THERE’S another batch of FA Cup ties to look forward to on Sunday. We asked Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) for his thoughts on the best bets.
Rochdale v Bury | Sunday 12.00 | BT Sport 2
It’s just seven miles from Bury to Rochdale but the derby nature of this north-west FA Cup clash isn’t the only reason the live television cameras have turned up at Spotland for this second round clash.
Bury manager David Flitcroft used to be Rochdale boss Keith Hill’s right-hand man – and spent 10 years at Dale. The duo are close friends but don’t expect that to be the case come kick-off when these two League One teams meet.
Acquaintances will be put to one side as Hill and Flitcroft go head-to-head in the dugouts for only a third time. The previous two meetings came at Bury but both endeded goalless – including the league contest earlier this campaign – and a repeat can’t be ruled out.
Rochdale have reached the fourth round of the FA Cup in each of the last two seasons and surpassed all expectations in their first season back in League One last term, achieving the club’s highest ever Football League finish (8th).
Hill saw his big-name players poached in the summer and with funds remaining tight at Spotland, the likeable Dale head said he was aiming to improve his squad on the training paddock rather than splashing what little cash he’d been given.
The hosts are well-drilled, organised, strong and direct. They’re at their best playing at pace but there’s a real focus on getting the basics right and it’s no major surprise to see the side nestled into mid-table (W7-D6-L7).
In 2014/15, Dale took 70% of their total points tally off clubs in 16th and below (W14-D2-L2) and it’s a similar story this season with 18 of their 27 points being picked up against bottom-half dwellers (W5-D3-L0). Their return of W2-D3-L7 against the top-12 doesn’t reflect too well but it’s where Rochdale are as a club.
At Spotland, Hill’s side have W5-D2-L3 with defeats coming against Walsall (3rd), Wigan (5th) and Bradford (9th) and so with Bury suffering losses in their last four away days, I’m happy to put my faith in Rochdale taking this fixture to a replay at the very least.
However, odds of 13/10 on Dale make zero appeal and so I’m being dragged into backing the draw at 5/2 with BetVictor – it’s always a decent tactical ploy to take the biggest price in the Match Odds market when teams are so tightly matched.
Bury haven’t reached the third round since 2007/08 and were poor in a rather defensive 4-5-1 formation at Millwall last weekend. The Shakers have suffered defeat in five of their last seven League One games and have conceded at least twice in half of their 20 fixtures.
Although they enjoyed an excellent October, Flitcroft’s charges have been struggling to breakdown the lesser lights in League One – W2-D5-L3 against the bottom-half – and I can see this fixture being another occasion of Hill and Flitcroft cancelling each other out.
With that in mind, I’ll have a wee poke on No Goalscorer at 17/2 (BetVictor) also.
Peterborough v Luton Town | Sunday 14.00
Oi Graham Westley haters! Where are you? Lets’ be ‘avin you!
I’m genuinely over the moon to see the great man provide such a positive impact at an underachieving Peterborough. Westley’s made a remarkable impact and guided the Posh from 18th into the play-off places at London Road thanks to eight wins in 12.
Peterborough have just been winning, they’ve been pumping teams into submission. Last Saturday they skinned Scunthorpe 4-0 with Conor Washington grabbing his hat-trick and they concluded November with a 100% record.
Ever-the-pragmatist, Westley said, “Statistically we are the best team in League One over the last two months, that’s great from our point of view, but we need to be vigilant now, as teams want to beat the best.”
And he’s right. No League One side has scored more goals (an average of 2.30 goals-per-game, striking at least twice in 13 of their 20 league fixtures) or had more shots-on-target and their four-match winning streak has included Posh netting 14 times.
Westley will not devalue the FA Cup with a weakened team as he knows the positives in keeping momentum and with Peterborough progressing in 12 of their last 13 second round ties, they look fantastic 4/6 (William Hill) shots to see off a desperately disappointing Luton side.
The former runners-up have reached the third round in two of their last three seasons but are languishing in 14th following a run of just two victories in nine.
The Hatters have been hapless in defence – leaking seven in their last two – and pressure is mounting on John Still after last weekend’s 3-0 defeat to Newport.
Welling v Carlisle | Sunday 14.00
Carlisle have impressive climbed into League Two’s play-off positions thanks to a run of four wins in six but the Cumbrians have also hit the headlines for their cup exploits this term.
Keith Curle’s troops dumped table-topping Plymouth out of the FA Cup in their last fixture and have already been to QPR and won in the League Cup whilst taking Liverpool all the way to penalties at Anfield.
I don’t expect Carlisle to have too much trouble on Sunday and at 17/20 (SkyBet) they’re a decent price to get past National League strugglers Welling. The Wings have W3-D4-L5 in their past 12 and that includes a 2-0 success in the previous round against lowly Barwell.
The non-league hosts haven’t made the third round since 1988/89 and only once in their history have they beaten a Football League side (in the same season). Welling have W2-D4-L6 against top-half National League clubs this term and fired blanks in seven of their 23 overall.
I’d expect free-scoring Carlisle to brush the Wings aside.
Rochdale v Bury – Draw (5/2 BetVictor)
Rochdale v Bury – No Goalscorer (17/2 BetVictor)
Peterborough v Luton – Peterborough to win (4/6 William Hill)
Welling v Carlisle – Carlisle to win (17/20 SkyBet)
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