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6 Best FA Cup Runs by Non-League Teams

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Everybody enjoys an underdog story, and that’s where the phrase “The Magic of the FA Cup” comes from. Smaller teams, against all odds, have knocked out bigger sides and done the unexpected. There’s no shortage of fairytale runs in the oldest cup competition in world football.

In this post, we share the best FA Cup runs by teams outside the major domestic football leagues in England.

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Maidstone United (2024)

Maidstone’s FA Cup run. Video Credit: Location Football

Maidstone was on the brink of reaching the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, except that Coventry made light work in a 5-0 win to bring their run to an end. Nonetheless, they were the first team from the sixth tier since Blyth Spartans 1978 to get this far in the competition.

Their FA Cup run began with a 4-1 win against Steyning Town from the ninth tier. Maidstone beat Stevenage and Ipswich, making it one of the non-league teams’ best FA Cup runs. 

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Wrexham (2023)

Wrexham United surpassed all hopes during their dramatic FA Cup run to the fifth round. The team was fighting to move up to League Two but also made sure to make the most out of its FA Cup participation. It started with two convincing runs against Oldham Athletic and Farnborough, winning 3-0 and 4-1.

In the next round of matches, the team faced Coventry and Sheffield United beating the former 4-3 and forced a replay after a 3-3 draw. In the replay, Premier League side Sheffield ended their campaign 3-1.

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Boreham Wood (2022)

Boreham Wood’s FA Cup run. Video Credit: Boreham Wood TV

Boreham Wood raced to the fifth round of the FA Cup after beating Barnet, Eastleigh, St Albans City and AFC Wimbledon. Their fourth-round win over Premier League side Bournemouth captured the magic of the FA Cup but it wouldn’t continue against Everton. The Toffees were too good, winning 2-0 to end their campaign.

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Notts County (1984)

Notts County FA Cup win. Video Credit: StDomingosEFC

Notts County delivered one of its best moments in history, producing a memorable run to the FA Cup final and winning the tournament. Things were different back then, with teams only playing four games to get to the final. Also, the number of teams entering the FA Cup was smaller compared to today.

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Nonetheless, Notts County began their campaign with a shocking 1-0 win over Burnley and then a 2-1 win over Burton Wanderers. In the third round, Notts won a 4-1 replay against Nottingham Forest after a 1-1 draw to keep their run going.

In the semi-final, they beat Blackburn Rovers 1-0 to set a final clash against Bolton Wanderers. They scored four goals to the Wanderers one to join the list of non-league teams FA Cup winners making it one of the best FA Cup runs. 

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Barnsley (1912)

Barnsley played 12 games on their way to winning the FA Cup in 1912, including six replays, with the fourth round having three replays, an indication that the games were tight. It all started with a 0-0 draw against Birmingham City in the first round which they won 3-0 on replay to move to the second round.

In the second and third rounds, they won 1-0 and 2-1 against Leicester Fosse and Bolton Wanderers respectively. Barnsley fans must have been at the edge of their seats throughout the three rounds of replay after the initial match and the first two replays ended in a 0-0 draw against Bradford City.

In the final replay, both sides scored and Barnsley prevailed with a 3-2 win. A similar story unfolded in the semis and final, needed a replay each to lift the FA Cup trophy. 

Tottenham Hotspur (1901)

It’s hard for modern-day football fans to think about Tottenham Hotspur as a non-league team but in 1901, it was. One of the most significant moments in their history was in 1901 when they had a crazy run to the FA Cup final. It started with a 4-2 victory over Preston North End in a replay after a 1-1 draw.

En route to the semi-finals, they beat Bury 2-1 and played another replay, this time against Reading winning 3-0. In the semi-final, Spurs beat West Bromwich Albion 4-0. The final lived up to expectations as they played another replay after a 2-2 draw against Sheffield United. Tottenham won it 3-1.

These are some of the best FA Cup runs by non-league sides that underline the beauty of the tournament that’s shaped around the narrative of producing magic moments. Which of these teams didn’t you expect to win?

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