FA Cup 1st Round Predictions Marathon: Part Two

fa cupHere are The Football Lab’s predictions for 13 of the weekend’s FA Cup games. We start at Priestfield…

Gillingham v Brackley Town

Gillingham’s Paul Konchesky scored for West Ham in the 2006 FA Cup Final, but the signs are his career could be coming to an end. With the veteran at left-back and a central midfielder often on the left flank, the Gills lack pace and balance. There may be opportunities for Glenn Walker to cause problems on the wing, having done so in an eye-catching 3-1 win at third-place Halifax last week. In last year’s First Round, the Saints came back from 2-0 down to force a replay with League Two Newport. They have a solid defence, which is more than can be said for Gillingham, who have not kept a clean sheet in any competition since 9th April. Brackley to force a replay. 1-1

Lincoln City v Altrincham

Altrincham have knocked out more Football League clubs (17) than any club that has spent its history in non-league. One of them came against Lincoln in the 88-89 first round, but the Imps are now a non-league club themselves. The board and new manager Danny Cowley have shown intent to change that with ambitious summer signings complimenting target man Matt Rhead, who netted twice at Chester last week. The visitors are in a worrying decline with just one National League North win to their name all season, shipping 42 goals. 4-1

Mansfield v Plymouth

In 1950-51, Mansfield reached the fifth round of the FA Cup and became the first Football League side to play all 23 home games without losing, despite failing to get the only promotion place. There are four available to them this term but after one league win in 10, they have fallen from fifth into the bottom half. The Stags lost 2-0 at Plymouth back in August, falling victim to a Graham Carey wonder-show. If Argyle put the same focus into the FA Cup as they have in the league, it could be early exit for the Nottinghamshire hosts. 0-2

MK Dons v Spennymoor Town

Jason Ainsley has been manager of Spennymoor Town since 2007, so this would have been a clash of two long-serving bosses, had MK Dons not parted with Karl Robinson. There were positive signs in a tight encounter at Bramall Lane last week despite defeat, Darren Potter scoring an impressive equalizer. They must break down a Moors side that has conceded 12 goals in 13 games in their league and kept 20 clean sheets last term. A comfortable win would soothe minds in a turbulent time for MK Dons, but a strong non-league rear-guard including keeper Daniel Lowson and defender Joe Tait stands in their way. 2-0

Northampton v Harrow Borough

Seventh tier Harrow Borough have reached the FA Cup First Round for only the fourth time in their history, the deciding 3-1 win at Margate sparking scenes of delirium. The London visitors are 19th in the seventh tier but they do have a better defensive record than the top two. Steve Baker’s side will need to defend well for long periods at Northampton, who have scored more goals than any League One side bar leaders Scunthorpe. The Cobblers did struggle though against eighth tier opposition in the Second Round last season, a very late four minute triple salvo overturning a two goal deficit against Northwich Victoria. 2-0

Oldham v Doncaster

Oldham were minutes away from the 1994 FA Cup final, but were thwarted by a late equalizer from Manchester United’s Mark Hughes, setting up a replay they lost 4-1. Some fans believe that defeat to be the start of a decline that the club has never since recovered from. Doncaster’s decline, also catalyzed by the questionable management of Paul Dickov, has been shorter-term with two relegations in three years. Donny will be without key striker Andy Williams but Oldham have long struggled for goals regardless of the strikers used. 0-2

Peterborough v Chesham United

After a positive start to their Southern League Premier Division campaign, Chesham United now look forward to their third Football League FA Cup clash in the space of 12 months. Andy Leese’s side won 1-0 at Bristol Rovers in this round last year thanks to some last ditch defending and a stunning late winner from Ryan Blake, a forward who goes into Saturday in-form. Similarly, Peterborough’s last game was a late win at Bristol Rovers. Those three points took them to seventh on goal difference, but their better performances are at times followed up by ones of complacency. Professionalism will be pivotal for Posh against their Buckinghamshire visitors. 3-1

Port Vale v Stevenage

Last season, then-Vale manager Robert Page was fuming after his side were cost a money-spinning Third Round tie, following a no-show at Exeter. Bruno Ribeiro hopes for an improvement against Stevenage, who tend to thrive against the better sides. Boro have lost just four of their last 13 games against top half opposition and knocked higher league Gillingham and Ipswich out of cup competitions in the last 12 months. Port Vale have shipped 10 goals in their last four and lost two of their previous three against bottom six opposition, so potential for an upset is there. 1-2

Portsmouth v Wycombe

Paul Cook made four changes for an FA Cup tie at Championship side Ipswich last season and three for the visit of Premier League Bournemouth. It is reasonable to expect him to make many more for a tie against fellow League Two side Wycombe, who had some success in this competition last year. They won in injury time at Millwall before holding Aston Villa to a draw at Adams Park. Young defender Will De Havilland has impressed his manager since coming into the side and given that the Chairboys have a greater financial need, squad stability might favour the visitors. 0-1

Shrewsbury v Barnet

In 2004, then-Millwall midfielder Curtis Weston became the youngest footballer ever to play in an FA Cup final, at 17 years of age. Now, he is one of the senior players at Barnet, who have looked solid if not spectacular in League Two thus far. The same cannot be said of Shrewsbury, who have questionable centre-backs with 29 League One goals shipped in 16 games. However, improved defending in last week’s 1-1 draw at Southend means new manager Paul Hurst at least starts on stable footing. 2-1

Stockport v Woking

In Stockport County’s 64/65 FA Cup run, they footed the fourth tier but miraculously held champions Liverpool to a draw at Anfield. A similar tie should they reach the Third Round would be massive for the club but the board have already added money from this years’ run into the playing budget. That is a welcome boost for Jim Gannon as the club aim to move closer to the top five in the National League North. Woking are in the National League relegation zone after seven winless games but they do have the eighth best attacking record. Their squad contains 12 different goalscorers and their offensive efforts are helped by the arrival of proven poacher Matt Tubbs, who has scored three goals in six. 3-2

Walsall v Macclesfield

At the end of September, this looked like a potential future League Two fixture with Walsall outside the relegation zone and Macclesfield fifth. A high-scoring and productive October, inspired by Erhun Oztumer, has seen the Saddlers look further up the table while The Silkmen are winless in five. The Cheshire visitors have done well in the FA Cup in recent seasons while Walsall also impressed against higher league opposition last term. Jon Whitney’s side have both the quality and motivation to progress on Saturday. 2-0

Westfields v Curzon Ashton

Westfields took their claret and blue colours from West Ham United, because Bobby Moore among others had been part of the England squad that won the World Cup the year they were founded. Curzon Ashton were formed three years earlier, merging Curzon Road Methodists FC with Ashton Amateurs. Westfields have by far the best points per game record in the Midland League Premier Division, averaging three goals per match, with Ghanaian born Sirdic Grant their key attacking outlet. Grant and co may cause problems for Curzon Ashton, who have shipped 35 in the National League North. A three-division gap is not as big in quality as it might be higher up the pyramid, so this blog backs The Fields to triumph at Widemarsh Common. 3-1

For more FA Cup 1st Round predictions, see part one.

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