FA Cup Third Round Review: Magic of the Cup Returns
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Looking back over recent years, the number of Cup exits have become less and less as the gulf between the Premier League and the lower leagues widens.
However, this year proved why the FA Cup is arguably the greatest domestic cup competition in World Football after a number of high profile exits and upsets.
There is nowhere else to start for me other than on a personal note of disappointment following Newcastle United's dismal 3-1 defeat away to League Two Stevenage.
The two met 13 years ago at the same stage of the competition, with the Premier League side United needing a reply at St. James to secure a place in the fourth round as 'King Kenny' took United to the final.
This time, however, it was a game Stevenage fans and players will never forget, as they were comfortably the better side.
Stevenage boss Graham Westley even claimed he told his side to aim to win 5-0 before the game.
Westley said: "Most of our thoughts today were about how we were going to win 5-0.
"It may sound daft, but I said to them that if they can work out how to win 5-0, winning one nil is 20 percent of that and they went into the game with that plan—how we were going to play on the front foot, score goals and we did a little bit more than 20 percent of that."
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United boss Alan Pardew also watched, helpless, as midfield rock Cheick Tiote earned himself a straight red card and suspension, ruling himself out of this Sunday's Tyne Wear derby with Sunderland.
The Black Cat's had an afternoon to forget as well, as League One Nott's County dumped them out of the competition after a 2-1 victory at the Stadium of Light.
Steve Bruce claimed the shocking defeat at the hands of his former Manchester United teammate, Paul Ince, highlighted the lack of depth in his squad.
Bruce said: "Certainly by looking at what we have just witnessed with six or seven missing, we simply aren't good enough.
"With six or seven [out], we simply couldn't handle it, so that's the disappointing thing for me."
And it was a bad afternoon all round for North East England's top three sides, with Championship side Middlesbrough falling to a surprise 2-1 defeat away to League One side Burton Albion.
'Boro boss Tony Mowbray said after the game: "Last-minute goals are killing us. It happened at Elland Road last weekend and it's happened again here.
"If we could have taken a better share of our chances, it wouldn't really have mattered."
Despite the great result, honest Burton Albion boss Paul Peschisolido said: "I feel fantastic, but if you'd have asked going into the last 10 minutes of the game, I wouldn't have said so.
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"I actually thought we were terrible. We just didn't perform."
Last season's runner-up, Portsmouth, was also eliminated. The Championship side were dumped out by high-flying League One leaders Brighton and Hove Albion 3-1.
The 2008 winners found themselves facing an uphill battle after Dave Kitson was shown red after just 14 minutes.
Last season's giant-killers, Leeds United, produced another gutsy display to hold Arsene Wengers' Arsenal to a draw.
Simon Grayson's side looked on course for victory after taking the lead through a penalty, but a late penalty allowed the Gunners to rescue a draw—much to Grayson's disappointment.
Grayson said: ""Obviously it is tinged with a bit of disappointment, because we were minutes away from pulling off a famous result.
"I said to the players beforehand to just do themselves and the fans proud and they have walked off the pitch having done that."
Two of the three non-league sides crashed out, however, with Dover losing 2-0 away to Lee Clark's Huddersfield.
Bolton Wanderers beat York City 2-0, but only thanks to late goals in the final ten minutes from veteran Kevin Davies and Johan Elmander.
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Premier League side Blackpool was also eliminated away to League One side Southampton after manager Iain Holloway made nine chances to his side.
The always colourful Holloway took the time to hit out at what he called "jealous" Southampton fans after the game:
Holloway said: "It’s an unbelievable turnaround to have their fans singing ‘Premier League, you’re having a laugh’ at us. Well, I am having a laugh.
'I don’t think they should be quite so disrespectful, maybe they’re a little bit jealous of the fact a little club like Blackpool can do it and Southampton have fallen from grace.”
And West Bromich Albion's defeat away to Reading meant all three sides promoted to the Premier League are out after they lost 1-0 at the Madjeski stadium.
WBA assistant Eddie Newton said: "It was not a great performance, but it wasn't bad. We still created chances, but we switched off and paid the price for it."
Kenny Dagleish's return to Liverpool ended in 1-0 defeat against rivals Manchester United after the Red Devils were awarded a penalty in the opening minute.
Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard saw red after 30 minutes for a two footed challenge as the 18-time League champions were dumped out.
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Chelsea returned to top form with a fantastic 7-0 win at home to manager-less Ipswich, while another under-pressure manager, Gerard Houlier, watched his side beat Sheffield United 3-1.
David Moyes' Everton dumped Scunthorpe out of the cup 5-1, while Fulham beat Peterborough 6-2.
Wigan and Birmingham are also into the next round after wins over Hull City and Millwall respectively, while Stoke and Cardiff face a replay after a 1-1 draw.
Struggling West Ham beat 2008 semi-finalists Barnsley 2-0, while Wolves face a replay after a 2-2 draw with Doncaster.
Manchester City finished 2-2 against Leicester City, while Spurs beat Charlton 3-0 to book their place in the next round.
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