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.