Wrexham ended the day as the only non-league team in the hat for the fourth round draw after Adrian Cieslewicz cancelled out Jake Forster – Caskey’s goal at the Amex Stadium. Brighton had taken the lead but couldn’t hold on and the Red Dragons equalised to take the Seagulls back to the Racecourse Ground where a home tie against Premier League side Newcastle United awaits the winners.
Fleetwood Town finally succumbed to their local rivals Blackpool after a good first half in only holding the visitors to one goal at half time. Lomano LuaLua had the Seasiders in the lead but soon after the break Matt Philips and Tom Ince had put the tie seemingly out of reach for the Cod Army. Jamie Vardy briefly brought some hope to the home fans but two goals in four minutes saw Matt Phillips grab a hat trick and Blackpool victorious 5-1 in what looked a much more one sided game that it was.
Everton found it tough going at Goodison Park against Blue Square Premier outfit Tamworth. Despite taking the lead after just five minutes through a Johnny Heitinga header, they just couldn’t break down their opposition despite there being 95 league places between the two teams. A contested penalty from Leighton Baines late in the second half ended Tamworth’s hopes but all associated with the club will be proud of the battling display they saw.
Salisbury City was the lowest ranked team left in the cup and they also bowed out after an impressive Sheffield United side eased through 3-1 at Bramall Lane. Chris Porter scored the only goal of the first half but that was added to for the Blades when Ched Evans and a Danny Webb own goal gave them a comfortable lead. There was time for Lloyd Macklin to give the League One side a slight scare, but in truth the result could have been worse if the home side had taken more of their chances.
Overall it has been a good year for non league in the FA Cup, some good performances a couple of upsets if no giant killing, but most of the teams from the Blue Square Premier seemed to hold their own against higher opposition. The disappointing thing about this year’s competition was the coverage. Understandably the big derbies in Manchester and the Midlands were shown live, but the other games didn’t exactly show the magic of the cup. No offense to fans of the sides but Peterborough v Sunderland, Arsenal v Leeds and Bristol Rovers v Aston Villa seemed safe picks for the broadcasters. If you looked through the draw you had the likes of Fleetwood v Blackpool which would have been a much better pick, non league team at home against neighbouring team recently in the Premier League.
Also when you looked at the money involved in being shown live. Salisbury are still in administration after being demoted two leagues a couple of season back, had there match been shown, they would have pocketed over £120,000 compared to the £5,000 that is offered for “designated highlights”. For the likes of Salisbury and Tamworth that money would mean a great deal, maybe less so Wrexham and Fleetwood. Part of the deal they sell you when broadcasting the FA Cup is the ‘romance’ of the cup and the ‘magic’ of the cup. Well, to me this comes from having the opportunity for the small teams to knock out the giants, so to completely ignore them when it comes to live matches didn’t seem right.
Anyway, all non league hopes now rest with Wrexham and the hope of a tie against Newcastle. If it happens, let’s see it on TV!