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The FA Cup 1st Round is upon us this weekend and lower league pundit Gabriel Sutton pinpoints six teams capable of upsetting the odds.

Double Chance: Draw or Fylde

Exeter City v AFC Fylde

AFC Fylde stuck with manager Jim Bentley in the summer, despite relegation from the National League last season.

It was important for Bentley that his side started life in the National League North on fire and so it has proved, with Fylde accruing 12 points from the first 12 available.

The former Morecambe boss was backed to sign a number of players with EFL pedigree: Chris Neal, who has played in League One with Port Vale, Luke Conlan, a steady and dependable left-back in his previous job, Nathan Pond, who inspired Fleetwood’s rise up the leagues as well as David Perkins and Junior Mondal, who were part of Tranmere and Forest Green squads that reached the League Two Play-Offs as recently as 2018-19.

Although Fylde are two divisions below League Two, it could be argued they have, on paper, a reasonable squad for that level.

A clear barometer of their capabilities will come against Exeter, who are having another competitive season in League Two. If Matt Taylor rotates for this one, though, they could have a side with lots of academy graduates.

Versatile left-sider Alex Hartridge, deep-lying midfielder Harry Kite and energetic striker Ben Seymour are all talented, having enjoyed excellent loan spells at local non-league clubs, but also inexperienced.

We could have a situation, therefore, in which Fylde name a first XI with more EFL appearances collectively than that of the side two divisions above them.

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Fylde might be in the National League North but they are going very well at that level and can name a side with plenty of EFL experience, so if Exeter rotate, the two-division gap might prove something of a red herring.

Gabriel Sutton

Southend to win

Boreham Wood v Southend United

It might foolhardy to side with Southend United given the woe surrounding them; the Shrimpers are bottom of League Two with just two points to their name after a 3-0 loss at Bradford in midweek.

This, therefore, is very much a price-based selection.

Quotes of 11/4 are massive for a team from a higher division to accrue victory, especially against a Boreham Wood side who are midtable in the National League and, with five goals to their name, are the joint-fourth lowest scorers.

On paper, the combination of Matt Rhead’s target man presence, Kabongo Tshimanga’s pace and Corey Whitely’s creativity would be effective in the fifth tier but clearly, something is not quite clicking for them.

Southend hope to welcome experienced heads in John White and Alan McCormack into the fray for this one, which could make a huge difference.

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It’s extremely unusual to see an EFL side as big as 13/5 to beat non-league opposition; I’d be lying if I said I had a huge amount of faith in Southend, but I do think that price is too big.”

Gabriel Sutton

Marine +2 Handicap

Colchester United v Marine

To keep at bay a side four divisions above them, Marine will need to show excellent defensive qualities.

They have been on display in the Northern Premier League Division One North-West though, where the Mariners have shipped just four goals in five games.

Neil Young’s side possess an international right-back for St Lucia in Josh Soloman-Davies, a defender who played for Liverpool in 2004-05 in David Raven, plus forwards in Michael Howard and Momodou Touray who have recently been at league clubs in Morecambe and Newport respectively.

Marine have a chance at Colchester, who have not invested too much into their first team this year and continue to place faith in Under-23s players stepping up to provide squad depth.

Apart from the three attacking midfield positions behind the main striker, there are not too many areas where Steve Ball can rotate without experiencing a significant drop in quality.

For that reason, there could be value to be had from siding with Marine via the +2 handicap bet, which will land if the underdogs win, force a replay or lose by a one-goal margin.

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It seems plausible that Colchester will make wholesale changes to keep their squad fresh for their Play-Off push, but there is not a great deal of quality in depth so Marine, who are proving a tough nut to crack in the eighth tier, could be surprisingly competitive.

Gabriel Sutton

Solihull Moors to win

Scunthorpe United v Solihull Moors

Rarely in the FA Cup does the manager of the non-league club in action have arguably greater credentials than that of the EFL club.

After Darren Moore was dismissed as West Brom manager in 2018-19, Jimmy Shan was entrusted with leading them into the Play-Offs.

Neil Cox, meanwhile, is struggling in his first full season in senior EFL management, having been an assistant to Neal Ardley for much of his career.

Shan’s pedigree is arguably seeing Moors attract a higher calibre of player than Scunthorpe.

Krystian Pearce was part of Mansfield’s League Two promotion near-miss in 2018-19, Cameron Cox has had senior international recognition from Wales, Stephen Gleeson and Jamie Ward were both playing in the Championship as recently as 2018, Adam Rooney has scored Europa League goals and Jamey Osborne is every inch an EFL level player.

It’s possible that, come May, these two clubs could be swapping divisions.

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Solihull Moors have a squad that would outperform Scunthorpe in League Two, so the 27/10 on Jimmy Shan’s side progressing to the 2nd Round at Glanford Park looks excellent value.

Gabriel Sutton

Torquay draw no bet

Torquay United v Crawley Town

Gary Johnson’s record in non-league football is impeccable.

After leading Cheltenham Town to the National League title in 2015-16, Johnson steered Torquay to top spot in the National League South in 2018-19 and now, has inspired the Gulls to 18 points from the first 21 available.

The key man behind Cheltenham’s success at that level was Danny Wright, who is proving a fifth-tier beast once again at Plainmoor, having scored six goals in seven games.

Torquay have a nice mix of experienced heads in Wright, veteran battler Gary Warren and experienced campaigner Dean Moxey, with young talents like Armani Little, a diminutive creative talent.

Torquay face a Crawley side that have struggled on the road under John Yems, with 10 points from 15 games on their travels.

The Red Devils sometimes miss the focal point that Ollie Palmer gave them last season and, without a target man presence, Warren should win a lot of aerial duels from centre-back that could set the tone for a positive afternoon for the Devoners.

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Torquay are top of the National League and Gary Johnson’s Gulls can soar to victory over Crawley, who have experienced travel sickness under John Yems.

Gabriel Sutton

Barnet draw no bet

Barnet v Burton Albion

After being in the mix for the Play-Offs last season, Barnet and Burton have so far regressed to differing extents.

Barnet reached the National League’s top seven in 2019-20 courtesy of PPG but lost in the Play-Off Semi-Final to Notts County while two divisions above, Burton are now in a relegation dogfight.

Jake Buxton’s side will need to contain JJ Hooper, who produced sporadic star performances in the EFL with Port Vale and Grimsby.

Even if he struggled to find consistency at that level, the speedy forward looks the type capable of posing a threat in the cup for Barnet, having grabbed three goals already this season under Peter Beagle.

Opponents Burton have struggled with absentees at the back so far this season and though Neal Eardley and John Brayford returned for Tuesday’s 1-1 draw at Shrewsbury, Buxton may be reluctant to force either into playing 180 minutes in the space of five days.

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In a clash of sides who won their most recent title in 2014-15, Barnet striker JJ Hooper could cause problems with pace, relentless running and flashes of EFL quality.

Gabriel Sutton
Odds are correct at the time of posting

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