The papers weren’t handed a complete licence to report FA Cup romance after the majority of third round games were concluded on Saturday afternoon. However, the so-called magic of the cup still had some effect on results with a number of lower-league clubs earning credible draws with larger opponents.
Chief among them were National League outfit Eastleigh, who led Championship strugglers Bolton through an own goal in the 51st minute, only to be denied a fairytale victory by a Darren Pratley equaliser with three minutes remaining of normal time.
The Spitfires, who are fifth in the once-named Conference this season, will now have the honour of a replay at the Macron Stadium to try and earn a heady trip to the fourth round of the competition.
Seemingly inspired by the only non-league side left in the tournament, a number of other would-be minnows showed they were no pushovers during the day.
Bristol City, like Bolton a relegation candidate in the Championship, came back from a goal down to lead West Brom 2-1 with seven minutes to go at the Hawthorns, but were pegged back by a James Morrison equaliser in added time.
In the day’s early game, Remi Garde’s long wait for a first win as Aston Villa boss went on as League Two Wycombe held the Midlands strugglers to a 1-1 draw at home. The Villa fans vented their frustration to their French manager at the final whistle and a defeat to Wanderers at Villa Park would crank up the pressure on the former Arsenal man.
Another Championship club held to a draw was MK Dons, who travelled to League Two Northampton Town and led, only for two goals in nine minutes for the hosts to overhaul that. A Nicky Maynard strike late on spared Dons blushes.
Portsmouth, also from League Two, grabbed a replay against Ipswich, while Brentford were one of the few sides to be upset, losing to League One Walsall, new manager Dean Smith’s former side.
Like Brentford, Charlton and Preston both slid out of the competition to lower-league opposition. Charlton went down 2-0 to Colchester, while Peterborough took care of Simon Grayson’s Lilywhites.
Such poor form from the second-tier teams in the competition should worry Cardiff, who host Shrewsbury on Sunday with the visitors 9/2 for the win.
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