I’d originally planned to concentrate on the FA Cup ties involving Millwall and Oxford United, but having seen this weekend’s league games I’ve had to change my mind. Let’s get the cup out the way first though: both of the League One survivors play at 3:00pm tomorrow and unfortunately neither tie is being broadcast on TV in Great Britain.
Middlesbrough v Oxford United
First meeting in the FA Cup – last meeting on Teeside was back in April 1992 and the last time Oxford won at Middlesbrough was New Year’s Day 1985. This is United’s first game in the Fifth Round since 1993/94 – although they were playing in the second tier when Chelsea knocked them out that season. They last time they reached the last eight was way back in 1964, when they beat Blackburn 3-1 in the Fifth Round before losing to eventual runners up Preston.
United have been in fine form away from home recently, having won four of their last five road trips. Former Sheffield Wednesday striker Chris McGuire and Rob Hall – who arrived on a free transfer from Bolton after a cameo role at MK Dons last season – have scored two goals each in that run but it’s arguably Oxford’s defence that is the key to this game.
Millwall v Leicester City
This game couldn’t have come at a better time for the hosts and a worse time for Leicester, who may very well be distracted by the prospect of a Champions League game next week. The Lions have only lost once in their last ten League One games at the New Den and have kept four clean sheets in the last six; then there’s Millwall’s recent record in the competition. In half of the last six seasons they’ve reached this stage and were semi finalists four years ago.
All four of their previous meetings in the FA Cup have been in South London and Millwall have won the last two of those games, although their last encounter in the competition was 26 years ago – when both sides were in the old Division 2 and Millwall finished the season 22 points and 17 places higher than Leicester.
Here are the important games in the league:
Sheffield United v Scunthorpe United
Would have been game of the week on any other weekend, but it’s clash between the current top two that should give some support to my theory that the Blades have had an easy schedule at home: after this one, they still have to entertain Bradford, Bolton and Millwall. Since the turn of the century, the clubs have met seven times at Bramall Lane and the hosts have only won three of those matches.
Bradford City v Bolton Wanderers
City remain unbeaten at home this season, but have only won three of their last ten at Valley Parade and could easily fall out of the top six if that run of form continues tomorrow. This is the first time the clubs have met in a league game in Yorkshire since August 1998; City haven’t beaten Wanderers at home since April 1993, but Bolton haven’t won an away game since the end of November and it wouldn’t come as huge surprise if this ended all square.
Result: 2-2, but Bradford were 2-0 up after 16 minutes and this has to be seen as another point lost by the hosts.
At the bottom, neither Chesterfield nor Coventry will be able to escape the bottom four this weekend, but if Oldham can continue their recent good form with a win over Swindon they should be well on their way to preserving their status in League One. Only four points separate Chesterfield and Bury, but if the Spirerites can exploit Bury’s diabolical away record that margin will be reduced to a point.
Update: Bury won at Chesterfield and Oldham picked up a useful point at Swindon.
I’ll update this post over the weekend, otherwise I’ll see you next Friday.
Update: Millwall did it again with a 1-0 win over Leicester and will face Spurs in the quarter finals. Oxford were unlucky not to get anything at Middlesbrough: despite overturning a 2-0 deficit, they were beaten by a goal five minutes from time.