A New Year and some new stadiums for the likes of Crystal Palace, Southport and Gateshead. The weekend that everyone looks forward to in the football calendar year, the FA Cup Third Round. With ‘banana skin’ ties in sight for the Premier League sides, Offside’s team of photographers were there to capture the best of the action.
Simon Stacpoole was on the sidelines on the ‘Big Day Out’ for Non League Southport as they travelled to Championship High-Flyers Derby County. With nothing but a Derby win looking to be on the cards, Southport made sure that this was to be no easy task to get through for the Rams.
With Derby in full control as expected Craig Bryson went close after hitting the post while Paul Coutts and Ryan Shotton had chances of their own to break the Southport resistance. The non league side were not just defenders for the 90 minutes however. Just after the break Richard Brodie headed just wide from in front of goal putting their travelling fans in belief they could cause an upset.
It was in heartbreaking circumstances that the result was determined when in the last minute of stoppage time, Luke Foster of Southport tackled the oncoming Johnny Russell giving the referee no other alternative but to point to the spot. Derby dangerman Chris Martin made no mistake from 12 yards and ensured no upset at Pride Park.
West Brom were hoping to evade a slip up at home to Gateshead. With Tony Pulis taking to the reigns in his first match as Albion boss, the pressure was on to impress and not trip up against Non League opposition at home.
Albion settled the home crowds nerves with 2 goals just before half time after seemingly being outplayed by Gateshead. It was two quickfire goals from Berahino and Anichebe that separated the teams at the break, which was then always an uphill task for Gateshead.
After half time Berahino started where he left off scoring in the first minute of the second half which all but settled West Brom into the hat for the fourth round. Now Gateshead just wanted to keep it respectable as the pressure from the Premier League team increased. With the Albion players out to impress their new manager, Gateshead crumbled and conceded a further 4 goals to the quality of the Premier League.
Berahino added another 2 to his tally before Chris Brunt and Steve Morrison got on the scoresheet to install a thrashing upon Gateshead, leaving Tony Pulis very relieved after a nervous first half hour.
It was an all Premier League affair down at the King Power stadium between Leicester and Newcastle. Marc Atkins caught the action through his lens for Offside.
With Newcastle having to adapt to life without recently departed manager Alan Pardew, Leicester used this chance to keep that winning feeling going after a couple of good results in the League. Both teams made seven changes to their sides from their matches on New Years Day.
Remy Cabella thought he had put Newcastle in the lead only to see the flag raised for offside. Leonardo Ulloa opened the scoring in the 39th minute after he headed home an Anthony Knockaert cross. He could have doubled the advantage had he not headed wide in front of goal.
The second half was very quiet and Leicester went closest to scoring but for a great save from Jak Alnwick to deny Chris Wood from a diving header. Leicester ran out 1-0 winners but the job now for both sides, is to focus on the League and gain some momentum.
Fog, Ice, Sun and the white cliffs of Dover. Sunday started on the very edge of the nation where Crystal Palace travelled to the Crabble, home of Dover Athletic. Mark Leech made the trip down the M2 to capture the best of the action. This was an FA Cup third round tie in all its glory.
Alan Pardew stepped into the dugout for Palace for the first time. Not many Premier League teams would have fancied an away trip to a non league side in the third round, but that was the first challenge he faced. There was a real cause for an upset given Dovers impressive 16 match unbeaten run.
Palace quickly took control of the match with Scott Dann heading in from close range on the 10th minute. He done exactly the same 20 minutes later giving new boss Pardew very little reason to worry about an upset. The two goal cushion at half time killed off the game making the second half a very forgettable one.
It got worse for Dover, who failed to register a shot on target, when Dwight Gayle got the third and Kevin Doyle scored from close range to put Crystal Palace into the hat for the next round. A banana skin very much avoided by Alan Pardew.
Another Premier League v Non League tie got underway at Stoke who welcomed visitors Wrexham. Simon Stacpoole was at the heart of the action.
5,000 Wrexham fans packed the away end at the Brittannia stadium hoping to beat a team 97 places above them in the football ladder. Another spice was given to the game being that Stoke boss, Mark Hughes, is from Wrexham. The first half was pretty non existent with very little in the way of chances for either side.
In the 73rd minute Mark Carrington sent the travelling fans into ecstasy after powering home a header from a Connor Jennings cross. Being as late in the game as it was, it gave the fans a dream of being in the fourth round for the first time since 2000.
Wrexham loan keeper Jon Flatt had the game of his life to keep out the quality of the Premier League strikers denying Peter Crouch. It took all but 7 minutes for Stoke to equalise through Marko Arnautovic slotting the ball home from close range. Wrexham now had to hope for a replay as the pressure grew from the home side.
Two minutes from time Stephen Ireland broke the hearts of 5,000 welshmen as he scored the second goal to make it 2-1. Then in stoppage time Ireland pounced again to get a second and make it 3-1 relieving Mark Hughes of an embarrassing defeat at home. A far from convincing display from the mid table Premier League side.
After a New Years Day hammering from rivals Tottenham, Chelsea were looking to get back on track at home to Championship outfit Watford. Marc Atkins was the man for Offside to snap the action at Stamford Bridge.
In a much familiar story to most third round matches this weekend, the Premier League leaders were far from their best in the first half which brought on the changes from Mourinho at half time. The introduction of Willian and Diego Costa created a much needed energy in the second half that in the end proved too much for Watford to handle.
It was the Brazilian substitute who gave Chelsea the lead with an arrowing effort into the top corner of the net giving the keeper no chance. Remy went to better his teammates effort with an impressive half volley that hit the back of the net to double the Blues lead and effectively see them through to the next round.
Kurt Zouma rounded off the second half effort with a powerful header into the top corner which condemned Watford to their 5th loss in 6 FA Cup ties against Chelsea. The Blues progress through and still have the Quadruple in their sights.
The last game on Sunday stayed in the Capital to showcase Arsenal v Hull, a rematch of the Final back in May with Gunners taking the trophy. Ryan Smyth was at the Emirates for Offside.
Theo Walcott made his return to the Arsenal side since suffering from a serious injury. It didn’t take the Gunners long to get going with exciting prospect Joel Campbell keeping Steven Harper on full alert. Per Mertesacker gave Arsenal the lead when he escaped his marker from the corner, and headed down into the net leaving Harper with no chance.
After the opening goal it always looked very comfortable for Arsenal. Hull did grow in confidence after the break, seeing a lot more of the ball compared to the first 45 minutes. Arsenal began to get frustrated with chances going begging. They would not want a replay up North on a Tuesday night, so the second goal was vital.
Arsenals talisman Alexis Sanchez wrapped up the game with less than ten minutes to go. A superb solo effort saw him wrap the ball around his foot to curl it past Harper and into the bottom corner. This was by no means a classic like the final back in May, but Arsene Wenger will be pleased to have escaped any dramas.
Monday saw the mouthwatering clash of the third round between AFC Wimbledon and Liverpool, a remake of the 1988 final that still lives long in the memory. Marc Atkins was at KingsMeadow for Offside.
If Wimbledon were to pull off the shock of ’88 again, it would be the biggest shock of the Third Round in this years competition. Liverpool started brightly keeping the ball as expected to tire out their League Two opposition. It took all but ten minutes for the man of the moment Steven Gerrard to pounce and make it 1-0 to the reds.
Wimbledon rallied together and were not going to go out lightly. Liverpool’s achilles heel hit them again as a set piece caused confusion in the Reds defence. Adebayo Akinfenwa stretched a leg to poke the ball past Mignolet and the Wombles were level.
Liverpool still had their Premier League class about them, with Coutinho being a real livewire on the pitch. After coming out in the news that Steven Gerrard will leave Liverpool at the end of the season, it only seemed right that he should grab the headlines once more. So he did just that on the hour mark with a sublime free kick. Reminiscent of his early days at Liverpool, he shows the Reds just what they are going to miss when it comes to next season.
Liverpool withheld the late pressure from Wimbledon and scuppered a few chances along the way themselves. Liverpool now travel to Bolton in the next round. As for Wimbledon, last night was just a testament to how far they have after everything that happened, since ‘that’ day back in 1988.