FA Cup 2008/09: Third Round Preview
If it's January, it must be the Third Round of the FA Cup and the starting point for many a dream of reaching that Wembley Final (at least if you support a team from the top two flights of English and Welsh football).
The first match of the round - Tottenham
- has already taken place tonight (Spurs winning 3-1), but 28 more follow tomorrow with another two taking place on Sunday and one final match bringing up the rear on Monday.
So what can we expect and which are the games to look out for? Here's our summary of what's what in this year's Third Round...
Current holders Portsmouth
might just find themselves on the receiving end of an upset as they face a Bristol City
side that are looking for a third straight win. To be honest, The Robins have been on a pretty poor run of their own since early November, but their last two games have seen them pointing back in the right direction again. With Portsmouth without a win in their last seven outings, who wouldn't bet against Gary Johnson's men at least forcing a replay tomorrow?
In rather more confident mood will be Arsenal
as they play host to Plymouth Argyle
at the Emirates Stadium. This will be a repeat of the 1987 Fourth Round tie which George Graham's side won 6-1 and though the scoreline tomorrow will be less one-sided, Arsenal should come through it unscathed. That said, Burnley dumped them out of the Carling Cup this time last month, so you never know...
The Third Round has, if nothing else, dined out on the potential for 'David v Goliath' ties over the years, and fortunately this season's no different. Top of the Shop
is surely the game between non-league Histon
and Swansea City
. The Swans, you'll remember, rode their luck last season when they limped through a gruelling Second Round match against Horsham only to go out in a second successive replay against Havant and Waterlooville.
This year they'll be feeling a little uneasy again as they travel to the team currently second in the Football Conference. Rather curiously, Swansea have drawn all of their last eight matches stretching back to November 25th. Maybe this is the one where the sequence will be broken, but we'd rather not say which way if it's all the same with you...Derby
, on the other hand, travel to Forest Green Rovers
, sitting near the other end of the Football Conference table from Histon. This is the furthest Forest Green have ever gone in the FA Cup, and we hope they go a bit further still - if only so we get to see a bit more of their Barcelona rip-off badge which truly has a comedy value all of its own.
Two places above FGR in the Conference table are Barrow
who travel to Middlesbrough
tomorrow in an attempt to go one better than their only Third Round finish in 1991. They were knocked out 1-0 by Bolton that year and you have to say the challenge they face tomorrow looks even harder for them, but they'll take solace from their win over Brentford they had in the last round.
If you're looking for a dead-cert when it comes to non-league teams getting through to the Fourth Round, check out the match between Kettering Town
and Eastwood Town
. Kettering admirably survived an attempt at management by Paul Gascoigne in 2005 and have since gone from strength to strength. This season, they've already disposed of Lincoln and Notts County in the Cup and now have to be just as clinical against their opponents who have already claimed Wycombe Wanderers as a scalp from the Second Round.
Further up the league ladder there's a re-run of the 1976 FA Cup Final as Southampton
welcome Manchester United
to The Dell. There'll be no Lawrie McMenemy this time around, which always makes us a bit sad as we love an excuse to re-run those old Barbican adverts. Anyway, Southampton are in a bad way these days and must be hoping there's a Bobby Stokes lurking somewhere in the squad that can come up trumps tomorrow. If nothing else it would certainly take their mind off a doom-laden Championship campaign.
For a Tie of the Round
, though, how about Hull
at home to Newcastle
? Both teams are desperate to be treated seriously as quality top-flight teams (albeit for different reasons) and for The Tigers it'll be a chance to get past their opening FA Cup tie for only the second time in seven seasons. Newcastle themselves haven't won any silverware since they nabbed the Fairs Cup in 1969 so both teams will surely be going all guns blazing tomorrow when the ref gets things underway at the KC.
Best of luck to you this weekend if your team's still involved in the Cup, and here's to a few days packed with great football and goals galore too.
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