Let’s be honest, the best that any team from League One can hope for is to reach the semi finals of the FA Cup.
However, there are usually a few decent opportunities to knock out a team from either the Premier League or The Championship – but there can also be problems if one of the clubs from lower down fancies it on the day.
With that in mind, I’ve picked four ties with fit in either of those categories, plus one that will determine the guaranteed place in the draw for the Fourth Round.
Blackburn Rovers v Hull City
I’ve covered the Hull City angle for Buzzin’ Championship Football but this looks like a good chance for Rovers to progress to the next round. Unbeaten at home since September, Tony Mowbray’s side is within striking distance of the current top two in League One. After taking over at Hull in December, Nigel Adkins (remember him?) has lost three and only recorded one win in the six games where he’s held the reins.
Doncaster Rovers v Rochdale
The only tie between clubs from League One looks like being amongst the most one side games in the Third Round. After a wobbly start back in League One, Rovers are unbeaten in five at the Keepmoat; Dale haven’t won on the road since April and have lost their last five aways. Both previous meetings in the competition have been at Spotland – Rovers won both 2-1 – and although Dale have reached the Fourth Round in three of the last four seasons, Rovers haven’t lasted that long for eight years.
Yeovil Town v Bradford City
First meeting in the FA Cup and the Bantams look stronger on paper – even though they’ve never won at Huish Park. Neither side will want the distraction of a cup run: Bradford are in danger of getting stuck in play off no-man’s land and the Glovers are only seven points from safety at the bottom of League Two. Even if City win tomorrow, don’t expect another run like they had three years ago: before then, they’d not reached the Fourth Round since 2000, when they were in the Premier League!
Shrewsbury Town v West Ham United (Sunday BBC1, 2pm)
By this time you should know that I’m a fan of odd facts, so it won’t be a great surprise to read that Shrewsbury beat West Ham twice in 1979/80 – at the end of the season, the Hammers went on to become the most recent second tier side to win the FA Cup. To put that into some sort of cultural context, when the Shrews won 3-0 at the Old Meadow in December 1979, Pink Floyd were number one with ‘Another Brick In The Wall’ and less than three weeks after your author had seen The Special AKA, The Selecter and Dexy’s Midnight Runners on the 2-Tone tour.
Enough reminiscing. The Shrews might have gone off the boil in the league recently, but they’ve only lost once at the New Meadow this season and have conceded precisely two goals at home since the start of September. That’s a trend that continues into their recent FA Cup form: the last time Shrewsbury conceded a goal in a home game in the competition, it was Jessie Lingard of Manchester United who scored it. Since then: four games, four clean sheets.
West Ham are unbeaten in their last three excursions but have only recorded one win away from the London Stadium in the Premier League this season: since 2011 they’ve won precisely two of their last ten away matches in the FA Cup, which is pretty poor all round. However, that makes sense in a wider context: the Hammers have only got past the Third Round four times in the last decade and that’s why I’m picking this game as the Official Upset Of The Third Round.
The only other televised game is Fleetwood v Leicester (tomorrow, 12:45, BBC1) has the Jamie Vardy Homecoming angle but little else to recommend it: The Cod Army have taken several steps backwards this season and have failed to win any of their last five home games.