There’s not a competition in the history of the game that can compare with the FA Cup when it comes to producing fairytale stories, with every season producing its share of giant killing acts.
There’s sure to be some lower-league heroics this season too and many of us will be looking for that FA Cup underdog at big odds, whether in a High Street bookie, online or via a mobile with a William Hill app free bet.
One such underdog was Wycombe Wanderers in 2001, when Lawrie Sanchez’s team gained national recognition by going all the way to the semi-finals before eventually bowing out to Liverpool.
The Chairboys cup exploits had began with a routine 3-0 win at home to Harrow Borough in November 2000, in a match most notable for the appearance of 48-year-old Barry Silkman coming on as a 75th minute substitute for the visitors.
Wycombe went on to claim some notable scalps en route to last four, accounting for three teams from the First Division (today’s Championship) in Grimsby Town, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Wimbledon, with the Dons eventually beaten 8-7 on penalties after a couple of 2-2 draws.
The quarter-final saw Wycombe facing top-tier opposition with a trip to Leicester City. It was the game at Filbert Street that saw one Roy Essandoh secure his place in FA Cup folklore.
The Northern Irishman only joined the club 10 days earlier after his agent had seen an appeal from Sanchez on Teletext for a forward who wasn’t cup-tied as a result of an injury-crisis among the club’s strikers.
Fate dictated that it would be Essandoh who headed home the decisive goal against the Foxes deep into stoppage-time to ensure a 2-1 win and take Wycombe, who had never previously progressed beyond the 3rd round of the competition, into the semi-finals.
On Sunday 8th April 2001, Wycombe became one of the few third-tier clubs to play in an FA Cup semi-final when they faced Liverpool at a rain-soaked Villa Park. Just three days earlier Gérard Houllier’s side had held Barcelona to a goalless draw in their UEFA Cup semi-final 1st leg in the Camp Nou.
Roared on by over 19,000 of their own supporters, Wycombe kept their illustrious opponents at bay for 78-minutes and had chances themselves through Steve Brown and Chris Vinnicombe, before Liverpool substitute Emile Heskey finally broke the deadlock.
Robbie Fowler added a second soon thereafter and, although Keith Ryan netted a late consolation goal for Wycombe, there was to be no way back.
Sanchez, who scored the winning goal for Wimbledon against Liverpool in the 1988 final, was unable to build on the cup success and left the club in September 2003.
Essandoh would never score another goal for the Chairboys and went on to have a largely nomadic career in non-league football. His place in the annals of FA Cup history was assured the second his header found the back of Simon Royce’s net though.