday January 9, 2011
Manchester Utd vs. Liverpool – 13.30 – Live on ITV 1
Tottenham vs. Charlton – 13.30
Chelsea vs. Ipswich – 15.00
Leicester vs. Manchester City – 16.00 – Live on ESPN
Monday January 10, 2011
Crawley Town vs. Derby County – 20.00 – Live on ESPN