Cup fever: Colchester United’s big FA Cup showdowns

Chelsea's Ricardo Carvalho looks on as Colchester's Richard Garcia challenges Chelsea's Michael Essi

Chelsea's Ricardo Carvalho looks on as Colchester's Richard Garcia challenges Chelsea's Michael Essien during the FA Cup fifth round match at Stamford Bridge in 2006 - Credit: PA

This Saturday will be the first-ever competitive meeting between Colchester United and Tottenham, attracting a sell-out crowd and live television coverage via BT Sport.

But over the last 79 years, since the U’s were founded in 1937, the Essex club have faced top-flight opposition on 11 occasions.

There were some famous wins, most notably over Huddersfield (1948) and Leeds United (1971), and some big away-days at the likes of Blackpool (1948), Arsenal (1959), Everton (1971), and Chelsea (2006).

Here is a run-down:


You may also want to watch:

This 1947-48 season really put non-league Colchester on the map, in terms of national recognition.

The U’s were still plying their trade in the Southern League, playing against the likes of Bedford, Torquay Reserves, Barry, Gloucester and Exeter Reserves, when they entertained First Division giants Huddersfield Town in a third round tie on January 10, 1948.

Most Read

A crowd of 16,005 witnessed a huge shock, when skipper Bob Curry scored the only goal of the game, on 70 minutes. It was the first time in the modern history of the Cup that a non-league club had beaten a top-flight outfit.


After beating fellow minnows Bradford in the fourth round, Ted Fenton’s men were blessed with a fifth round trip to Blackpool, who boasted such legendary players as Stanley Matthews and Stan Mortensen. The Seasiders won 5-0.

ARSENAL (1959)

Mighty Arsenal were held to a 2-2 draw at Layer Road, thanks to goals by Neil Langman and John Evans, the latter equalising in the 89th minute, after the Gunners had earlier built up a 2-0 lead through a brace from Vic Groves.

The replay, at an icy and fog-bound Highbury, ended in a 4-0 home win in front of a crowd of 62,000-plus, although most supporters didn’t see much of the action, due to the poor visibility.

These two games against Arsenal helped the U’s to finance the first Layer Road floodlights.

WEST BROM (1968)

A header by Reg Stratton gave the U’s the lead, in a 1-1 home draw against the Baggies, who equalised from the penalty spot when Jeff Astle was fouled in the box – some fans insisted that he had dived.

The U’s lost the replay 4-0 at The Hawthorns, and West Brom went on to win the Cup that season, while Neil Franklin’s side were eventually relegated back to the fourth tier.


The U’s most famous Cup tie, on February 13, 1971, saw Don Revie’s Division One high-fliers toppled 3-2 at a jam-packed Layer Road. Dick Graham’s side, dubbed ‘Graham’s Grandads’ by the popular press, were 2-0 up at the break through Ray Crawford’s sweet double.

Dave Simmons added a third, and although Leeds scored twice in the last 20 minutes through Norman Hunter and Johnny Giles, the U’s held out.

EVERTON (1971)

The reward for that epic win over Leeds, was a trip to Merseyside to visit Everton on March 6, 1961 in a quarter-final tie. The Toffees ran out 5-0 winners in front of a Goodison Park gate of 53,028.


The Rams were struggling in 15th spot, in the top division, despite having such big-name players as Charlie George, Derek Hales and Leighton James in their ranks, when they came to Layer Road for a fourth round tie. Hales broke the deadlock, but Derby than sat back and the U’s punished them in the fifth minute of injury-time with Colin Garwood equalising. Derby won the replay 1-0 at the Baseball Ground, in front of the BBC ‘Sportsnight’ cameras.


Dave Sexton’s Red Devils took on the U’s in a fifth round tie on February 20, 1979, the last time the Essex club hosted a top-flight club.

The game was played in midweek – the original Saturday match was postponed due to snow – and Jimmy Greenhoff bagged his 14th goal of the season to snatch the winner with just four minutes remaining. United lost to Arsenal in the FA Cup Final.


The unfashionable Dons were tenants at Selhurst Park. This third round tie was a big disappointment, with Mick Harford nodding home an early winner after keeper Jon Cheesewright had failed to come for a cross.


The wind was taken out of the U’s sails by a comical goal after 21 minutes, when Kevin Watson’s back pass took a bobble and left keeper Aidan Davison kicking at thin air. Jemal Johnson (27) and Dominic Mateo (51) completed a comfortable 3-0 win for Rovers.

CHELSEA (2006)

Phil Parkinson’s men had a far better experience the following year, at Stamford Bridge.

They even took the lead when Ricardo Carvalho diverted home Ricard Garcia’s cross. Chelsea rallied with goals from Paulo Ferreira and half-time substitute Joe Cole (2) to win 3-1.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter