The FA Cup quarter-finals are when the nerves kick in. Wembley is within reach. Glory can be imagined. The stakes become heightened so what transpires on the pitch is heightened also.
And from all this come moments, games and goals that gob-smacked us all at the time, staying long in the memory.
Having navigated a path to the last eight against all expectation, third tier Wycombe Wanderers were delighted to get a money-spinning tie against Premier League Leicester in 2001.
Joy quickly turned to despair however when a striker crisis deepened, leaving manager Lawrie Sanchez without a recognized forward for the club’s biggest game in decades.
In desperation, the Chairboys made an appeal on Ceefax, a call answered by a bemused journeyman by the name of Roy Essandoh, a Northern Irishman who had recently plied his trade in Finland.
A single training session later and Essandoh was thrown into the televised clash and there’s no prizes for guessing who popped up with a quite sensational last-minute winner.
It was a remarkable upsetting of the FA Cup odds. Yet the story behind it was even better.
Coasting along nicely in the Championship, Barnsley must have fancied their chances when Tottenham came to town in the spring of 1999. After all, they had already comfortably seen off three other foes, all at Oakwell.
And for well over an hour their confidence was well founded, that was until the ball reached David Ginola, hugging the touchline as the French artisan typically did.
Cutting inside, the winger then embarked on a slaloming run past three defenders before slotting the ball almost dismissively past the Tykes keeper.
It was a goal of rare beauty summed up eloquently by the commentator fortunate enough to be on duty that evening – ‘David Ginola seems to constantly push back the boundaries of what is possible’. Too right.
Rams versus Owls
A real humdinger of a back-and-to occurred in 1993, when eventual finalists Sheffield Wednesday headed to the Baseball Ground to face a Derby side one league below them.
The Owls boasted some seriously talented ballers in this era, namely Chris Waddle and John Sheridan and it was the latter who planted home a penalty to kick proceedings off.
Soon after, Derby full-back Shane Nicholson fired in a scorcher from fully 35 yards out but with the famous ground still shaking, Paul Warhurst restored Wednesday’s advantage.
The frenetic pace didn’t ease up in the second period, with Marco Gabbiadini equalizing and the hosts were really starting to believe an upset was possible when Paul Kitson nodded past Chris Woods from close range late-on.
A Warhurst leveler at the death concluded a breathless and memorable affair.
Sheedy’s double take
In 1985, Everton’s stylish midfielder Kevin Sheedy dinked a sublime free-kick from the edge of the box in the fifth minute of the Toffees’ quarter-final clash with Ipswich.
The Welsh-born Republic of Ireland international had barely wheeled away in celebration before an infringement was called by the referee.
Undeterred, Sheedy stepped up once again, this time floating a glorious set-piece to the other corner.
It’s not just lightning that can strike twice. So too can genius.
Romance is dead
The magic of the cup forgot its spell in 2019 when Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering Manchester City headed to Swansea’s Liberty Stadium and found themselves two down inside half an hour.
Just four days earlier, the Blues has dispensed with Schalke in the Champions League, thrashing them 7-0. Now their odds in the live betting to make another FA Cup semi-final were long indeed.
The proverbial kitchen sink was thrown at the hosts in the second half and goals duly came to draw them level.
Earlier denied by an incredible double-save, Sergio Aguero then pinched a last-gasp winner, City’s celebrations proving what the competition continues to mean for every side great or good.
*Credit for the main photo belongs to AP Photo*
FIRST PUBLISHED: 16th March 2023