MARK O’HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) picks out three Football League sides to follow from Saturday’s FA Cup action.
Colchester v Charlton | Saturday 15.00
FA Cup third round day is supposed to trigger underdog stories from across the land but in recent years, the likelihood of a cupset has waned. Last year just 3/19 (16%) ties at this stage saw a team from a lower division dump out a higher-level rival .
I’m never normally a fan of chasing an underdog bet in cup competitions. For example, I spent a good hour reading, researching and analysing the dynamics of Bolton’s trip to Eastleigh – seeing the Trotters at odds-against to a non-league side certainly had me at hello – but the drenched playing surface on the south-coast was enough to steer me clear.
So next on the list was fast improving Colchester. Kevin Keen was appointed four days before Christmas but the effect the ex-West Ham coach has had on the side is easy to see despite being in the role for just over a fortnight.
ColU hadn’t avoided defeat since 24 October bar an FA Cup success against non-league Altrincham but managed to end a nasty nine-match losing streak last week with a well-earned 1-1 draw at fellow League One strugglers Oldham.
The Essex outfit were beaten by both Southend (2-0) and promotion-chasing Gillingham (1-0) under Keen’s watch previous to last weekend’s stalemate but both losses were harsh. The Shrimpers’ highly-rated stopper Daniel Bentley produced a Man of the Match display in the derby whilst the Gills were very fortunate to maximum points.
In fact, in all three fixtures Colchester have fired in more shots, more efforts on-target and only last week lost the corner count. It’s also rather telling that across the full campaign, Saturday’s hosts fare very well on nearly the most important performance data trends, especially at home.
Sure, the U’s boast the worst goals against record in the Football League but have looked tighter at the back in Keen’s three games in charge, conceding four goals in that time.
Colchester had shipped 38 goals in the 12 league games that had preceded his appointment and while he admits they need to find a better balance between defending and attacking, Keen feels that progress is being made.
Keen’s in his first full managerial position and was full of praise for his troops after last week’s point, dishing out high-fives to all his players. And the switch from their familiar 4-2-3-1 style to a 4-4-2 formation has helped ensure the Essex boys are a more organised bunch and their new order could suit this cup tie.
Charlton fans protested against the club’s ownership last weekend and their team at least turned up for a fight on the pitch too when holding Nottingham Forest 1-1. That’s not always been the case this term, especially under the interim stewardship of Karel Fraeye.
The Addicks could have nicked it at the death but Dorus De Vries made two excellent saves to deny returning Colchester loanee Callum Harriott. But the draw means the Londoners have now managed just W2-D6-L13 since mid-August in league action.
To make matters worse, German centre-half Patrick Bauer’s injury is worse than first feared, keeping him out for at least another month, and this week the club decided to snap up Roger Johnson. Gulp.
Rhys Williams has also been added, providing timely defensive reinforcements whilst Diego Poyet’s loan return should raise spirits. But the fractious mood around the club and supporters is bound to have a knock-on effect on the pitch and that could prove fatal in a banana skin cup tie like this.
Charlton have lost eight of their 12 Championship road trips, failed to score in 11 of 25 outings and conceded at least twice in 13 of those contests. The guests have reached the fourth round just once in six seasons and haven’t recorded a triumph since mid-November.
I’ll take Colchester at 19/20 in the Draw No Bet market with Sportingbet.
Nottingham Forest v QPR | Saturday 15.00
Well this was arguably the easiest selection of the week – Nottingham Forest to win at 13/10 with 888 Sport.
The case against Rangers this weekend is pretty concrete. For starters, we’ve never won at the City Ground in 30 visits.
Next, Wednesday marked the 20th anniversary of QPR’s last non-replay FA Cup away win – yes, that’s twenty (20) years.
The R’s have made it to the fourth round just twice in 14 seasons and won just two of our last 23 FA Cup ties – it’s dire.
New boss Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink is already being questioned but the Dutch master is option to try-out his second string here with the likes of Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, Massimo Luongo, Alex Smithies and Michael Petrasso should all play some part.
Hasselbaink was frank when telling the local press, “At the moment, it’s (the cup tie) not welcome. It’s just another game, but it gives me a chance to look at others and give a few others to get a game.”
Forest don’t need a big build-up. They’ve drawn five of their last six but once lost once since 3 November and delivered W4-D1-L0 in their last five at the City Ground. And I don’t think they’ll need to near the top of their game to triumph on the Trent this weekend.
Ipswich v Portsmouth | Saturday 15.00
Ipswich were a shorter price to beat both Bolton and Huddersfield at Portman Road this season so why should we ignore the 17/20 (SkyBet) on the Tractor Boys when League Two big guns Portsmouth arrive in Suffolk?
The answer is, we shouldn’t. Bring up the earlier stat – just 16% of lower league clubs felled teams from a higher division at the first attempt in last season’s third round – and although Town are likely to rest and rotate, they’re still good enough to justify their odds-on quotes with a victory.
Ipswich boss Mick McCarthy make six changes for the visit of Southampton at this stage last season but his side showed the typical tendencies of a McCarthy side by battling and playing for the win. Post-match, the Yorkshireman stated, “I didn’t want to lose, that’s for sure. Why can’t we have a cup run as well?”
The Tractor Boys were second in the Championship going into that contest and gave the Saints another stern test in the replay 12 months ago, losing 1-0. Again, tellingly McCarthy’s post-match words suggested he was disappointed to exit, “We wanted a rip-roaring Cup tie but they didn’t allow it to happen, they scored early and killed the game. We like to win every game, and we take this [competition]very seriously.”
Momentum does appear to be with the hosts. Their last 11 league fixtures have returned W7-D2-L2 and since 2012/13 they’ve W41-D21-L19 at Portman Road – that’s a 51% win ratio at Championship level – pretty impressive, eh?
When welcoming bottom-half clubs in that sample, Ipswich’s efforts read W22-D12-L4 so a visit from a side 46 places down the Football League ladder, even with up to six changes, shouldn’t instil the hosts with fear.
Portsmouth haven’t progressed past this stage since reaching the final in 2010 and although they’ve lost just once since October, have only recorded a solitary success in five away days. Indeed, four of those five road trips saw Pompey leak at least twice.
Paul Cook’s men are facing the fewest shots-on-target in the country but I reckon they’re priced here on reputation rather than form and I don’t see Ipswich losing at home to a lower-ranked team for the first time in 14 years.
The home win at 17/20 with SkyBet appeals.
Colchester v Charlton – Colchester draw no bet (19/20 Sportingbet)
Nottingham Forest v QPR – Nottingham Forest to win (13/10 888 Sport)
Ipswich v Portsmouth – Ipswich to win (17/20 SkyBet)
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