Sport

Third Round Reflections

For the first time since 2017 Leeds United FC are still in the FA Cup after playing their Third Round fixture. As regular readers of this Blog might know, I have followed the team since childhood, and have posted previously about their exit at this stage of the competition. The most recent of these pieces, here, followed Crawley Town’s 3-0 win in 2021. Here are some reflections on the club’s recent performances in the competition, including comparisons with Arsenal FC’s record over the years, and notes about how few cup ties there have been at Elland Road since 2011.

Leeds are still in the cup thanks to yesterday’s 2-2 draw at Cardiff City. The last time Leeds won an FA Cup tie was six years ago, today, 9 January 2017, a 2-1 win at Cambridge United. In the time since then the club’s record in the competition reads as follows:

Played 7 Won 0 Drawn 1 Lost 6.

By contrast, Arsenal (the team that my wife and our daughter support) have got to the final and won the whole competition twice in the same period.

The years immediately before 2017 weren’t much better for Leeds. After losing to Manchester City in the Fifth Round in 2013, they lost in the Third Round in 2014 (at Rochdale) and 2015 (at Sunderland). The club’s best run since 2013 came in 2016, a home win against Rotherham in the Third Round, and a Fourth Round victory at Bolton Wanderers before losing in the Fifth Round at Watford. So, in nearly 10 years of FA Cup football the club’s record reads:

Played 13 Won 3 Drawn 1 Lost 9.

In the time it has taken Leeds to win three FA Cup ties Arsenal have won the competition four times (2014, 2015, 2017, 2020).

The replay against Cardiff is scheduled for 17 January. It will be just the second home tie for Leeds since January 2013. That win against Rotherham in 2016 is the only FA Cup football that has been played at Elland Road in nearly a decade. This means that the club’s home record in the competition can be made to sound more impressive than it is: unbeaten since January 2011 (a 3-1 victory for Arsenal in a Third Round replay). This equates to the following:

Played 3 Won 2 Drawn 1 Lost 0.

The drawn game was a Third Round tie against Birmingham City in January 2013 (Leeds won the replay), and the other home win was the club’s only FA Cup victory of note in the last 13 years, 2-1 that same month at home to Spurs in the Fourth Round.

Since then, Leeds have gone out of the Cup at Rochdale, Newport County, Sutton United and Crawley Town, all of them ranked at least two divisions lower. A win against Cardiff in the replay would give Leeds yet another away tie, against Accrington Stanley or Borehamwood. A defeat against either of them would fit alongside those miserable afternoons at Newport and Crawley, but maybe this year will be different. After all, Leeds have just avoided defeat in an away tie for the first time in nearly six years.

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