Sunday’s semi final game against Watford has been billed as the biggest game we have played for the last 15 years.
There have been some other “massive” games during this time. A trip to Cardiff in 2003 for the play off final. The home game against Blackburn Rovers in 2011 is one that springs to mind. The dramatic last minute winner at Bristol City last season is another. Who can forget the nail biting drama at Middlesborough and Cardiff.
FA Cup traditions
The magic of the FA Cup still holds true for many fans, especially the older generation like myself. I vividly remember the school ground playground football taking on a new dimension the week before the cup final. Each of the finalists being represented in some fiercely contested games. Kids taking sides and enjoying the build up to what was a magical day. The TV coverage starting early setting the scene for what was the domestic pinnacle in a players career. The FA Cup has lost its edge over the past couple of decades, with teams being more focused on finishing fourth and qualifying for the champion league.
I sense this old fashioned feeling is going to return big style if we win this weekend.
Semi Final History
Since the inception of the FA Cup, we have made it to the semi final stage 13 times. There have been 7 wins during this time, with the last of these coming in 1960. Of the 12 games, 4 were drawn which required replays, with a 2 won & 2 lost record. If the scores are level after 90 minutes on Sunday, there will be no replay, as it will straight to extra time, then penalties if required.
We beat Old Carthusians 2-0 in the first round, followed by a 2-1 win at home against Small Heath. The third round game at home against Stoke was called void, when were were leading 4-0. The replay, a week later, had a convincing 8-0 scoreline. The semi-final round paired us against Blackburn Rover, who ran out 1-0 winners
The 1892/93 cup run had thew two “Wanderers” together in the first round. A draw at Bolton followed by a win at home, saw us through to the second round. A 2-1 home win over Middlesbrough advanced us to the 3rd round. Another convincing 5-0 win over Darwen put us into the semi-finals.
Our opponents in the semi final were Blackburn Rovers. There was no repeat of the final from the 1889.90 season as we ran out winners 2-1.
A home 2-2 draw with Notts County started our 1895/96 FA Cup campaign. A thrilling 4-3 win away in the replay was quickly followed by a 2-0 home win over Liverpool in round 2. The third round “local derby” against Stoke City ended with a comfortable 3-0.
The semi-final was another all Midlands affair when we were drawn against Derby County. The match played on the 21st March 1896 with the Wolves winning 2-1
Bradford City were our first opponents in the 1907/08 cup run. A 1-0 win at home, followed by another 2-0 home win over Bury secured our passage to the 3rd round. Another home game saw a 2-0 win over Swindon Town. A trip to the Potteries for round 4 was rewarded with a 1-0 away win.
The semi-final against Southampton was played at Stamford Bridge. Goals from Bradford and Hedley were enough to see us win 2-0.
Another tie against Stoke City was the starting point of the 1920/21 FA Cup run. A 3-2 win was enough for us to progress into the second round. A 1-1 draw away at Derby County meant a replay at Molineux. This time there would be no mistake with the Wolves winning 1-0. Another 1-0 win away at Fulham secured our place in the fourth round.
Another 1-0 away at Everton booked our place in the semi-finals against Cardiff City. The first game, played at Anfield, ended 0-0. The replay wasn’t such a close affair with the Wolves winning 3-1 at Old Trafford Manchester.
Our first appearance in the 1938/39 season was a third round tie at home to Bradford Park Avenue, which we won 3-1. A 5-1 home thumping of Leicester City saw us successfully navigate the fourth round. Goals continued to flow as we beat Liverpool 4-1 at home in the next round. Everton were the next team to try and halt our Cup run. Another 2-0 home win had us in the semi-finals once more.
The goals kept coming as we overran Grimsby Town 5-0 at Old Trafford.
Chesterfield came to Molineux on the 8th January 1949, and were comprehensively dispatched 6-0. The fourth round tie against Sheffield United was played at Bramall Lane. Despite being away from home we won 3-0. Another 3-1 home win over Liverpool was rewarded with a home tie against the Albion. 55,684 packed into Molineux to see Jimmy Mullen score the winner in the 63 rd minute.
The semi-final pitched us against Manchester United. The tie was played infant of 62,250 at Hillsborough and ended 1-1 after extra time. The replay was moved to Goodison Park where it was watched by 72,361 spectators. A late 86th minute goal from Smyth was enough to take us back to Wembley.
A 2-1 win away at Plymouth Argyle, a 3-1 home win over the Villa, and a 2-0 home win against Huddersfield had us reach the 6th round without too many dramas. A 1-1 draw away at Sunderland meant a home replay which was duly won 3-1.
The first semi-final against Newcastle United finished 0-0. There was to be no fairytale trip to Wembley as we lost the replay 2-1.
A 2-2 draw away at Newcastle started the 59/60 cup run. A 4-2 win in the replay earned us another home time in round 4, where we beat Charlton 2-1. A 4-1 win away at Luton plus a 2-1 win away at Leicester saw us safely through to the semi-finals again. A short trip to The Hawthorns and a tie against Aston Villa was rewarded with a Deeley goal and yet another trip to Wembley.
Three consecutive 1-0 home wins over Manchester United, Bristol City and Millwall had us reach the sixth round without too many dramas. Another home tie against Coventry City was duly won 2-0. A semi final berth without having to travel away was a bonus for the team. We faced Leeds United at Maine Road. Billy Bremner scored the only goal of the game in the 70th minute to bring more semi final heartache.
A 3-2 win at Brighton away kicked off the 78/79 campaign. A 1-1 draw at Newcastle was resolved in a 1-0 replay at Molineux. A tip to London followed with a 1-0 win at Crystal Palace in round 5.
A hard fought 1-1 draw at home to Shrewsbury wasn’t what the Molineux crowd were expecting in the 6th round. The replay at Gay Meadow was won 3-1, but would be remembered for the sheer number of Wolves fans packed into the small stand. The official match attendance didn’t obvious take into consideration those that managed to get in without a ticket.
We were paired against Arsenal at Villa Park for the semi-final. Lima Brady failed a late fitness test, and we were all hopeful for a positive result. How wrong we were.
A 2-2 draw away at Stoke was our first involvement in the 80/81 campaign. The replay saw us winning 2-1. Another 1-1 draw at Watford required another replay, which was also won 2-1.
A routine 3-1 at home over Wrexham was followed with a 1-1 away at Middlesbrough. The replay finished 3-1 in our favour.
The semi final draw pitched us against Spurs. The game got off to a flying start with a goal apiece in the first 5 minutes. Spurs regained the lead right on the stoke of half time. A lead they would hold until Willie Carr slotted home a 90th minute penalty to take the game into extra time. With no addition to the scoring, a replay was required.
The replay wasn’t as close with Spurs winning comfortably 3-0.
A 4-0 win away at Darlington was the perfect start for the 97/98 cup run. A 1-1 draw at Charlton, was overcome 3-0 in the replay. Another 1-1 draw away at Wimbledon meant another home replay, which was won 2-1.
Elland Road, Leeds, was the destination for the 6th round tie. Don Goodman scored the winner in the 82nd minute.
The semi-final was a repeat of the 78/79 game. Arsenal at Villa Park. There was to be no change in fortunes as we ended up on the wrong side of a 1-0 scoreline.
What will Sunday bring?
Much has changed since Watford pulled the rug from under our feet earlier in the season. The inclusion of Leander Dendoncker has been a revelation. The Jota Raul partnership has blossomed beyond most peoples expectations. Confidence will be high after beating Man United (again). The belief we can still win when losing in the 85th minute will ensure heads don’t drop if we do go behind at any point.
One thing we can take for granted is that Nuno and his backroom staff will have drawn up a plan they believe in. It will be a plan the players believe in as they set out to cap off a remarkable 2018/19 season with a return to Wembley to play in a cup final.
The game will be close. I can’t see either side scoring more than twice. Extra time would be a nervous 30 minutes. The dramas of penalties unbearable.
My prediction is for a 2-1 win. I just can’t decide if we will need the extra 30 minutes or not to score the winner.