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January 27th, 2012 / Matt - Category:
FA Cup Tips
Derby County V Stoke City
Saturday, 28 January 2012 – 15:00 GMT
FA Cup Fourth-Round
Everyone has come to terms with the fact Stoke City are now an established Premier League club. There is more chance of them qualifying for Europe than getting relegated, as they shown last season when making it all the way to the FA Cup final whilst securing a satisfactory mid-table league finish. So at odds-against to dump out a team situated slap-bang in the middle of the Championship, we’d be mad not to include them in our weekend accumulators…
Possibly. However, it isn’t though they’re in scintillating form. Nor are they presented with the most straightforward of tasks. It’s just two wins from seven following last week’s surprise home defeat to West Brom, with those two triumphs during an otherwise dismal run coming against struggling Blackburn in the top flight and Gillingham of League Two in the FA Cup. We shouldn’t forget what’s on the horizon, either.
In three weeks time, on February 16, Stoke City welcome La Liga hot-shots Valencia to the Brittania for a Round of 32 Europa League tie. Now that is some distraction, even if there are numerous games to be contested before what is arguably the biggest match – certainly most glamorous – in the club’s recent history.
The Potters are also notoriously poor travellers, although they have improved to some degree this season. Just as well, as in the second half of last season – from January through to May (2011) – Stoke failed to record a single away win, losing seven of ten on the road. What’s more, or worse, is that they failed to even score on seven occasions. With all this mind, I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised to learn that Tony Pulis’ Potters are the most toothless away outfit in the top flight with only eight scored from their eleven outings so far.
Their opponents are Derby County, a club who have faced just about everyone worth their since the turn of the century. They won’t be phased by Premier League opposition. Whether they can compete with them is another question altogether. On current form however, they just might. Their 0-0 stalemate away to Burnley last weekend put an end to their five-match winning streak, but it was yet another clean sheet for a Rams defence which has gone its previous four games without conceding; they’ve shipped one goal in 9 hours of football, and just two in their last five matches at Pride Park, of which all five were in victory.
There is definitely potential for an upset here, especially if Tony Pulis rotates his squad – and I suspect he might. Stoke’s league form has gone worryingly array over Christmas and arresting that slump, as well as preserving some for crucial upcoming games – like the one against Valencia in Europe – are just some of the reasons why Pulis could rest several. I do stress could, as he is one of a select few managers who shows virtually every competition the utmost respect.
Derby are whacking great odds of 5/2 with BetFred to spring a surprise by winning for the sixth consecutive home game. The draw, meanwhile, is 23/10 with Bet365. I consider both exceptional value, as while Derby are in terrific form – especially on their own patch, they do struggle in front of goal, this against Championship opposition, and so may find breaking down an intimidating Stoke rearguard a stiff ask.
Or, we could combine the two and go with Derby on the Double Chance. We’re a winner provided Stoke don’t win then. That’s 7/10 with StanJames. The same firm also offer odds of 10/1 on a goalless draw. Decent shout perhaps considering the point I made above.
Recommended Bet: Derby County Double Chance @ 7/10 StanJames
Value Bet: 0-0 Draw @ 10/1 StanJames
January 17th, 2012 / Matt - Category:
FA Cup Tips
Wolves V Birmingham
Wednesday, 18 January 2012 – 19:45 GMT (LIVE on ITV1)
FA Cup Third Round Replay
Despite the original tie failing to produce a single goal, ITV have boldly decided to persevere and are showing this FA Cup third round replay between Wolves and Birmingham live – and I reckon it could pay dividends second time around.
Both teams cancelled each other out at St Andrews eleven days ago, in what was a dour contest. Birmingham enjoyed the bulk of possession in front of their own supporters, whom could only half fill the stadium for what was/is a West Midlands derby, yet it was Wolves who carved out the better openings and had it not been for Sylvan Ebanks-Blakes’ wastefulness or the width of the post to deny Matt Jarvis, the Premier League side would be through already.
So what makes us think the replay will be any different? Well, for starters Wolves should take a firmer hold of proceedings back at Molineux. The pitch will also make a huge difference. The surface at St Andrews was not conducive for a lively game of football, with the usually simple task of stringing a few passes together made almost impossible on a bumpy pitch.
Goals are generally a given at Molineux as well; each of Wolves’ last seven league games at home have featured both teams scoring, while there hasn’t been a goalless draw here since Wanderers drew with Stoke in the Premier League back in April 2010.
We’ve established that there should at least be goals, but who will prosper? I can’t help but feel Birmingham’s best chance has passed them by with that goalless draw at St Andrews, on a terrible pitch which only they are accustomed to playing on. I expect Wolves’ Premier League pedigree to shine through on Wednesday, even though Mick McCarthy has hinted at changes.
Nobody likes to hear that dreaded word – ‘changes ‘ – but it isn’t necessarily alarming where Wolves are concerned. Mick McCarthy has a decent sized squad at his disposal, most of which could easily grade the Championship, and the strength of his squad was there for all to see earlier in the season during the Carling Cup. Wolves reached the Fourth Round before being dumped out 5-2 by Manchester City, but not before putting four past Northampton and five past Millwall with second string teams.
I’m expecting a little better than a second string Wolves starting XI, although McCarthy has hinted that top scorer Steven Fletcher will be rested. That isn’t much of a problem when you have fellow forwards Kevin Doyle and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake hungry to fill in. Both will feel they have a point or two to prove to the manager, but so does the team as a whole having gone eight without a win in all competitions.
Birmingham (29/10 to WIN the match with StanJames) will make the short trip to Molineux buoyed by their emphatic weekend victory over Millwall in the league, scoring six without reply away from home, which does bode well in terms of them at least registering a goal in the replay. However a long, arduous season brought about by their earlier commitments with the UEFA Europa League means this replay is a mere inconvenience for Chris Hughton, the Blues boss whose sole aim this season is to gain promotion back to the top flight.
A home win for me, in what should be a much improved contest than the one eleven days previous.
Wolves to WIN @ 11/10 BetVictor
Both Teams to Score @ 10/11 888Sport
January 6th, 2012 / Matt - Category:
FA Cup Tips
Newcastle United V Blackburn Rovers
Saturday, 7 January 2012 – 15:00 GMT
FA Cup, Third Round
I suspect most will be all over Newcastle this weekend as they prepare to host struggling Blackburn in the FA Cup on the back of their comprehensive 3-0 defeat of Manchester United in the league. However, while the Magpies should host this Third Round tie buoyed by their exploits against the reigning English champions, they do so without two of their most consistent performers this season.
Combative midfielder Cheick Tiote and goal-machine Demba Ba have both earned call-ups from their national teams for the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea so will miss Saturday’s FA Cup tie with Blackburn, as well numerous other important clashes in the Premier League.
The absence of both is huge, colossal even, as they’ve arguably been Alan Pardew’s stand-out performers this season. Tiote is a monster in midfield, destroying opposing attacks with his strong, robust challenges, while he can play a bit, too. Ba on the other hand is probably irreplaceable. The Senegalese has 15 for the season, including his stunning strike in Wednesday’s 3-0 defeat of Manchester United at St James’ Park.
When you consider that Ba accounts for just over half of Newcastle’s total goals this season, (15 of 29), you can see just how big a loss he will be. However Tiote stops teams from playing, by destroying attacks whenever possible, and it is his absence which concerns me the most, as he is one the main reasons why Newcastle have conceded so few goals this season, and why his midfield partner, Yohan Cabaye, has looked so good.
Life without the aforementioned duo begins on Saturday, in the FA Cup, against a side who they’ve had mixed fortunes against this season. In the League Cup, at Ewood Park, they were beaten in the most dramatic of circumstances, by a last-gasp extra-time winner from Rovers defender Gael Givet in a 4-3 thriller, but in the league trounced Steve Kean’s men 3-1 at St James’.
The latter does not bode well for visiting Blackburn who, according to their under-fire manager, simply didn’t turn up that day. There have been too many no-shows from them this season, but not so many on the road, however.
Although two of their three league wins were earned at home, back at a volatile Ewood Park, Blackburn have only lost four away from home, which is four fewer than at home. They’ve also scored more goals, 16 in total, three of which coming in their sensational 3-2 victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford – that result coming on the back of a hard-earned 1-1 draw at Anfield away to Liverpool.
Instead of building on their shock win at the Theatre of Dreams, Rovers typically went the other way, losing 2-1 at home to Stoke the very next game. Yet another no-show from Steve Kean’s side, although he will at least be encouraged by the return of some key figures. Martin Olsson, Gael Givet, Junior Hoilett – who is unquestionably their most creative player – and goalkeeper Paul Robinson are all back from injuries.
It sounds crazy to oppose Newcastle after their Monday night win over Man United, but that is eactly what I am doing. Blackburn are a lot better away from home and should sniff an upset here, against a Newcastle side beginning a precarious spell without two crucial figures who are integral cogs in their well-oiled machine.
A Blackburn win at 5/1 is huge considering they do have a decent record at St James’ Park; Rovers have won on five of their previous six visits to Tyneside to face Newcastle. They have, however, had a knack of squandering opportunities, as well as some seemingly insurmountable leads, so it could pay to go with the visitors on either the ‘Double Chance’ or ‘Draw No Bet’. The former is 10/3 with Bet365, the latter 11/8 with StanJames.
Recommended Bet: Blackburn Rovers ‘Draw No Bet’ @ 10/3 with Bet365
Final score: 2:1
January 6th, 2012 / Matt - Category:
FA Cup Tips
MK Dons V QPR
Saturday, 7 January 2012 – 15:00 GMT
FA Cup, Third Round
Stadium: MK welcomes Premiership opposition at the weekend, in the form of an ailing QPR whose form over Christmas was dire to say the very least. Neil Warnock’s men picked up just two points from their six December fixtures and, to top it all off, opened their accounts for 2012 with a home defeat to Norwich – their eleventh loss of the season, and their sixth in eight games.
Furthermore, Rangers are now set to be without midfield dynamo Joey Barton. The highly-strung 29-year-old had his appeal for wrongful dismissal rejected by the FA, for an attempted headbutt on Norwich’s Bradley Johnson, and will now serve a three-match domestic ban, which beings immediately with his side’s trip to the MK Dons in the Third Round of the FA Cup.
To be honest, the loss of Joey Barton isn’t massive. He hasn’t contributed for the Loftus Road outfit like many felt he would when he signed from Newcastle on a free transfer in the summer. But his presence alone may have put the frighteners on MK Dons, who are going great guns at the moment and will now take a lot of heart from the absence of the aforementioned.
MK sit prominently in League One, in fourth, having won seven and lost only once in nine league games. They’ve also notched a fair amount of goals during this run too, netting three on Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve, away at Leyton Orient and Brentford respectively.
Meanwhile, at home, where they’ve been beaten just once all season (W6 D5 L1), Karl Robinson’s charges have averaged two goals per game. Only Charlton have plundered more goals in League One than the Dons (48 in 24 games), while Preston are the only side to have gone to the Stadium:MK and left with maximum points.
It could also be worth making a note of how MK Dons fared when they last pitted themselves against Premier League opposition? They went and put four past Norwich in a 4-0 whitewash at Carrow Road back in August, in the Second Round of the League Cup. Those same Canaries went and earned a 2-1 success at Loftus Road last Monday. Make of that what you will.
By no means an easy tie, this, for top flight Rangers. Their current form is woeful, but manager Neil Warnock posses far more quality in his ranks than his opposite number and that could prove decisive. Nevertheless, I reckon the lower league outfit will get the very best out of QPR, who will need to be just that on Saturday, at their very best, if they’re to avoid a replay, or worse; elimination!
Recommended Bet: Both Teams to Score @ 7/10 with bWin
Final score: 1:1
January 6th, 2012 / Matt - Category:
FA Cup Tips
Dagenham & Redbridge V Millwall
Saturday, 7 January 2012 – 13:00 GMT
FA Cup, Third Round
No fewer than 48 positions separate Dagenham in League Two from Millwall of the Championship – but will the apparent gulf show at Victoria Road? If the match goes according to recent form, probably not. As while The Daggers sit precariously above the relegation zone in the third tie of English Football, their form over the festive period trumps that of Millwall.
An impressive draw earned away promotion-chasing Southend on Monday maintained Dagenham’s eye-catching run, having now gone four unbeaten with two wins – both at home, against Barnet (3-0) and play-off occupants Gillingham (2-1) – and two draws, away at high-flyers Burton (1-1) and Southend (1-1). Therefore confidence should be at an all-time high, with John Still’s men having struggled for the most part this term down in the lower reaches of the division.
Contrastingly, Millwall are in the midst of a retched spell of form that has seen them win just two of their last ten matches – both of which were at home. Monday’s reverse at Bristol City was their second on the spin, and their third consecutive away from home. In fact, The Lions have lost an alarming number of games on their travels this season – nine in total, including a 5-0 loss to Wolves in the League Cup – and are fast approaching eight hours without an away goal.
Millwall are a shade of odds-on to make their superior status tell against Dagenham, but The Lions don’t pack the same roar on the road as they do at The Den and do look mighty exposed on paper.
A Dagenham win is 17/5 (VictorChandler), while the draw is available at 5/2 with several firms. I’m inclined to combine the both. PaddyPower go EVENS on Dagenham ‘Double Chance’, meaning we’re winners so long as Millwall continue their dismal away form and don’t prevail at Victoria Road.
Recommended Bet: Dagenham & Redbridge ‘Double Chance’ (So a home win or draw) @ EVENS with PaddyPower
Final score: 0:0
December 13th, 2010 / Matt - Category:
FA Cup Tips
Lincoln City V Hereford United
Tuesday, 14th December – 19:45 (GMT)
The draw for the Third Round wasn’t so kind on League Two duo Lincoln City and Hereford United who know the winner of their contest on Tuesday night will only be rewarded with another meeting with a fellow League Two compatriot in that of a trip to Wycombe Wanderers
It has been a tough year for Lincoln, who fended off the threat of relegation last season by the skin of their teeth and have continued in very much the same vein this season. Level on points with second from bottom Barnet, Lincoln find themselves hovering directly above the relegation zone and have only Barnet’s inferior goal difference to save them from an unpleasant spell inside the bottom two. At the their weekend their best run of league form for the entire season came crashing to an as back-to-wins over Morecambe and, somewhat ironically, Hereford, lift Lincoln fans into the clouds before a whopping 5-0 home defeat to Bury brought them straight back down to earth again with a bang.
However, that stonking great loss came over two weeks ago, with each of their following fixtures, whether that be league or in the cup, being postponed since so they should be fresher for it even though mentally they haven’t yet had the opportunity to make amends.
It’s difficult to imagine a team in more woe than Lincoln, who earlier in the season seen former manager Chris Sutton walk out on them because of the team’s worrying form under his tenure in 2010, but there is a team: Hereford United. The Bulls, who are five points worse off in the league than their Second Round rivals and currently find themselves rooted to the bottom of the table, have stretched their legs with some competitive action of late, unlike Lincoln, but will have wished they hadn’t bothered. Saturday’s 1-0 loss away to Bradford was their third on the spin in the league and now leaves the club five points adrift of safety with many above them holding games in hand as well.
On the plus side, Hereford have at least enjoyed more scoring fortune on their travels this season although that is mainly down to two flash in the pan results away to fellow struggler’s Northampton Town and Stockport Country, whom they beat 4-3 and 5-0 respectively. If you were to ignore those two results then Hereford have only conjured three away goals in eight outings as well as failing to score in half of their away league fixtures altogether (5/10).
In order to make it this far in the competition, Lincoln needed to ensure they didn’t slip on a potential banana skin in the form of Nuneaton Town, a tie in which they won 1-0, while Hereford leathered small-timers Hythe Town 5-1 at Edgar Street.
Betting Assessment: I think it would be far to say that punters won’t exactly he head-over-heels about the prospect of betting on this match, with neither side boasting strong credentials for the win and the pair seriously struggling near the foot of the football league. However, Lincoln have the mental edge heading into Tuesday’s encounter having beaten The Bulls 3-1 earlier in the season at Sincil Bank 3-1, while they should have won the this Second Round clash outright over in Hereford had it not been for Mathieu Manset’s late equaliser, with the match ending in a 2-2 draw. However Lincoln have now scored five against Hereford and considering The Bulls have been dire in front of goal on the road this season, it would seem all the arrows are pointing in Lincoln’s direction.
Lincoln City to WIN – 2.10 Bet365
Disclaimer: With our FA Cup Second Round selections, we’re honest enough to say that we don’t have the world of confidence in our final picks. Because of this, we have tried to provide you with all the raw information needed in order for you to make your own honest assessment, with the Match Odds provided as well at the very bottom of the article. We wish you ll the best should you decide to have a bet on the matches in question; considering it’s the FA Cup, you may well need some.
Lincoln City – 2.10 Bet365
Draw – 3.40 Boylesports
Hereford United – 3.75 StanJames
December 7th, 2010 / Matt - Category:
FA Cup Tips
After the pair couldn’t be separated at the Broadfield Stadium in West Sussex, a replay is needed to decide the fate of these two sides as League One meets Conference National for the second time in a fortnight only viewers and fans alike are guaranteed an outcome second time around, with extra-time and penalties to fall back should the pair remain deadlocked come the full-time whistle.
Although Crawly boasted the advantage of playing at home first time out, the Conference side didn’t make the most of it and come the end were more than a little fortunate to snatch the draw. The visitors that day, Swindon, were by far and away the better team, more adventurous with their play and certainly a lot more dangerous in the final third of the pitch. Charlie Austin, who else, had opened the scoring for Swindon with his ninth goal of the season, however his effort was to be cancelled out by Crawley’s most prolific asset in Matt Tubbs, who scored his fifteenth goal of the season.
We had a sneaky suspicion that the tie might boil down to which of the pair’s respective striking assets would out shone the other, however the first encounter seen both players tweak their radars and boost their confidence levels with a goal-a-piece.
On the basis of Crawley under performing in the first encounter, surely common sense would prevail and Swindon should go on and clinch the tie now that they have home advantage to utilise. The Robins are a far better outfit at home according to their record in League One – winning 5 at the County Ground as opposed to the solitary 1 on their travels. Add into the equation the factors that they were the better team in the previous match and that their squad and starting XI is used to playing teams and players of better quality, of League One quality, on a weekly basis and we should have a fairly straightforward outcome. But this is the FA Cup, the competition which often rewards the brave and favours the less-fancied.
Because of the tradition of the FA Cup and what it means to all of the smaller clubs competing, bookies have run scared. Swindon are currently a very attractive price at the minute, a League One outfit up against a promising Conference side. But they’re probably right you know in that Tuesday night’s match will be no forgone conclusion even though we’re inclined to favour Danny Wilson’s Robins. The conditions will be bitterly cold; freezing, the majority of the pressure is now on Swindon now that they’re hosts while Crawley Town, while they may have a Conference tag hanging over them, are by no means mugs and proved that just under two weeks ago when grounding out a perhaps not thoroughly deserved 1-1 draw.
With home advantage Swindon are expected to take the game to Crawley, but this Crawley side are an accomplished outfit on the road having won just as many games on their travels domestically this season, not to mention the fact they’ve had to ground out successive winning results on the road in the earlier rounds. Of the 12 victories they’ve notched up down in the Conference, 6 of those were on the road while only two goals less have been scored by Crawley on their travels (League). If anything, the pitch should be better and Crawley will actually thrive off their underdog status, as so many sides of similar stature tend to do.
It’s difficult to argue with Swindon being the better of the two teams in terms of personnel, experience even, but this Crawley side has a lovely blend of old and young in their ranks, and if little guys can avoid pre-match nerves and fail to be intimidated by the occasion and overwhelmed by the cold conditions, we reckon a shock could very well be on the cards. However, we wouldn’t be all that comfortable opposing Swindon and instead reckon the odds on Both Teams Scoring are worth snapping up! It should be a thoroughly entertaining game between two sides who won’t be too worried about going the distance seeing as their matches over Christmas are likely to fall victim to the weather – Crawley’s weekend match with Wrxham was called off which could work in their favour as now they’ll be the fresher sets of legs.
Both Teams to Score – 1.80 SkyBet
Swindon Town – 1.80 Coral
Draw – 3.60 VCbet
Crawley Town – 5.00 Bet365
To Score at Anytime (Does not include Extra-Time and Penalties):
Charlie Austin (Swindon) – 2.20 Coral
Matt Tubbs (Crawley) – 3.50 Coral
November 27th, 2010 / Matt - Category:
FA Cup Tips
Just a couple of seasons ago, this Second Round clash between Charlton Athletic and Luton Town was a Championship fixture. The Addicks were even a Premiership club at one stage, although you’d be forgiven for forgetting that small fact considering their plight from grace, but Luton’s decline has been even more emphatic, with their financial wreck causing the club to slide down the pecking order before finally finding some stable ground in the Conference. So, I suppose you could say this is a match between the Has-been’s?
Both sides failed in their objective to gain promotion from their respective divisions last season, so we’re getting a League One versus Conference National clash at The Valley. However, the pair of them are well on course to complete their targets this season, so the fans inside the Valley should be treated to an entertaining affair between two sides full of confidence and in good knick.
The hosts are unbeaten in their previous six League One encounters, with only a frustrating 1-1 draw with Bristol Rovers at home last Saturday blemishing what would otherwise be an immaculate run of league form heading into Saturday’s encounter with a Luton side who struggled to see off small-timers Corby. However, The Hatters also arrive in scintillating form, having won their last three competitive fixtures all in a comprehensive manner; seeing to Corby Town in their First Round reply 4-2 at Kenilworth Road, ousting Altrincham 1-0 on the road earlier in the month while last Saturday they thumped Histon 5-1.
Just as Luton were unconvincing first time out against Corby in the previous round, needing an emphatic 4-2 victory at home in the replay to seal their place in the next round, Charlton were just as disappointing. Barnet have been the whipping boys in League Two this season, yet Charlton could only conjure one goal over two matches, cementing their spot in the Second Round via a nervy 1-0 win at home. But this is the FA Cup and Charlton manager Phil Parkinson will be well aware that it doesn’t matter how you win this early encounters, as no-one remembers the results so long as you’re not the ones on the receiving end of a shocker, just so long as you get yourself in the draw for the next round.
So it’s job done so far for both parties, but they’ll both know Saturday’s encounter will require vast amounts of improvements in their respective games if they’re to be the ones celebrating progression into the third round, the stage where the competition really does begin to heat up and get exciting. And with the form both sides are enjoying, with Charlton unstoppable in League One at present and scored goals for fun, racking up seventeen in their last six league matches, while Luton have lost just one of their previous five away matches in the Conference, albeit against lesser opposition.
With the confidence both sides are in, with neither having problems scoring this season, Both Teams Scoring should be a formality. The trick to scoring is self-belief, and the pair have an abundance of this very quality heading into Saturday’s encounter. The Addicks have scored in all but one of their opening nine home matches in League One, with only league leaders Brighton shutting out second-placed Charlton at The Valley, while Luton have been equally impressive on the road in the Conference, scoring in eight of their eleven away encounters and boast the most prolific scoring record in the entire division.
Dare we say it, but we could be in for a cracker here in a contest between two sides who won’t hold back in the slightest in their quests to reach the Third Round, although we wouldn’t discourage anyone from having a flirt with Luton’s HUGE odds. For Charlton, the thought of playing a Premier League side won’t carry as much excitement or novelty as it would for Luton, who are eager to bring the good times back to the club and their loyal supporters.
Both Teams to Score – 1.80 totesport
Over 2.5 Goals – 1.63 Bet365
Luton Town to WIN – 7.00 Bet365
Charlton Athletic – 1.53 SkyBet
Draw – 4.20 WilliamHill
Luton Town – 7.00 Bet365
November 5th, 2010 / Matt - Category:
FA Cup Tips
Leg 1: Charlton Athletic to BEAT Barnet (1.80 Ladbrokes)
Leg 2: Bury to BEAT Exeter City (2.50 totesport)
Leg 3: Forest Green to BEAT Northampton Town (3.75 WilliamHill)
Leg 4: Rushden & Diamonds to BEAT Yeovil Town (2.88 StanJames)
As weird as it sounds, although I’m not the only one who has this problem, but there are a number of teams who simply slip off my radar, just go completely unnoticed, and it’s not until I have a quick gander through the league tables, results and statistics that I realise a side is doing well without my knowledge. IN this instance, Charlton Athletic are that side. A few rocky patches aside, Charlton are enjoying a decent League One campaign which has shown plenty of promise of a possible promotion back to the Championship, where they came within a semi-final defeat in the play-off’s last season of making an immediate return.
Phil Parkinson is still the manager and although he has had to let several of last season’s stars leave for pastures new, Nicky Bailey and Jonjo Shelvey among them, he still has a decent group of players under his wing, strong enough to ensure they don’t slip up away to bottom of the football league Barnet, who are 24th in the League Two table and are quickly becoming everyone’s favourites for the drop, not that they were expected to be a million miles away beforehand. The Bees’ form is littered with losses, 9 in 15 overall, while they’ve lost four of their last five. Even at home their form has been patchy and nowhere the standard needed to save their bacon. Victories over Macclesfield, Hereford and Cheltenham, all at home, are all Barnet have to shout about over sides who were tipped to go down at the start of the season. They conceded a tonne of goals and will struggle to match-up with League One’s high-flying Addicks.
I’m sensing a shock in this one as League One Exeter City, who’s main objective this season is merely to avoid relegation back down to League Two where their FA Cup first round opponents Bury reside. However, while on paper the Gremlins may look appealing at the odds, it is Bury who catch the eye, the side full of confidence after an impressive opening to the season which sees them kick-off their FA Cup adventure third in League Two.
With Exeter arriving at Gigg Lane on the back of three successive league defeats, and just three points above the relegation zone, Bury will sniff out an opening here, despite losing 1-0 at home to Bradford in midweek. Even though their record away from home is far better than at Gigg Lane – Home: W3 D3 L2 Away: W5 D1 L1 – Bury remain difficult to beat at home and with a capacity crowd behind them, and in the knowledge that they don’t tend to concede too many goals on home soil – just three in their last five home matches including two clean sheets – we reckon Bury are a cracking bet at the odds.
The beauty of the FA Cup is it allows the smaller sides to dare to dream, while it also gives those struggling in their domestic leagues the opportunity to take a break from their strife’s and to allow the magic of the FA Cup to sweep them off their feet. One team in particular eager to embrace the romance of the FA Cup is second from bottom in the Conference Forest Green, who are aiming to reach the third round of the competition, where the big guns enter the fray, for the third year in a row but will first need to see off this year’s Carling Cup giant-killers Northampton Town in the first round.
While Forest Green may look a terrible bet on paper, because of their dismal positioning in the Conference National table, Northampton’s current situation in League Two isn’t exactly bright either. In fact, the Cobblers find themselves languishing down in 19th and have only their brief but exciting run in the Carling Cup in hide under in a campaign which should have been about a strong promotion but has instead focused around getting away from the relegation zone. However, their form has hit an upward curve lately having won their last two league fixtures, but their form on the road this season has been drastic – W1 D2 L5 – and in spite of their most recent success occurring on the road, it was only a 2-0 victory over struggling Lincoln City, who have only recently instilled a new manager. Combine Northampton’s terrible away form with Forest Green’s biggest crowd attendance of the season this Saturday and you have the raw materials for one of the rounds biggest upsets.
High-flying Conference outfit meets League One relegation candidates in yet another FA Cup first round fixture with the potential to spring a surprise. Rushden & Diamonds are the hosts and will look to take full advantage of their recent rich vein in form which has seen them race up the Conference table following five successive wins. Yeovil Town meanwhile will arrive at Nene Park on the back of a win-less league run of matches which has seen them lose three of their last four, two of which were away outings.
It would be wrong of us not to mention that Yeovil’s recent away outings have been at difficult venues – MK Dons and Brighton – but overall their away record this season in League Two is very poor having lost five of their opening eight away encounters. This drought of theirs won’t have done their confidence levels any good and in the FA Cup, low morale so often contributes to many a big teams downfall, and Yeovil, because of their League One status, are a big team in the early rounds. They were despatched by Conference opposition in last year’s competition as well, losing at Oxford, and haven’t progressed further than the first round in four previous attempts. Whereas Rushden lost out to Brighton last season in the second round despite a valiant effort at the Withdean, home to Brighton Hove & Albion. When the Diamonds do manage to make the competition proper, they tend to make the second round before bowing out. The hosts are a cracking punt at the odds to dump a team who have never quite taken the FA Cup to their hearts.