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The scramble for a potential money-spinning FA Cup 3rd Round draw is on this weekend and lower league expert Gab Sutton gives us the lowdown

Solihull Moore to win

Morecambe v Solihull Moors

Moors beat Scunthorpe 3-2 in the previous round, despite having a massive injury crisis at the time.

It has been three weeks though since that game and manager Jimmy Shan will hope to get no nonsense centre-back Alex Gudger, dynamic midfielder James Ball, creative force Jamey Osborne, experienced wide forward Jamie Ward and industrious striker Adam Rooney, among others, back fully fit.

Morecambe, meanwhile, merely scraped past eighth-tier Maldon & Tiptree in the 1st Round and are four games without a win in League Two, after a 2-1 loss at Salford last time out.

Their pressing at Moor Lane was extremely intense and that pleased Derek Adams. But after that type of display it is important the Scot manages fitness levels ahead of a big week. On Tuesday, they host in-form neighbours Barrow before the trip to Newport next Saturday.

Squad rotation will not come into the thinking for Solihull Moors, who, due to postponements, have gone 17 days without a game.

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Solihull Moors have had plenty of time to prepare for this game and, after beating Scunthorpe with a severely depleted squad, there’s no reason why they can’t cause problems for Morecambe.

Gabriel Sutton

Exeter to win

Gillingham v Exeter City

Exeter have played and held Manchester United and Liverpool in the FA Cup this century, with both games having a massively positive impact on their club finances.

The United game in 2004-05 is speculated to have saved the Grecians off the field, while the Anfield replay in 2015-16 earnt the club £700k. Another money-spinning 3rd Round draw would be massively welcomed in the current climate.

Gillingham manager Steve Evans, meanwhile, has previously seen FA Cup games as an opportunity to freshen up his squad and we can expect the Scot to do so here.

Evans must not underestimate League Two promotion contenders, though, who are fresh from a 6-1 demolition of Colchester. While Gillingham have recently picked up in League One, their shot data for the level is extremely poor.

The Gills average 1.09 Expected Goals For (xGF) per game and 1.94 Against (xGA), giving them a Ratio (xGR) of 35.92%.

The Kent outfit’s first XI does not have much experience. But if they rotate, it could be a very youthful side, especially if the likes of athletic but rash defender Christian Maghoma and unproven midfielder Henry Woods come into the XI.

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Exeter fans have questioned whether Ryan Bowman is clinical enough so Tuesday’s hat-trick will be great for the striker’s confidence up against League One opposition.

Gabriel Sutton

Jon Stead to score anytime

Harrogate Town v Blackpool

Harrogate Town striker Jon Stead has a love affair with the FA Cup. He’s scored nine goals in his last 17 games in the competition across spells with Bradford, Notts County and most recently Harrogate.

Stead relishes one-off games against higher league defenders, who are perhaps less accustomed to facing an archetypal, old-school target man than those lower down the leagues.

If Blackpool boss Neil Critchley is content to rotate for this FA Cup tie, he will likely give minutes to fit again centre-back Daniel Ballard, who is highly rated in the youth circuit but has started just three competitive senior games.

At their best, Harrogate are a very aggressive, high-pressing team who like to hit their main front-man quickly.

The Sulphurites played West Brom in the EFL Cup and although they lost 3-0 in that match, they gave a great account of themselves against Premier League opposition, so certainly have the tools to do well in this type of game

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I reckon Jon Stead might steal the FA Cup headlines once again, thriving against what could be an inexperienced Blackpool rear-guard.

Gabriel Sutton

Both Teams to Score

Portsmouth v King's Lynn

Paul Lambert has found life difficult as a manager since leaving Aston Villa, doing middling jobs at Blackburn and Wolves before overseeing relegation at Stoke and Ipswich.

Those tough stints are also the ones in which the Scot has worked without Ian Culverhouse, his trusted assistant at Colchester, Norwich and Villa.

It is speculated that while Lambert brought motivational qualities, Culverhouse brought the tactical acumen that went externally underappreciated at the time.

The 56-year-old, though, is starting to gain the credit and recognition he deserves as manager of King’s Lynn Town, who beat a recent former league club in York City to the National League North title last season courtesy of PPG.

Adam Marriott was the division’s top goalscorer in 2019-20 with 28 goals and, after coming off the bench to bag in the 2-0 win over Dover, could do damage from the outset here; the speedy Jamar Loza, meanwhile, has some pedigree having played in the Premier League for Norwich.

There’s no reason why the Linnets cannot find the net against Portsmouth, who could operate with a youthful rear-guard if the likes of Harvey Rew and Haji Mnoga come in.

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King’s Lynn have some good attacking players and can certainly find the net at Fratton Park, even if ultimately they don’t progress.

Gabriel Sutton

No Goalscorer in 90 minutes

Shrewsbury Town v Oxford City

Shrewsbury Town have dismissed Sam Ricketts as manager, a decision which is best for all concerned.

After a stressful period, Ricketts now has an opportunity to rest, reflect, learn and grow, while most connected with Shrewsbury feel they now have a better chance of retaining their third-tier status.

Goalkeeping coach Brian Jensen is a candidate to be interim manager if no appointment is made before Sunday’s hosting of Oxford City. But whoever takes charge will be conscious of forthcoming crucial league games against Accrington Stanley and Charlton.

There could be a conscious effort to keep wide forwards such as Shaun Whalley and Marc Pugh fresh for those key games, in which case Salop could start with an athletic but raw front-line including the likes of Daniel Udoh and Ryan Barnett, who have recently been playing sixth-tier football for AFC Telford United.

City, also of the sixth-tier, have conceded just 10 goals in eight games in the National League South and possess, in QPR loanee Joe Gubbins, a highly-rated young centre-back who has a fabulous opportunity to prove his worth on a bigger stage.

Plus, manager David Oldfield was a coach for the watertight Burton Albion side that won the League Two title in 2014-15 and, being particularly vocal on the sidelines, knows how to drill a team into shape for this type of game.

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Oxford City beat EFL opposition in Colchester in 2017-18, a season in which they were performing worse in the league than they are at the moment, so I’m backing them speculatively to hold the League One strugglers.

Gabriel Sutton
Odds are correct at the time of posting

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