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One was a 23-year-old winger, the other was a well known former international, aged 36, coming towards the end of an illustrious career as an attacking midfielder. On this day 23 years ago, 1997, these two players both scored exceptional goals in fourth round FA Cup Ties.
A young Trevor Sinclair had joined Queen’s Park Rangers for £600,000 in 1993 and in the 1996-97 season the club found themselves back in Nationwide League Division One having been relegated from the FA Carling Premiership the previous season. The club would finish that season five points outside the play-off places and lose to Premiership side Wimbledon in the fifth round of the FA Cup. The 2-1 defeat away in South London that knocked them out, however, is largely forgotten, but their fourth round tie at home to fellow Division One side Barnsley on 25 January is well remembered, specifically for one moment in particular. Enter Mr Sinclair.
With QPR down to ten men and clinging onto a 2-1 lead Danny Maddix, out on the wing deep inside opposition territory, hit the ball back to John Spencer who fired the ball forward. The ball happened to fly towards Sinclair who with his back to goal leapt into action and hit an audacious overhead kick that looped into the net with the keeper nowhere near it. It was an absolutely stunning goal that was later voted Goal of the Season by Match of the Day. A rare piece of brilliance, the like of which only comes around once in a blue moon. A truly terrific goal, and all-time FA Cup classic. For the record, the match finished 3-2.
Just over 200 miles away at Goodison Park in Liverpool, Everton of the Premiership were playing Division One side Bradford City that same afternoon with Chris Waddle featuring for the visitors. Not getting any younger, Waddle’s career had seen him reach a World Cup semi final and also feature in a European Cup final, before eventually finding himself in the second tier of English football.
Two minutes after taking the lead on 49 minutes Bradford found themselves 2-0 up when Waddle scored an absolute screamer. Of course, overshadowed by Sinclair’s astounding effort it was, nonetheless, a cracking goal in its own right. Running to pick up the ball 45yds out from goal Waddle then, seeing the goalkeeper off his line, promptly chipped the ball towards the goal over said keeper and into the net sending the travelling support into raptures. Like QPR, Bradford won the match 3-2 and like QPR they also lost in the next round.
That same day saw Premiership side and finalists that season Middlesbrough struggle to a 3-2 victory away at non-league Hednesford Town whilst the previous season’s winners Manchester United could only manage a 1-1 draw at home to Wimbledon in a tie they would lose via a 1-0 replay defeat. The following day the BBC television cameras saw Liverpool 2-0 up within 21 minutes at Stamford Bridge only for home side Chelsea to fight back in the second half and win 4-2 in what was a fascinating cup tie. Chelsea went on to win the cup that year with Roberto Di Matteo’s goal after just 45 seconds no longer the fastest ever cup final goal. The route to the final for opponents Middlesbrough had as well as a trip to Hednesford also included being taken to replay by Division Two side Chesterfield in the semi finals. Chesterfield captured the hearts of the nation by taking 2-0 lead against their Premiership opposition but after a 2-2 draw in 90 minutes had to come from behind in extra-time to force a replay which they, unfortunately, lost 3-0.