21st Century FA Cup Third Round
With an abject Christmas period leaving the club planning for the Championship, the upcoming televised FA Cup third round tie at Wycombe Wanderers is either a welcome distraction or a chance for further embarrassment, depending on where you stand.
Happy for anything to turn attention away from a truly catastrophic league campaign, we’ve looked back through the highlights and lowlights of the last 15 years to recall the good, the bad and the ugly of Villa’s 21st-century third-round record.
Although Villa have undeniably had a mixed record at best in cup competitions in recent years, it may come as something of a surprise to realise that the club has only failed to reach round four on a single occasion in the last seven years. Admittedly, that statistic is rather undermined by the fact that we have fallen before the quarter-final hurdle in five of those seasons, but Villa’s recent third round record gives confidence that the club still has what it takes to avoid the ignominy of an early exit against lower-league opposition.
In Martin O’Neill’s penultimate season at the helm, James Milner scored a beauty to open the scoring at fourth-tier Gillingham, and though the League Two side equalised in the second half, Milner converted from the spot on his 23rd birthday after Ashley Young hit the ground softly in the penalty area – surely not? – with 11 minutes to go.
That began a run of five consecutive third-round victories, as the following year the club kickstarted a campaign which would end with a 3-0 defeat to Chelsea in the semi-final at Wembley with a 3-1 win over then-Premier League competitors Blackburn Rovers at Villa Park. Nathan Delfouneso (remember him?) headed in the fourth of his nine goals for Villa, and though Brad Guzan had to save David Dunn’s penalty, further goals from Carlos Cuellar and John Carew sealed the victory.
In 2011, a thoroughly entertaining tie at Sheffield United saw Kyle Walker score a fine solo goal just nine minutes into his debut against his boyhood club after joining on loan from Spurs, and Marc Albrighton volleyed home to double the lead. Jamie Ward’s converted a penalty and Ashley Young was sent off as Villa threatened to throw the game away, but Stan Petrov finished off a fine team move in style to seal victory.
Under Alex McLeish, Villa eased past Bristol Rovers in another 3-1 victory full of fine goals (see below), and in Paul Lambert’s first season Andi Weimann’s late header was enough to edge past Ipswich Town, although Villa promptly lost 2-1 at Millwall in the fourth round just three days after the second leg of the Bradford City disaster in the League Cup semis.
Meanwhile, last season we had to wait until Christian Benteke’s late goal to see off Blackpool at Villa Park as the club began the journey which would end in the humbling by Arsenal at Wembley in May.
Click Next Page for the Bad & Ugly