Chris O (follow on Twitter: @COakleyFtbl)
Sat 8 March 2008

SPAOTP's Road to Wembley: FA Cup Quarter Finals

If you're a Barnsley supporter, today will see you experiencing distinct emotional highs and lows. On the one hand, you'll see your team have an all-too-rare prestige outing in the FA Cup Quarter Finals against Chelsea, yet on the other hand you'll see them get beaten thanks to the 'SPAOTP Road To Wembley Jinx' (Copyright 2007).

Yes, thanks to us, more teams have gone crashing out of the FA Cup without good reason than ever before, and the last round was no different. You'll remember our featured team was Liverpool, no less, as they faced a Barnsley team at Anfield that everyone thought would be the proverbial lambs heading for the slaughter.

How they overlooked SPAOTP's ability to scupper the team we follow on any given FA Cup weekend. Yes, Barnsley are the team we're with this weekend and what a match it'll be for them today. Chelsea will be huge favourites to win, of course, but The Tykes have put together a good run in the Cup this season.

Already falling foul of Simon Davey's men are Blackpool (knocked out in Round 3 by two goals to one), Southend (losing 1-0 on their own ground) and of course Rafa's Reds who lost by the odd goal in three a few week's ago.

So, are Barnsley a force to be reckoned with in the League too? Well so far, not really. They're currently 16th of the 24 teams in The Championship and haven't won a league match since February 9th. It's one of only two wins they've had since December 4th 2007 and they now run the very real risk of dropping to 21st in the table if the next five teams below them were all to win today.

All very strange, then, that they should be capable of beating Liverpool, but that shows the power of the FA Cup to make even the smallest teams punch above their weight. And who do they have in their squad that could make their mark today?

Well their top scorer so far in 2007/08 is Brian Howard, formerly of Swindon Town, who's so far bagged 10 goals in the league and one in the Cup - the decisive second against Liverpool. Then there's Hungarian Istvan Ferenczi and Jonathan Macken, twice voted Preston's Player of the Year. They've both scored five each in total this season and are as likely as anyone to get on the scoresheet today.

So historically speaking, can Barnsley do it today? Well they've not gone beyond the Third Round in the last few seasons, but Barnsley did knock Chelsea out at the Third Round stage back in 1989. The Barnsley side then featured John Beresford who later went on to gain a higher profile at Newcastle United and were managed by Leeds United legend Allan Clarke. The Chelsea side weren't bad either, putting out a line-up featuring Kerry Dixon, Gordon Durie and Graham Roberts. OK, so they weren't a patch on Roman Abramovich's band of international all-stars, but they were no pushovers either.

All in all, we're inclined to think the win will go to Chelsea today, but only with our logical heads on. If we used our hearts instead, we'd have to go for the romantic upset that SPAOTP have caused on more than one occasion in the FA Cup this season. We say 'Go Barnsley' - show the Blues how to do it! There's a place waiting in a Wembley semi-final if you do...

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