While many will claim that the FA Cup isn’t what it used to be, there is still a tingle when league clubs join non league upstarts in the opening round. There are always surprises to be had at these early stages so we’ve had a look through the football fixtures and picked out 4 games that have the potential for a surprise score.
South Shields V Forest Green – Saturday 12pm
On paper this should be an easy win for the away side. A mid-table League 1 outfit against a team from the Northern Premier League, some 4 divisions below. Will that be the case, however?
South Shields made the playoffs last season, those won by Scarborough Athletic who are currently 4th in the National League North, looking for successive promotions. This season South Shields have played 6 times at home where they are yet to be beaten, keeping 4 clean sheets.
On the other hand Forest Green arrive winless in their last 5 on the road having conceded 12 in those matches. While their most recent road game against Barnsley is chalk and cheese to this challenge, they failed to muster a shot on target. This is an even longer trip north and could prove to be a trickier one than they expect. South Shields are 7/2 top price at time of writing and 12/5 draw no bet.
Fylde V Gillingham – Saturday 3pm
Gillingham are 2 divisions above their opponents Fylde but they are in a relegation battle in League 2 while their hosts are 7th in the National League North. Fylde have games in hand over 5 of the 6 teams ahead of them so these teams could be meeting in the league next season if things continue in their respective directions.
Fylde have played 10 games at home this season in all competitions, their only defeat coming back in August at the hands of the aforementioned high flying Scarborough. They have kept clean sheets in their last 2 at home and that could be an issue for their visitors.
The Gills have been absolutely toothless so far this campaign, scoring a paltry 6 goals in 16 league games. On the road they are yet to win in the league, scoring just twice in 8 games. They will have one eye on a League Cup visit to Brentford on Tuesday and one on league survival. The FA Cup is an unnecessary distraction and a first round exit could actually be seen as a positive for them. 11/5 for Fylde is a decent price given their visitors record away from Priestfield. They are also 6/5 draw no bet for those looking for a little more comfort.
Doncaster V Kings Lynn – Saturday 3pm
Doncaster are just in the top half of League 2 this season while their visitors are flying high atop the National League North, looking to push on into the top level of non league football next season.
Just 2 wins from their last 8 at home has been a poor return for Rovers. One of those came last time out against low scoring Gillingham. The other came against Crawley who are in the same boat as the Gills with a grand total of 0 away wins in the league.
Kings Lynn have been a better team at home this season which is a niggling concern given they are on the road here. That said, they have games in hand to go 6 points clear at the top of their division so will arrive full of confidence. Perhaps 15/8 Draw no bet is more solid than an all out win for Kings Lynn at 3/1 but the visitors are too big.
Woking V Oxford – Sunday 2pm
Again, there should be a gulf in class here, the away side in League 1 and the home team 2 divisions below in the National League. Woking are 5th in their division though and Oxford 17th in theirs so there is not as much to separate them as 2 divisions might imply.
Woking have been beaten just twice at home this season. Notts County and Wrexham both won 3-2 in Woking. Given that those teams are a class apart in the National League this season and Woking had a player sent off at 0-0 against Notts County, they are clearly a very hard team to see off on home soil.
Oxford are horribly inconsistent on the road. Wins at Bolton 3-1 and Exeter 4-2 as well as a draw at Portsmouth in their last 3 away league games reads well. Delve a little deeper though and Exeter have coughed up 4 in 4 of their last 6 matches and Pompey haven’t won at home in 5 league games.
The away side should be the class act here and really ought to be winning. This is the FA Cup, however, and Woking are too strong at home to be a 17/4 poke with 14/5 available draw no bet.