The Big FA Cup 1st Round Preview: Who Can Spring A Surprise?9 min read
The FA Cup 1st Round gets underway on Friday night. Here’s my best bet for six games across the weekend’s action.
Dulwich Hamlet v Carlisle United
Carlisle to win
Dulwich Hamlet are a fantastic, community-centred football club and look set to stabilize in the National League South.
Being based in south London, near a lot of other clubs, they have perhaps found it easier to recruit players who might have dropped out of the EFL circuit but are more than good enough for the sixth-tier, like Jack Connors, Marvin McCoy, Dominic Vose and others.
Their top goalscorer, though, is Danny Mills, who has spent much of his career in non-league; the 28-year-old is an intelligent striker who will pose a real threat in the air.
One defender Mills will have to get the better of on Friday night is 17-year-old Jarrad Branthwaite, who is very highly rated at Carlisle United.
Aside from the youngster’s performance, Cumbrians were unconvincing in last week’s 2-1 victory over Macclesfield, although substitute Ryan Loft, whose persistence earnt the winning goal, may have played himself into Steven Pressley’s starting XI.
Still, eight of the last 11 FA Cup First Round meetings between sixth-tier hosts and League Two visitors have led to away wins in 90 minutes.
Despite the various question marks over leadership at Carlisle United, therefore, it is hard to argue with them being odds-on favourites for their visit to South London.
Maidenhead United v Rotherham United
Rotherham to win -1 handicap
Maidenhead United manager Alan Devonshire has previous in the FA Cup.
When West Ham United legend Trevor Brooking scored an iconic winning header in the 1980 Final, it was Devonshire who delivered the cross.
Now 63, Devonshire hopes to unveil another chapter to his connection with this competition as a manager.
His side, 16th in the National League, are well-organized and likely to stay up but, arguably short of a touch of quality and depth in their squad, the Magpies could benefit long-term from the revenue boosts that a cup run would bring.
Rotherham United goalkeeper Daniel Iversen, meanwhile, cherishes the FA Cup, having saved Aleksandar Mitrovic’s penalty in Oldham Athletic’s shock Third Round win at Fulham last season.
The Millers have won five away games in all competitions this season – Matt Crooks’ impressive double inspired them to a 3-0 triumph at Gillingham last time out – having been victorious in just one throughout the previous campaign.
Paul Warne has more adventurous inclinations on the road when he feels his players can match or better their opponents on quality, so while Maidenhead boast the National League’s fourth-best defensive record, Rotherham will be a different proposition.
📹| It was the Big 🌳 that put the Millers out of sight at Priestfield Stadium to send those travelling supporters home happy.
His second strike was another composed finish, albeit slightly closer to goal!
— Rotherham United (@OfficialRUFC) November 4, 2019
Dover Athletic v Southend United
Over 3.5 goals
Sol Campbell has won three FA Cups in his playing career.
This may be, perhaps, too soon for him to add to that collection in managerial terms, but a cup run would help his Southend United side financially; they have to make sure that if they go down to League Two, they do so on stable footing.
The Shrimpers have a reasonable amount of quality in attack as the likes of Stephen Humphrys, Simon Cox and Tom Hopper are all capable of doing damage to National League opposition; Isaac Hutchinson is a bright midfield talent too.
They have, though, conceded 53 goals in 19 games in all competitions and their questionable rear-guard will have to handle Dover Athletic’s top scorer, Inih Effiong, a powerful front-man who has scored nine goals this season.
The Whites just missed out on the National League Play-Off eliminators in 2017-18 and, after Chris Kinnear’s five-year regime drew to a dignified conclusion, Andy Hessenthaler has done a decent job of keeping them in midtable.
Expect goals at both ends.
Hayes & Yeading v Oxford United
Oxford to score Under 2.5 goals
2019 has so far been a good year for Hayes & Yeading United.
They won the BetVictor Isthmian South Central Division title in 2018-19 and now, they have reached the First Round of the FA Cup for the first time since 2010-11.
Oxford United, meanwhile, are also breaking new ground; the Yellows are currently as high as fourth in League One and have already reached the Quarter-Finals of the EFL Cup.
Because of that, Karl Robinson might not prioritize this match too highly; the ‘reward’ for victory at Kingfield Stadium would be seven matches within a 25-day period across December up to New Years’ Day.
That could be problematic because, while Oxford have an excellent first XI, there are at least four outfield positions in their squad in which there is a gulf in quality between the key man and alternative options.
Robinson will have a hard job keeping the likes of Chris Cadden, Rob Dickie, Josh Ruffels, Cameron Brannagan and Matt Taylor all fit and fresh later this year without additional FA Cup games, so we can expect him to name a second-string XI on Sunday afternoon – especially with two or three of the aforementioned players potentially sidelined.
We will see periods in which Hayes & Yeading compete against a likely below-par Oxford side, but – beyond versatile forward James Clark, their top scorer with eight goals – they could struggle to find the quality to take advantage of positive spells.
Leyton Orient v Maldon & Tiptree
Maldon & Tiptree +2 handicap
Reaching the First Round makes 2019-20 Maldon & Tiptree’s best performance in the FA Cup.
The Jammers are also rocking in the BetVictor Isthmian League, in which they have won all eight league games; they would almost certainly be top of the division but for postponements.
Manager Wayne Brown had a reputation, in his playing days, for being a tough, uncompromising centre-back and his team will need the qualities he once showed force an upset, but there is no reason why they cannot cause problems in possession, too.
In 20-goal top scorer Jerome Slew, Maldon & Tiptree have a 21-year-old striker with lightning speed, who has every chance of furthering his own career on Sunday and helping his team to a memorable afternoon in the process.
Leyton Orient, by contrast, are struggling to find the right striker due to the absence of Lee Angol and Conor Wilkinson, with Louis Dennis and James Alabi seemingly out of favour.
New manager Carl Fletcher has overseen three games in charge of the O’s with two defeats and one draw; the first half performance in the 1-1 tie with Carlisle has been the only real positive, so he has work to do to find the correct formula.
Maldon & Tiptree have a winning habit and the tactical consistency that comes with it, so they look underrated for this one.
Harrogate Town v Portsmouth
Portsmouth to win -1 handicap
Harrogate Town are a club on the up.
They have the unique situation of their 10-year serving manager, Simon Weaver, being the son of the chairman, Irving Weaver, who took over in 2011.
Harrogate made some eye-catching summer signings; they were able to not only bag tenacious ball-winner Scott Brown from League One Accrington Stanley, but also sign former Premier League target man Jonathan Stead.
The Sulphurites are seventh in the National League and were this match being played in September, visitors Portsmouth might be more fearful of suffering an upset.
Kenny Jackett’s side though have suffered just one defeat in their last eight games so while they are under pressure, they are starting to find a formula with which they can find consistency and should enjoy progress in North Yorkshire.