The time a policeman started a pitch invasion and more… MM’s top five non-league FA Cup runs

The magic of the FA Cup: a clichéd and overused motto? Perhaps. But its celebrated history is one littered with giant-killing and overachieving minnows.

It is part of what makes football’s oldest cup competition so special, and this season Salford City have added their name to the list.

On Friday night the Ammies, who defeated Notts County to extend their club-record run, take on Hartlepool for a place in the third round.

Whatever the outcome, the non-league side – part-owned by the Class of 92 – have had a memorable journey, including stunning goals by James Poole and Richie Allen along the way.

But where will their achievements rank with non-league’s best?

Here, MM looks at the context, focusing on five of the finest campaigns by non-league clubs in the modern history of the cup.

5) Kidderminster Harriers – 1993/1994

In a season of giant-killings galore – only seven of the last 16 were Premier League sides – non-league Kidderminster came up trumps with a run to the (equivalent) fifth round.

Their third round clash with Birmingham produced one of the unlikeliest of upsets when John Purdie – who played for the club while working in telecoms – netted the winner with a 25-yard scorcher.

Crucially, it wasn’t a one-off as the Harriers followed it up with a 1-0 victory over Preston North End in round four before narrow defeat to West Ham.

Fourth qualifying round: 4-1 (a) vs. Chesham United.

First round: 3-0 (h) vs. Kettering Town.

Second round: 1-0 (h) vs. Woking.

Third round: 2-1 (a) vs. Birmingham City.

Fourth round: 1-0 (h) vs. Preston North End.

Fifth round: 0-1 (h) vs. West Ham United.

4) Luton Town – 2012/2013

Since the end of the Second World War, only seven non-league clubs, including Kidderminster, have reached the fifth round of the FA Cup – only three since the birth of the Premier League.

The most recent of these was Luton, despite a major scare in the first round proper – trailing Nuneaton Town at home, Scott Rendall was the hero, bringing the tie to a replay, before bagging a double in the return tie.

Andre Gray – now of Burnley – got the first in round two, before Alex Lawless, still at the club, scored the winner both in that game and the third round scalping of Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Then came an away tie at top-flight Norwich and that man Rendall again as the Hatters became the first non-league team to knock a top-flight side out of the FA Cup since 1989.

No non-league club has ever gone beyond the fifth round so it was no surprise it proved one step too far for the Bedfordshire side.

Fourth qualifying round: 2-0 (a) vs. Cambridge United.

First round: 1-1 (h) vs. Nuneaton Town. Replay: 2-0 (a).

Second round: 2-1 (h) vs. Dorchester Town.

Third round: 1-0 (h) vs. Wolves.

Fourth round: 1-0 (a) vs. Norwich City.   

Fifth round: 0-3 (h) vs. Millwall.

3) Sutton United – 1989

‘Impossible is nothing’ goes the slogan, and non-league Sutton United proved the rule as early as ’89, defeating a Coventry team that had won the cup at Wembley just 19 months earlier.

The magnitude of the achievement is illuminated by the fact it took 24 years for another non-league side – in the form of Luton Town – to defeat a team from the top-flight.

In a game that remains one of the greatest cup upsets City were humbled by a team of bricklayers, an assistant bank manager and insurance clerks, in front of 8,000 spectators live on the BBC.

Just five days earlier the Blues had won a first division league encounter 5-0 and Sutton had taken a replay to overcome Walton and Hersham in the fourth qualifying round at the start of the campaign.

Then three weeks later, the U’s run ended when on the wrong end of an 8-0 rout at Norwich City.

The unfounded giant-killing was a flash in the pan and it all adds up to cement a remarkable FA Cup tale.

Fourth qualifying round: 1-1 (h) vs. Walton & Hersham. Replay: 3-0 (a).

First round: 4-0 (a) vs. Dagenham.

Second round: 1-0 (a) vs. Aylesbury United      

Third round: 2-1 (h) vs. Coventry City

Fourth round: 0-8 (a) vs. Norwich City

2) Crawley Town – 2010/2011

For most non-league sides, a trip to Old Trafford in the FA Cup is the stuff of dreams: for Crawley Town that became an extraordinary reality in the last-16.

Like Salford, Crawley were a team on the up thanks to new-found investment, and in Matt Tubbs they had a prolific goalscorer at that level, scoring 40 in all competitions as they stormed to the Conference National title.

After a campaign that started away to Newport and then at Guiseley AFC’s Nethermoor Park in the first round proper, over 4,000 attended the home victory over Derby before Tubbs’ goal – away at Torquay in the fourth round – arranged a date at the theatre of dreams.

Understandably nobody gave them a prayer against Sir Alex Ferguson’s goliaths, but 9,000 travelling fans from Sussex saw a brave performance.

Despite a 93-place gulf between the clubs in the football ladder the possession stats at the end of the game read 53%-47% in Steve Evans’ troops favour.

But it was Wes Brown’s 28th minute goal that separated the sides, despite late-chances to equalise for Tubbs and David Hunt.

Fourth qualifying round: 1-0 (a) vs. Newport County.

First round: 5-0 (a) vs. Guiseley AFC.

Second round: 1-1 (a) vs. Swindon Town. Replay: 3-2 (h) after extra-time.            

Third round: 2-1 (h) vs. Derby County.

Fourth round: 1-0 (a) vs. Torquay United.

Fifth round: 0-1 (a) vs. Manchester United    


1) Hereford United – 1971/1972

Ronnie Radford’s stunning late equaliser to take Newcastle to extra-time in a third round replay – where Richie George secured an almighty upset – is stuff of folklore.

To many it’s the greatest FA Cup goal of all time, yet Hereford’s campaign as a whole is even more remarkable.

With victory over the Magpies – in a saga that included five postponements, a right-back who played with a broken leg and an on-duty policeman who started a pitch invasion – they became the first non-league team to beat a top-flight side in 23 years.

What’s more, it’s a tale that might never have happened had Hereford not survived replays with King’s Lynn and Northampton in the first and second rounds respectively, progressing from both ties after narrow home wins.

Their momentous run was finally ended by West Ham when, unable to nick a goal at home, they lost in what was their fourth replay of the campaign.

Fourth qualifying round: 3-0 (h) vs. Cheltenham Town

First round: 0-0 (a) vs. King’s Lynn. Replay: 1-0 (h).

Second round: 2-2 (a) vs. Northampton Town. Replay: 2-1 (h).

Third round: 2-2 (a) vs. Newcastle United. Replay: 2-1 (h).

Fourth round: 0-0 (h) vs. West Ham United. Replay: 1-3 (a).

Image courtesy of BBC via YouTube, with thanks.

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