GOTW: Luton v Peterborough

Last weekend’s game of the week was an eventful one…

Chris Maguire’s red card was overturned after the Netflix crew making a documentary about Sunderland was able to provide evidence that the punishment was unnecessary. So that’s alright then.

The outcome didn’t have that much bearing on the top of the table – Charlton and Peterborough both won, but the biggest surprise was Portsmouth‘s home defeat by Blackpool. Pompey’s lead is now down to four points.

At the bottom it was more or less a case of ‘as you were’ although Wimbledon cannot escape the bottom four this weekend, partly due to Plymouth‘s unexpected win at Southend.

On to this weekend’s game of the week.

Luton v Peterborough

‘Oh not them again’ I thought when I flagged this game up, but although this is the fourth time Peterborough have been selected this season, it’s only the second time – including last week – that Luton have been chosen.

The Hatters’ home form has been impressive – they haven’t conceded a goal at Kenilworth Road since Joel Grant managed a consolation strike for Plymouth in mid November! The draw with Barnsley on New Year’s Day ended a seven game wining streak, but despite those stats there’s also a very obvious issue that could undermine their promotion bid: they’ve not won any of the games they’ve played against the teams currently in the top seven. Ten days after this game, they host Portsmouth.

Until their recent resounding win at Accrington, Peterborough hadn’t won on the road since the end of October and have played five games without keeping an away clean sheet. The Posh have only lost one of their three away games against the teams above them – so why are they ten points behind Portsmouth? The simple answer is that their home form hasn’t been up to scratch – they’ve only won three of their eight home games against teams in the bottom half of the table whereas Pompey have won five of the seven games against the same opponents at Fratton Park.

Luton haven’t beaten Peterborough at home since Boxing Day 2000: that  was one of only nine games the Hatters won that season, so it won’t come as any surprise to hear they were relegated at the end of 2000/2001. The most recent meeting between the clubs in Bedfordshire was a year ago, in a goalless draw in the EFL Cup. Speaking of cups, Luton were knocked out of the FA Cup by Sheffield Wednesday earlier this week, meaning that they’ve had a day’s less rest and that factor may have a significant impact on their chances of winning this.

Honourable mentions: Wimbledon v Barnsley and Oxford v Portsmouth. Both matches are hosted by teams in the bottom six who are facing opponents with ambitions of playing in the Championship next season; in fourteen of the sixteen previous games where the teams currently in the bottom six entertained teams currently in the top six, the visitors have won. So it should be plain sailing for the Tykes and Pompey…shouldn’t it?

I’ll be back next week, when the Fourth Round of the FA Cup will be in the spotlight.

GOTW: Sunderland v Luton

Five teams reached the Fourth Round of the FA Cup, with Gillingham making the headlines:

Accrington Stanley and Portsmouth beat Championship opposition. I thought Stanley were always going to give Ipswich a hard time and Norwich clearly have their eyes on the Premier League.

Luton and Shrewsbury will get a second crack of the whip after drawing with Sheffield Wednesday and Stoke respectively – this time Luton will be at home, so well done to those of you who spotted my mistake last week. However the team that’s probably got the best chance of reaching the fifth round is Doncaster, who also beat Championship opposition (Preston) but were then drawn against Oldham. More FA Cup action in a couple of weeks.

As for Burton‘s performance in the first leg of the League Cup semi final, it might be a good idea to just forget bout that. It wasn’t their heaviest ever defeat though.

Back to the league this weekend and here’s a quick recap of the holiday action:

Scunthorpe ‘won’ Christmas as they were only team to win all three games: if the Iron continue in that vein they’ll probably be playing at this level next season. Portsmouth, Doncaster and Sunderland all won five points but Luton were the big losers, picking up just two points and having to find a replacement for manager Nathan Jones, who joined Stoke City after Gary Rowett’s departure. That being said, the Hatters should reach the playoffs at the very least, but the post season is probably as far as Charlton and Barnsley can expect to go. As for Peterborough, they were sixth – the third time in six seasons they’ve been in that position at close of play on December 26th.

At the bottom, Gillingham and Oxford failed to win any points, with Plymouth and Wimbledon still look likely to go down.

This weekend’s game of the week is Sunderland v Luton – since they met at the start of the season at Kenilworth Road, The Black Cats have never been out of the top six and are poised to jump into the automatic promotion spots if any of their rivals make a mistake. On the other hand, Luton were seventeenth but since then they’ve lost only three of their subsequent 24 games which has pushed them to leapfrog Sunderland.

There are a number of factors in this game that make me think a Luton win is unlikely. Not only are Sunderland unbeaten at the Stadium of Light in League One this season, but the Hatters haven’t won at Sunderland since September 1973 (a few months after Sunderland won the FA Cup) and have only drawn four of the sixteen subsequent games on Wearside. Nathan Jones’ departure and a thirteen game unbeaten streak are also factors to take into account; all of Luton’s away defeats this season have been at sides in the top seven.

I’ll also be keeping an eye on Barnsley v Bradford – after a very poor start to the season, the Bantams have really started to turn it round recently and took six points from a possible nine over Christmas. This Yorkshire derby will be a real test for them: Bradford have only won one of their eleven games against the current top ten and although Barnsley are still undefeated at Oakwell, they’ve only drawn with both Plymouth and Wimbledon and this might be a very tricky game for them.

FA Cup Third Round Preview

Happy New Year!

Straight back into action with the Third Round of the FA Cup, which includes a number of tasty looking games – all of which are 3pm kick offs tomorrow unless stated.

Premier League Opposition:

Blackpool v Arsenal (BT Sport 2, 5:30pm Saturday)

Fifth meeting in the FA Cup – Arsenal have only won one of the previous four encounters, but it’s fair to say that Arsenal weren’t a global superpower when they last met in the competition. In 1969/70 both teams were in the First Division and Arsenal lost by the odd goal in five. This is  the first time they’ve met any competition for almost eight years – since Blackpool were in the Premier League.

Burnley v Barnsley (12:30pm, no TV coverage)

This is third encounter in the FA Cup although the last game at Turf Moor was February 1911. Tykes haven’t won at Turf Moor in over a decade. As you might expect, Barnsley’s record in FA Cup ties at Premier League teams isn’t that great, but a goalless draw at Luton on New Year’s Day indicates they won’t be pushovers, even though the Tykes haven’t won at Burnley for over a decade.

Also: Gillingham v Cardiff – Cardiff have other priorities than the FA Cup right now.

Championship Opposition:

I’ve covered the games featuring Accrington Stanley and Oxford on Buzzin’ Championship Football, but Luton v Sheffield Wednesday (12:30pm) and Middlesbrough v Peterborough  shouldn’t be ignored. The Hatters have never played Wednesday in the cup amd the last time The Owls won at Kenilworth Road was almost 30 years ago. It’s almost 44 years since Peterborough last played Middlesbrough in an FA Cup tie; following a goalless draw at London Road,  Posh lost the replay at Ayresome Park. The sides have met four times at Peterborough in the league since the turn of the century but the hosts haven’t won any of those contests.

Honourable mention: Norwich v Portsmouth.

All League One

Fleetwood v AFC Wimbledon

The sole guaranteed place in the Fourth Round and only the tenth meeting between these two, all of which have been since October 2012. Last August Fleetwood lost at home to Wimbledon for the first time in the series but since then the clubs have moved in opposite directions. Whoever wins will equal their best performance in the FA Cup – if you count AFC Wimbledon as a ‘new’ club, neither team has ever got past the third round of the competition.

Additionally, there’s one League game at the top of the table: Charlton v Sunderland would be a game of the week if it hadn’t been this weekend, but as I’ll be returning to EFL action next weekend I’ll take a look  at how that game impacts the top of the table at that point.

League One Christmas Preview 2019

Welcome to the 2019 Christmas Post.

For those of you that are new readers, it’s basically a chance to take a look at what might happen over the second half of the season based on what’s happened between August and December.

Before I go any further, there’s a League One team in the semi finals of the League Cup – here’s how Burton Albion did it:

Last week’s game of the week ended all square:

OK, now for the main course: any of the stats you read from this point on are based on the table follwing the Boxing Day fixtures over the last five seasons. The correlation between that table and the standings at the end of the season is arguably not as strong as it is in the Championship, but the overall trends are quite compelling.

At the top, you need to be in the top three in order to win promotion without taking part in the playoffs, but that’s not a guarantee. 60% of the teams that were in the top three at the end of play on December 26th went on to compete in the Championship at the start of the next season; in three of the last five seasons the team that lead the table on Boxing Day eventually finished in the top two. Although I’m not expecting Portsmouth to crash and burn dramatically, if the lack of goals that affected them in the latter half of last season happens again, they might find themselves in the playoffs.

Of the remainder, all but one qualified for the playoffs but got no further than that – including one club currently in the middle of League Two (Swindon) and one now playing in the National League (Leyton Orient). The exception to both cases: at close of play on December 26th 2014, Gillingham were third in the table, but only won six games in the second half of the season to eventually finish ninth.

As for the playoffs, the last three winners were all outside of the top six at the end of Boxing Day, but two of them were inside the top ten. There’s no need to go over the second half of Barnsley‘s 2015/16 season again – you can read it here – but suffice to say there’s always one team that makes a hash of the second half of the season, just as there’s always one that suddenly finds form and makes a run at the playoffs.

As for who that might be this season, if Fleetwood or Blackpool suddenly find a regular goalscorer or two they could find themselves in the mix.

Now off to the bottom of the table.

At least two of the clubs that have been relegated have been in the bottom six after the Boxing Day games have finished and in three of the last five seasons the club that’s bottom on 26/12 has been relegated – but unlike the Championship, this is not set in stone and there’s usually at least one club that’s had a mediocre start to the campaign turns into a disaster in second half.

As you’d expect, it’s normally teams in the bottom third of the table that are most at risk but there’s almost always an outlier: on Boxing Day 2013, Notts County were in eighth place and just two points outside the playoff positions, but they lost 14 of their next 25 games and were relegated. Five years later and the Magpies are in serious danger of losing their place in the Football League. Chesterfield – who were only below Notts County on goal difference on Boxing Day evening and only just missed out on the playoffs – are now fighting relegation from the National League.

This season there are a number of interesting angles in the battle against relegation: Wimbledon have the most to do, but sacking Neil Ardley was recognition that something needed to change, whereas Bristol Rovers might well regret not parting company with Darrell Clarke earlier than they did. It remains to be seen if Plymouth can pull off the same trick they managed last year (they’re only one point worse off than they were last season) and there are a couple of clubs who were playoff regulars over the last couple of seasons who are now struggling to avoid the drop, which brings me nicely on to the highlights of the holiday programme.

Saturday 22nd December

Portsmouth v Sunderland, Bradford City v Scunthorpe.

At the top of the Championship a few years ago there was a massive Boxing Day game between Cardiff and Crystal Palace that was a season defining game for both sides and – with no offense intended for Luton Town – the clash between the two pre-season favourites for promotion would normally have been game of the week. It’s the first time that they’ve have met in a league game for almost a decade (when both clubs were in the Premier League) and although Sunderland haven’t won at Portsmouth since November 1997, they’ve not lost any of the four games they’ve played this season against the other clubs currently in the top six. On the other hand, Portsmouth have only won half of their four games against the same opponents…

In the last few seasons, Bradford City v Scunthorpe would have been a top of the table clash: both clubs seem to have missed their chances of promotion to the Championship and now seem locked in a battle to avoid relegation. Whether that’s due to playoff hangovers, self destructive off field issues or a combination of both is a discussion for another day, but the facts are that despite winning their last two home games without conceding a goal, Bradford have only won two of their last six home league games against the Iron

Boxing Day

Scunthorpe v Luton, Sunderland v Bradford City, Wimbledon v Plymouth

The bottom of League One is hardly going to be the focal point of the public imagination on Boxing Day, but with three games featuring four of the teams currently in the bottom six, there may could well be some changes at the foot of the table. Spare a thought for the Luton and Plymouth fans making round trips of 320 and 424 miles respectively on Boxing Day. That makes the 109 mile journey from Bradford to Sunderland look like a trip to the corner shop.

So to sum up, if you’ve got time on Boxing Day evening to look at the tables:

  • There’s a good chance two of the top three clubs will be promoted.
  • There’s a good chance that most of the top six teams will at least reach the playoffs, but the actual playoff winners may not be in that group.
  • Two of the three teams that will be relegated will be in the bottom six, with the bottom team most likely to be playing in League Two next season.

I’ll be back at the start of 2019 with the FA Cup third round preview, but that’s me done for the year. Thanks for reading and Merry Christmas 🙂

GOTW: Barnsley v Portsmouth

Portsmouth failed to take the opportunity to take an unassailable lead into the Christmas period when they lost by the odd goal in three at Fratton Park on Tuesday night.

A win would have put them nine points ahead at the top, but as it stands they can’t be overtaken this weekend.

Last weekend Oxford continued their impressive run at Peterborough:

160 miles to the north west, a record crowd at Accrington was left disappointed when the game against Sunderland was abandoned by ref Oliver Langford with 15 minutes left – to be fair, the conditions were atrocious as you can see below:

Barnsley v Portsmouth

The Tykes have now gone three games without a win but still haven’t lost at home at Oakwell this season. They were second in mid October but their defence has let them down recently: no clean sheet in three games and the prospect of three consecutive defeats for the first time since the start of this year.

As I already mentioned, earlier this week Pompey suffered their first defeat since start of October but Portsmouth haven’t lost on the road this season and they’re favourites for automatic promotion. They’ve got a couple of huge games coming up over the next couple of weeks, but before you start thinking that this looks straightforward for the visitors, here’s something to ponder: since 1990, Portsmouth have only won once in 13 visits to Oakwell, with their last victory coming in a 4-1 win in September 2001.

The games at Charlton (against Wimbledon) and Sunderland (where Bristol Rovers are the visitors) could be worth monitoring: it was only a matter of time before Darrell Clarke left and the timing of his departure from the Memorial Ground was probably right. The Gas can’t escape the bottom four this weekend and never won a league game at Roker Park – Rovers have never played at the Stadium of Light – so why prolong the misery?

Next scheduled post is next Friday…and it’s the Christmas Special.

GOTW: Peterborough v Oxford

We return to League One action this weekend.

Surprisingly, there were no shocks to report in last weekend’s FA Cup Second Round.

The Third Round draw took place on Monday evening: although there were 15 clubs from League One in it, no less than ten sides will be playing against Championship opposition at the start of next month; Barnsley and Gillingham will play Premier League opposition (so will Blackpool if they beat Solihull Moors in next week’s replay), which leaves one all League one tie: Fleetwood v AFC Wimbledon.

This weekend, the bottom four will be unchanged no matter what happens but two news managers will start their task of salvaging their the seasons of their new clubs. Former Wrexham boss Sam Ricketts takes over at Shrewsbury and AFC Wimbledon appointed their former player Wally Downes.

Downes already looks like a far more savvy decision; Ricketts had only been at Wrexham since May and as the previous incumbent (John Askey) demonstrated, success in the National League isn’t any guarantee whatsoever that it can be repeated in League One.

There was also a highly significant off-field departure at Bradford City…we’ll see if there’s any change on the field following that decision.

Peterborough v Oxford

Posh have only won two home games since the start of September but their mini wobble appears to be behind them – uncharacteristically, they’ve not scored more than two goals in a league game at London Road since mid August. That may be due to the quality of the opposition they’ve faced at home so far this season: they’ve played five home games against sides that are currently in the top ten and only won one of those fixtures.

Oxford have only lost once since the start of October and although they’ve still not won on the road this season, they’d put together a four game unbeaten streak before losing at Bradford a couple of weeks ago. This game will a test of exactly how much they’ve improved recently – they’re sixth in the current eight game form table – and London Road has been a happy hunting ground for the Us: they’ve only lost one of their last six league games there.

Finally this week – and apologies for the pun – it’s hats off to Luton. This is the Hatters’ best season for over a decade (don’t forget that they were relegated at the end of 2007/08 following a points deduction) but they’re currently on a seven game unbeaten streak and between them Elliott Lee and Jamie Collins have scored more goals in the league this season than both Bradford and Wimbledon have as a team. Admittedly they’ve yet to beat any of the other teams in the top ten and they have a very nasty looking January schedule but if they’re still there or there abouts at the start of February they could well be challenging for an overdue return to the second tier.

Back next weekend…

FA Cup Second Round Preview

The draw for this round was a curate’s egg.

There are seven all League One ties, which guarantee that at least some clubs have a chance of drawing one of the big boys in early January

Having said that, the very best scenario is having just over half of teams will be taking part. Regardless, here are the selected highlights from each type of game…

All League One

Both ties are between teams that have longer term ambitions than an FA Cup run, including three that should be focused on avoiding relegation. Traditional 3:00pm kick offs unless stated.

Peterborough United v Bradford City

First meeting in the Cup. Apart from last season’s battering by Leicester, Posh have a very good home record in recent FA Cup ties: it’s been almost four years since Bradford won at Chelsea, which is the last time they won an away game in the competition. Posh have seem to have overcome their problems at home recently, but the recent draw between the sides at London Road indicates that they may not have it all their own way in this match.

Plymouth Argyle v Oxford United

Two previous meetings in the Cup – the most recent was 28 years ago – and both at Home Park with both teams winning once. Plymouth have only lost half of their last ten home league games and two of their last six FA Cup games at home so I’d give them a slight edge in this one, especially as Oxford have only won two away League One games in the last calendar year.

League One v Clubs Outside The EFL

Interesting that Sky Sports have no rights to televise the FA Cup as both of these games – which represent the toughest and easiest ties of the round in this category – are intriguing for different reasons:

Solihull Moors v Blackpool (This evening, 7:55pm, BBC 2)

As you might have expected, this is the first meeting in any competition. Don’t be too surprised if this one ends all square: Solihull have drawn their last three National League games at Damson Park whilst only Portsmouth have conceded fewer away goals than Blackpool this season. The trouble with the Tangerines is that only Oxford and Wimbledon have scored fewer goals on their travels in the league this season.

Guiseley v Fleetwood Town (Monday, 8pm, BT Sport 1)

First meeting in the Cup. The hosts’ best chance of making it to the Third Round for the first time ever is to beat the Cod Army at Nethermoor, but Fleetwood are an entirely different kettle of fish than Cambridge United were in the previous round. They’ve only lost one of their last seven away FA Cup ties and although their recent away form in the league has been poor, Joey Barton’s side is currently only seven points outside the playoffs. Don’t be too surprised if Fleetwood enjoy a cup run this season if they overcome Guiseley.

There’s one additional televised game: Halifax v Wimbledon (12:30 tomorrow, BT Sport 1). If there are any surprises I’ll update this post ASAP, but otherwise it’s back to normal next weekend.

Weekend Preview 23/24 November

It’s a short post this week as I’ve been far busier than usual.

There won’t be much change at the top this weekend: only Sunderland can overtake Portsmouth this weekend and although both of them are away from home, I’m not expecting any surprise results.

The top five will stay the same regardless, although there’s another group of five directly behind them that are only separated by goal difference.

At the bottom Bradford, Plymouth and Wimbledon will remain in the bottom three even if they win: any of the six teams above them might drop into the bottom four if things don’t go there way. There’s one game between the strugglers this weekend: Oxford travel to Bradford, where they’ve only won once in the last two decades.

A couple of other games of note between potential playoff teams and those trying to avoid the drop: Charlton host Bristol Rovers, whilst Luton travel to Gillingham.

I’ll be back next week with a preview of the Second Round of the FA Cup.

Shrews and Wombles Hunt For New Bosses

No FA Cup surprises last weekend, although Wimbledon’s last minute win at Haringey Borough and Shrewbury’s draw with Salford weren’t enough to save their resepctive managers’ jobs.

Both John Askey (Shrewsbury) and Neil Ardley (Wimbledon) left their positions this week. I’d mentioned both of them at the end of September, but at that point I didn’t think either of them were in the frame for the chop.

Ardley’s departure wasn’t that much of a surprise, but Askey had only been in charge since June. He’d stepped into the middle of an increasingly toxic combination of a playoff hangover and unrealistic expectations from all sides after last season’s unexpected – but ultimately unsuccessful – season.

Seven other teams face replays before the second round in a couple of weeks – including Charlton, who I picked for a draw last week.

Back to the league and as we’re just about to enter the run in to Christmas I thought I’d have a look at the general situation in League One based around what I wrote here.

Five of the top eight currently are teams that were either promoted from League One or relegated from the Championship last season, whereas all of the bottom six played in the League One last season – let’s not forget that Plymouth, Scunthorpe and Shrewsbury all finished in the top ten, with the latter pair appearing in the playoffs.

League One has benefitted from the new arrivals, but as we shall see, the only way to escape league One is to be a lot better than the other teams or considerably worse.

At the top: as it stands, I think it’s any two from Barnsley, Portsmouth and Sunderland for automatic promotion, although I’d say with the latter pair having more firepower they’d probably shade it from the Tykes. I’d not be at all surprised to see Sunderland overtake Portsmouth at the wire to win the divisional title.

Charlton – who could well be the new Scunthorpe – haven’t improved as much as I’d want for a promotion contender but should make the playoffs and if Blackpool can find a consistent goalscorer I’d not be surprised if they make a surprise post season appearance. There’s still a question mark over Peterborough – the defence is suspect and they seem to suffer performance anxiety at home, where they’ve got a negative goal difference. I thought Steve Evans might not be manager at Christmas and although I don’t think that’s likely to happen, it’s pretty clear there’s room for improvement and Darragh MacAnthony is not exactly well known for his patience.

At the bottom, Wimbledon’s predicament shouldn’t have been much of a surprise: Rochdale and Walsall (in particular) have improved this season but the Saddlers haven’t been able to maintain their early season form. I thought Scunthorpe would bounce back but they’ve not and Bradford have been terrible – the reasons why are covered in the latest issue of ‘When Saturday Comes’. As for Plymouth…well, they were in the bottom four this time a year ago, so don’t be too surprised if the lightbulbs come on at Home Park over the next couple of weeks.

Others: I was spot on about Fleetwood (who host Walsall in tomorrow afternoon’s televised game – Sky Sports Football/Main Event 12:30pm kick off), and the major outliers are Bristol Rovers have a much better than average defence but a much worse than average attack – which is why they are where they are.

I’ll be back next week, it’s currently unclear if I’ll be bringing you news of new managers at Shrewsbury and Wimbledon, although former Shrews manager Paul Hurst has been ruled out of contention for his old job…but not necessarily for the position at Wimbledon. He might be a very good fit for the Wombles…

 

 

FA Cup First Round Preview

The clocks have gone back.

It’s getting dark at lunchtime.

Time for the FA Cup!

The best thing about the early rounds is that they’re more fun because there are always a couple of genuine upsets, but to be honest the best that any club from League One can hope for is to get as far as possible: when the posh Sixth Form kids with rich uncles turn up in January the competition is as good as over.

In keeping with previous years, I’ve selected two games from each of the three categories involving League One sides, the most competitive match and the most one sided looking contest. Before I get started though, the televised games are as follows:

Haringey Borough v AFC Wimbledon (this evening BBC2, 7:55pm) and Maidenhead v Portsmouth (tomorrow, BT Sport 1, 12:30pm) – I can’t see either club having any problems with these ties.

All League One

Luton v Wycombe

Eight points and just under 40 miles separate these two, so you could argue this is a derby. Only previous meeting in the competition was in December 2004 at Wycombe, when Luton won 3-0; Wycombe have won three of the last five league games at Kenilworth Road but were beaten 4-1 when the sides last met in Berkshire in September 2016. Neither club has performed particularly well in the FA Cup recently: one fourth round appearance each over the last decade, but the Hatters are due a cup run…

Scunthorpe v Burton

Never played each other in the FA Cup and Burton have never beaten Scunthorpe in any of their five league encounters, but that might change tomorrow. The Iron are on a terrible run of form at the moment (one point from the last eighteen, only one home win since the end of September) whilst although Burton seem to have recovered from an indifferent start to their league campaign, they’ve not won an away FA Cup for almost five years.

League 1 v League 2

Barnsley v Notts County

Considering both clubs have been members of the Football League since the 19th Century, I was actually really surprised to discover that they’ve never played each other in the FA Cup. Even more surprising is that you’ve got to go back to April 1991 to find the last time Barnsley beat Notts at Oakwell, despite having played them six times in the league since then. The Tykes are unbeaten at home this season whilst County are trying to avoid relegation to the National League: this could be over by half time.

Mansfield v Charlton (Sunday 12:45pm)

Another rarity: the clubs have only ever met three times, the most recent game was at Field Mill almost 40 years ago! Mansfield have never beaten Charlton, but they’re currently the draw specialists in League Two and are currently on a ten game home unbeaten run; Charlton reached the sixth round five seasons ago but are another club with a poor away record in the competition, having lost their last four FA Cup ties on the road. I’m expecting a replay.

League 1  v Non League

Aldershot Town v Bradford City

I was beginning to think I’d picked all the rarities, but the sides have met in the cup comparatively recently – Bradford won a replay at Valley Parade after being held at Aldershot in a First Round tie four years ago. I’m not sure that’ll be the case this time round: having lost six straight in the league, the Bantams are in meltdown at the moment and would be advised to concentrate on avoiding relegation. Aldershot have only lost one of their last eight home FA Cup ties and will fancy their chances.

Alfreton Town v Fleetwood (Sunday 12:45pm)

First meeting in any competition; Alfreton reached the first round a couple of seasons ago when they were beaten by Newport following a replay, but Fleetwood might be a different kettle of fish. Or so you’d think – until you realise that the Cod Army have failed to score in four of their last five away league games and as a result have dropped back into mid table over the last couple of months after a promising start. A comfortable win for the visitors might kick start their league campaign, but it might not be that comfortable.

I’ll update this post if there are any surprises, otherwise I’ll be back next Friday when League One won’t have any competition from the Championship due to another international break.