With three games between the remaining teams and a place in the final, football’s oldest competition is hotting up – especially with no more replays
With 124 teams whittled down to 16, the home stretch of the 2018-19 FA Cup looks to be in sight as the remaining teams meet in the fifth round to fight it out for a place in the quarter-finals.
Much like last season’s tournament, all remaining sides come from the top four tiers of the English football pyramid, stretching between the Premier League and League Two, with at least two sides from outside the top flight guaranteed a spot in the last eight.
Holders Chelsea are still in the hunt to defend their crown – and they face the side they beat at Wembley last year to lift the trophy, Manchester United, at this stage.
The Blues and the Red Devils are two of seven Premier League sides still in contention and the only ones to face each other, with the other five handed feasibly easier ties.
Premier League champions Manchester City will be among those wary of a giant-killing as they travel to fourth-tier Newport County, the lowest-ranked side left.
Fixtures set to take place the weekend of February 15-18.
|Feb 15||QPR vs Watford||BT Sport 2|
|Feb 16||Brighton vs Derby County||BT Sport 2|
|Feb 16||Wimbledon vs Millwall||No|
|Feb 16||Newport County vs Man City||BT Sport 2|
|Feb 17||Bristol City vs Wolves||BT Sport 2|
|Feb 17||Doncaster Rovers vs Crystal Palace||BBC One|
|Feb 17||Swansea vs Brentford||BBC Wales|
|Feb 18||Chelsea vs Man Utd||BBC One|
*Dates subject to change.
Replays take place in rounds up to and including the fourth round of the competition, and are played at the venue of the away team at least 10 days after the initial tie. If the score remains a draw in the second game, then half-an-hour of extra-time follows. If the result remains locked following the conclusion of additional minutes, the game moves onto a penalty shootout.
There are no replays, however, in the fifth round onwards, up to and including the final. In the event of a draw after regular time, half-an-hour of extra-time follows, with a penalty shootout subsequently required if the scores stay level.
This is the first season in which the fifth round has not gone to a replay. Two matches went to a replay last season, after Sheffield Wednesday and Rochdale held Swansea City and Tottenham Hotspur to a draw respectively in their initial encounters, before suffering reverse defeats.
There are currently no official plans to scrap replays up to and including the fourth round. Indeed, the fifth round this season was still meant to include replays in the event of a draw.
The progression of six English sides into the knockout phases of European competition however saw the FA pull forward the plans initially slated for the 2019-20 campaign to abolish replays at the fifth round in order to help reduce fixture congestion for top six sides (Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea all remain in FA Cup contention heading into the last 16).
The decision to scrap replays at this stage has prompted concern from lower league sides that the competition may see them removed entirely in the near-future.
Plans also remain afoot to move the fifth round to midweek from next season onwards, a decision that has also sat awkwardly with some clubs.
The existence of the FA Cup replay can be traced back to the very first edition of the tournament, when Barnes and Hampstead Heathens played out a 1-1 draw in the second round, with a rematch required.
The first round, oddly enough, saw Hitchin and Crystal Palace play out a draw too, yet both were allowed to progress through to the next round instead of a replay.
Historically however, a replay was often seen as a fair way with which to split two sides in the result of a draw, though other competitions in association football used both coin tosses and the drawing of lots in knockout competition. Even as recently as just over a half-century ago, Italy progressed through to the final of the 1968 European Championships after winning a coin toss against the USSR.
The advent of the penalty shootout, credited to Yosef Dagan, arrived after Israel were knocked out of the 1968 Meixco Olympics quarter-finals by Bulgaria through the drawing of lots.
The first official shootout in England took place two years later in 1970, when Manchester United defeated Hull City in the semi-finals of the Watney Cup.
Since then, extra-time and shootouts have been gradually phased in for the latter rounds of the tournament – but replays remain, to many, an integral part of FA Cup tradition.