Harrogate Town v Portsmouth: How to pull off an FA Cup upset

Harrogate Town tackle Portsmouth in the FA Cup first round proper on Monday evening, looking to cause a famous upset.

Monday, 11th November 2019, 1:09 pm
Updated Monday, 11th November 2019, 1:10 pm
Jack Muldoon runs between England internationals Joey Barton, left, and Michael Keane during Lincoln City's FA Cup win over Burnley at Turf Moor in 2017. Picture: Getty Images

Forty places separate Simon Weaver's side, enjoying just their second-ever season in the National League, and 2008 winners Pompey - currently 13th in League One.

A victory for Town in front of live BT Sport cameras would represent something of a giant-killing, and among their number is a player who knows exactly what it takes to topple the big boys.

Striker Jack Muldoon was part of the Lincoln City side who caused a number of upsets in 2016/17, a non-league fairytale that saw the Imps progress all the way to the quarter-finals, where they eventually bowed out to Arsenal at that Emirates Stadium.

Jack Muldoon, right, enjoys Lincoln City's 3-1 win over Brighton.

Along the way, they saw off League One Oldham Athletic, Ipswich Town and Brighton of the Championship before dumping Premier League Burnley out of the competition on their own turf.

“We just stuck to our own game-plan," said Muldoon of his old club’s stunning cup run.

"At the time we were playing well anyway. We were doing well in the league and we carried that into the FA Cup. Because of this we were confident and we were able to concentrate on playing our own game.

"I wasn’t even that surprised when we beat Brighton [Championship leaders at the time]. Going to a Premier League club and winning there was a big surprise, but I honestly don’t think that there was much difference between us and Brighton. Maybe two or three of their players had a better touch.

Jack Muldoon in action during Lincoln City's 1-0 success over Burnley at Turf Moor.

“But that’s why confidence is important if you’re gonna win these games. We were confident to start with anyway and then the longer that Brighton match went on the more belief we had. You have to believe that you have a chance.

“[Danny] Cowley [Muldoon’s Lincoln boss at the time] broke the Burnley match down into 15-minute blocks for us and told us exactly what we had to do to get through each one. That meant we were still in the game late on and were able to nick a goal.

"Another big thing with that squad was that we all wanted each other to do well, it didn’t matter who was starting or on the bench. That togetherness was massive.”

Shocking one of the big boys is, of course, easier said than done, though there are plenty of comparisons that can be drawn between Town and that Lincoln side that Muldoon was a part of.

Jack Muldoon battles Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey for possession in the 2016/17 FA Cup quarter-finals.

In 2016/17, Lincoln were riding high in the National League and chasing promotion to League Two. The similarities don't end there.

"We all worked hard as a group on and off the ball and we've got the same work-rate and endeavour here that we had in that Lincoln team," Muldoon added.

"We played football, but I actually think that there are probably some better ball-players in this side.

"There are a lot of similarities, but the main one is two teams playing well and winning games. Our form over the last 11 matches has been up there with the best in the league so this cup tie definitely comes at the right time."

How Town will approach their task on the day remains to be seen, though with a big home crowd behind them and the advantage of their familiarity with the artificial playing surface, they know that the way they begin the game will be key.

"We need to start fast," Muldoon said.

"I definitely think that the pitch will be an advantage for us. We train on it nearly every day, so it has to be. That, plus the big crowd, if we can start well it will stand us in good stead.

"If we can get ahead then that will only increase the volume and make things even harder for Portsmouth."

Kick-off at the CNG Stadium on Monday evening is at 7.45pm.