Mullins welcomes distraction away from poor league form
AFC Sudbury 8.27/1 v Colchester United 1.42/5; the draw 6.05/1
Friday November 5 19.55 kickoff
Live on BBC2,
There are plenty of reasons why Colchester United will make the 40-minute trip up the road to their Suffolk hosts, who last made the FA Cup first round in 2000-01, with a sense of trepidation. Fireworks night may not go their way.
Since winning 6-2 at Wealdstone in 2015, they have lost all their FA Cup first round matches, including to non-league Oxford City and Marine, last year on penalties.
Worse, Friday FA Cup nights haven’t proven great for some League Two sides away at lower opposition, including Exeter City and Notts County.
U’s boss Hayden Mullins is under enough pressure from those supporters who think under him the only way is down, from their precarious 17th position in League Two. However, he says the squad are buzzing to meet their non-league neighbours in front of the TV cameras. The FA Cup is a “welcome distraction” for a team which has drawn seven blanks in front of goal and only won three times in the league.
Sudbury would be top of the Isthmian League North if they won all their games in hand. They beat Dartford, leaders of the National League South, in the previous round. They have cup pedigree. From 2003-05 they reached the FA Vase final three seasons running, losing each time.
If Freddie Sears up front and Tom Eastman at the back, two of Colchester’s experienced players, are on their game and show their leadership, the visitors should have no qualms. But the FA Cup doesn’t work like that. And Lewis O’Malley, who scored against Dartford, won’t be thinking that way. Shane Temple and Reece Harris also scored that day, but a professional keeper would have stopped the latter’s free kick.
I quite fancy the “home or draw” double chance option, priced at 3.613/5.
Whing and a prayer could bring goals at Banbury
Banbury 7.06/1 v AFC Barrow 1.51/2; the draw 6.05/1
Saturday November 6, 17.15 kickoff
Live on ITV4
Local sponsors are falling over themselves to support Banbury, as you might expect, especially with TV crews in sight. Can management duo Andy Whing and his former Oxford United team-mate James Constable deliver?
The Southern League Premier side (third) beat National League South team Bath City to get this far, which is for the second season running. They lost to Canvey Island at this stage last year.
The Puritans are unbeaten this season – no mean feat at nearly 20 games – and are clearly on the up. If you are looking for pedigree, the son of ex-Liberia international Christopher Wreh, also called Chris, is among their strikers. Alongside him is Jack Stevens, 20, continuing the “former Oxford United” connections and Henry Landers who, like Wreh, has seven league goals this season.
Barrow boss Mark Copper, dour faced at the best of times, won’t be impressed if they slip up. In fact, he hasn’t been as his League Two mid-table side have dropped points through the season.
Cooper claimed after defeat to Rochdale last week that they have conceded “one good goal – the rest have been sloppy”. In total they have let in 20 league goals. What a boring game football would be if teams could all cut out sloppy goals!
The problem for the Bluebirds has been keeping clean sheets: just three this season and conceding four times every three games on average.
They have also scored in all but two games, Josh Gordon (3) who nabbed a last minute equaliser at Walsall, Ollie Banks (6) and Robbie Gotts (2) being their main goal getters. There is no value in betting on the away win. The visitors should, at least, be able to collude with the hosts (who have a goal difference of +16 from 11 league games) to give us over 3.5 goals at 2.166/5.
Saturday 15:00 kickoffs
Swindon’s away form could be took much for Crewe
Swindon’s away record is second to none in League Two, with six wins, two draws and no defeat. A trip to League One strugglers Crewe will therefore hold no fears for Ben Garner and his troops who have risen from the mess of the summer to sit proudly in the top six of their division.
They might feel they should be underdogs, and a win price of 3.211/5 suggests that’s what the layers think. I feel they have made a mistake. There is only a fine line between the top of League Two and the foot of League One, especially when the hosts have just eight points from the season.
Tyreece Simpson, Jack Payne and Harry McKirdy will be in confident mood having all scored in recent weeks. The Robins have averaged two goals per game in the past six. A shop window this is. The manager has no need to send out a weakened team with the excuse he wants to “concentrate on the league”. Not winning would leave a blank Saturday at the second round stage.
So what’s to lose?
“Everything” has to be the answer Alex boss Dave Artell might want to utter. Boardrooms don’t tolerate being bottom for too long, even for managers who earned them promotion. Artell hinted after the 4-1 defeat to MK Dons that his players gave the sense the loss was inevitable, against a top seven side. He won’t accept it. Chris Long scored his first goal for the club. Chris Porter is now one short of 50 goals for the club, having arrived in 2017. He might have to wait for another time to reach his 50th.
Rowberry could start his own FA Cup legacy
This time last year, Morecambe overcame a tricky trip to Maldon & Tiptree and then went on to beat Solihull Moors, with Cole Stockton bandaged around his head in one of those memorable gung-ho memorable cup images.
It was a remarkable season for the Shrimps, who ended up promoted after beating Newport in the League Two play-off final, only for manager Derek Adams to up and leave straight away for Bradford City.
Several of the players remain, including striker Stockton who has 11 goals already at the higher level, well on the way to matching his tally of 13 for the whole of last season. Midfielder Adam Phillips is equally proficient, with five (last season eight).
The Lancashire side might not be setting the division alight, sitting 20th, but Stephen Robinson’s side are doing OK for a side which has never played at this level. They have, however, conceded the highest number of goals in League One this season – 30 from 16 games – which would give any side in a division below them a notion that they could defeat the hosts.
Can the Exiles conjure revenge for that play-off final defeat? Do enough of the players who remain know enough about that history to make a deal of it? Or of Newport’s fantastic cup tradition of the past few years, under Michael Flynn’s leadership? New manager James Rowberry wasn’t part of it and faces the weight of expectation.
He’s got an unbeaten record to defend though – albeit two games, having watched the first. Last time out they banged five past Stevenage, taking their tally in four games to 12, or 15 in six matches.
Dom Telford (nine goals in seven starts and one substitute appearance) and Courtney Baker-Richardson, who has four from seven starts, will be eager to make their own mark in the FA Cup, hearing tales of playing at great stadiums from their colleagues. County’s six-game unbeaten run might just give them the momentum to win.