Thank goodness for Jermaine Beckford, who gave the headline writers the chance to rekindle the magic of the cup.
It was a sports journalist’s dream, with Leeds bringing back memories of glory days lost and giving Fergie another excuse to lament the lack of injury time. The result also came just in time to save a distinctly average third round weekend.
The highlights before Sunday? Steven Gerrard rescuing Liverpool (how many times have we heard that before?) against lowly Reading, Nottingham Forest drawing with Birmingham and that’s about it.
Even crisis club Portsmouth, who most people expected to fall to lower league opposition and deepen their fans’ misery, ruined several betting slips by having the temerity to draw with Coventry.
To be fair to Everton, they did their best concede defeat to League One Carlisle, barely managing to string two passes together for 80 minutes before two late goals saw them scrape through.
The lack of ‘Cupsets’ on Saturday, with low attendances and weakened sides prevalent, saw the inevitable Sunday morning stories questioning the value of the cup and whether it has lost its ‘magic’. Though quite how Premier League sides can be accused of not taking it seriously when none of them slipped up against lower league opposition on the preceding day is beyond me.
True, the empty stands award was a tie-break between Middlesbrough and Wigan, with the Latics winning the photo finish as they didn’t even bother to open one of their stands. But the reality is this round of games came a week after Christmas, cost an arm and a leg to go, and were part of a competition which the same four teams have dominated for the past 15 years – a combination of issues fans didn’t have to deal with in the ‘good old days’.
If I had just forked out for Christmas presents, paid for the family go to the match on Boxing Day and driven in all weather to meet relatives and friends, would I want to fork out another £30 a pop to go and watch a Premier League reserve side?
But thanks to Leeds United for keeping everyone’s dream alive on Sunday. Because, lets face it, by knocking out a big four side it’s giving everyone else a chance! Of course, now some one needs to put a dent in Chelsea’s FA Cup chances.
Meanwhile, the odds for the Cheltenham Festival are really starting to hot up and could be worth keeping an eye on.