Again no FA Cup third round shock

This year’s FA Cup third round is now complete and, for the second year in a row, there hasn’t been a genuine shock result at this stage of the competition. This season and last join 2004/2005 and 2011/2012 as the only seasons without an FA Cup third round shock.

Results in which an underdog wins can be divided up into three categories; upsets, shocks and major shocks. So, what is an upset, what is a shock and what is a major shock? Historically, this was fairly easy to decide by simply looking at the leagues the teams were playing in. A non-league team or fourth tier team beating one from the top flight was certainly a shock in the days when the FA Cup was regarded as the highpoint of the season. Some surprise results achieved by third tier teams against clubs from Division One were too.

However, given the current divide in quality between the top few Premier League teams and the rest of the top flight, not to mention that many teams select youth team or reserve players, it is no longer possible to use the old definitions. Fortunately, the market takes account of all this information which is then reflected in the odds for the matches. I asked my twitter followers what odds they thought an upset, a shock or a major shock would have and the answers were pretty consistent.

Upset – match won by the underdog with pre-match winning odds above 3 and below 6 (2/1 to just under 5/1). Last season’s semi-final win for Aston Villa against Liverpool qualifies here (odds of 5.91).

Shock – match won by the underdog with winning odds from 6 to 9.99. (5/1 to just under 9/1). Swansea’s win at Manchester Utd in the third round of 2013/2014 for example (6.31).

Major shock – match won by the underdog with winning odds of at least 10 (9/1). Oldham Athletic’s fourth round win against Liverpool in the 2012/2013 season had odds of 13.36.

On this basis, there have been 20 shocks and 10 major shocks during the last 12 seasons of the FA Cup, which sounds about right.


Media and fans concentrate on the matches involving Premier League teams and lower division sides like Oxford United’s defeat of Swansea City in this year’s competition. The upsets and shocks which take place are often from other types of fixtures though, as can be seen in the table. Sometimes, as in 2005 and 2015, the biggest third round upset can be a match involving two teams from the same division.

Oldham Athletic’s win at Everton eight years ago is the biggest third round shock of the last 12 FA Cup seasons, and one of only two ties at that stage which could be described as major shocks. Oldham’s fans, at least those who travel, also watched their team pull off the biggest surprise of the third round in the 2012/2013 FA Cup. Oldham are therefore the only club to have pulled off the biggest surprise of the third round in more than one of the last 12 seasons.

Like last year, there was no shock in this season’s FA Cup third round. The biggest surprise, Shrewsbury Town’s win at Cardiff City, just fell under the threshold at odds of 5.99 and is therefore classed as an upset. A year ago, it was the fourth round which contained the shocks including two of the biggest since 2005; Bradford City’s comeback win at Chelsea, and Middlesbrough’s victory at Manchester City. Can the likes of Carlisle, against Everton, or Burnley, at Arsenal, replicate those feats in this year’s fourth round?

Odds are sourced from Oddsportal are are the averages for the matches.

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