FA Cup Third Round Preview: replacing Shelvey

fa cupHere are The Football Lab’s predictions for three of the FA Cup’s Third Round ties. We discuss contrasting fortunes for Barnsley and Blackpool, Zola’s tough start at Birmingham, why Hayden could replace Shelvey for Newcastle and why Barrow could cause an upset this weekend…

Barrow v Rochdale

After the first 20 minutes, Rochdale put in a controlled performance at Walsall on Monday. They played through the press to create two-on-one situations in wide areas and looked a fluent outfit. Keith Keane has just signed on a permanent deal and his experience of playing in midfield makes him more comfortable when Dale’s defence pushes further up the pitch. However, Barrow have recently been on a 23-game unbeaten run. Their 4-1 defeat at Gateshead looks an anomaly, because it was the first time they had conceded more than once since the FA Cup draw with Taunton. Paul Cox is an underrated manager and he tends to like his target men, so it is no surprise that Byron Harrison is causing problems. Rochdale have a small squad, one that might struggle to balance a cup run with a League One promotion tilt, so this blog backs Barrow to be one of the weekend’s coupon busters. 2-1

Birmingham v Newcastle

During Gianfranco Zola’s playing career, he helped Chelsea to win the FA Cup in his first season in England, but is yet to be adored as a manager like he was on the Stamford Bridge pitch. In ordinary circumstances, he would get more support from Birmingham City fans, but because he is seen as a ‘step-father’ who has taken Gary Rowett’s job, some fans have been impatient with him. Newcastle’s 1-0 defeat to Blackburn was unlucky, because they created chances and had two goals ruled out. Jack Colback did not offer too much in midfield but Isaac Hayden was by far their most dynamic performer and there were signs he can step up in the absence of Jonjo Shelvey. 1-2

Blackpool v Barnsley

The last meeting between these teams came at the end of December 2015, when a Sam Winnall brace helped Barnsley to a 4-2 win. The two teams were League One relegation candidates that day, but Barnsley’s subsequent 18 wins en route to play-off glory and Blackpool’s chronic lack of goals means they are now two leagues apart. New Pool manager Gary Bowyer has solved the attacking issues by bringing in the lively Kyle Vassell and the powerful Jamille Matt. Barnsley boss Paul Heckingbottom though may maintain a similar side – it would seem wrong to change too much with the team on another impressive winning streak. 1-3


The Football Lab is sponsored by Classic Football Shirts.