ACCRINGTON and Derby meet on Saturday lunchtime and FA Cup lover Gab Sutton (@_FootbalLab) offers his best bet for the clash.
Accrington v Derby | Saturday 26th January 2019, 12:30 | BT Sport
In their FA Cup campaign so far, John Coleman’s Stanley have already knocked out Championship opposition in Ipswich – so can they repeat the trick against Frank Lampard’s Derby ™?
The club that wouldn’t die
Accrington Stanley have a history of defying the odds.
In 1962, the original founders of the Football League had to resign from it due to financial issues and folded in 1966, but through the passion of their supporters, they founded a new club.
Three decades later, the investment of local businessman Eric Whalley saved ‘The club that wouldn’t die’ and helped them climb the non-league pyramid, reclaiming their place in the Football League in 2006.
Stanley have a unique spirit about them; the club’s extraordinary history inspires them to scale greater heights than many other clubs with similarly restrictive budgets.
Having been cruelly denied the promotion to League One that their performances arguably deserved in 2015-16, there was an exodus of key players.
However, the determination of manager John Coleman and assistant Jimmy Bell, along with the excellent off-field leadership of Andy Holt, allowed them to re-build a side strong enough to right the wrongs two years later by lifting the League Two title.
Having been dismissed as certain relegation candidates in pre-season, naturally the Reds sit 14th with 35 points from their first 27 games, giving them a strong chance of retaining their third-tier status.
The moral of the story? Write Accrington off at your peril.
Will Lampard rotate?
In Derby County’s two FA Cup Third Round matches with Southampton, Frank Lampard has made a combined 11 changes to his starting eleven out of a possible 22 – and that was against Premier League opposition.
Of course, Lampard has high-regard for the competition, having won it four times as a player with Chelsea.
However, he is also under pressure to secure promotion for Derby and to do so, he needs to manage his squad well by keeping key players fresh and giving fringe players enough game time.
The former midfield great is looking to renovate what was last season an ageing squad by handing opportunities to academy graduates.
The likes of Bradley Johnson, Joe Ledley and Andre Wisdom and were all sat in the stands for Saturday's 2-1 win over Reading while academy graduates like Tyree Wilson and Lee Buchanan instead made the bench.
That could be healthy in the long run, because it means Derby are building a squad of players with a high sell-on value and those who respect the honour of representing the club are rewarded.
In terms of this match, however, it would be more convenient to be able to call upon proven, Championship calibre performers who were part of a top six side last season.
The Tactics Board
Jonny Maxted has had his suspension withdrawn after his sending off in last week’s 1-0 loss at Charlton, meaning the former Guiseley stopper will be available to start in the competition through which he attracted his current employers.
Although Maxted is one of five new faces who have come into the first-choice eleven since last season’s success, the template remains the same.
Billy Kee, who has excellent hold-up qualities despite not being the tallest, leads the line in a 4-4-2 system with a more mobile partner, currently Middlesbrough loanee Luke Armstrong, running off him.
Armstrong could cause problems if given a chance to run at Keogh; conversely, if 17-year-old Buchanan starts at centre-back, he may not be used to face a striker of Kee’s physicality.
The wide men are creative; Jordan Clark loves to carry the ball forward from the right and could relish a chance to take on his full-back, especially if 38-year-old Ashley Cole makes his debut, while Sean McConville frequently scores curlers from the left.
It is important that ball-winner Sam Finlay and his energetic partner, Daniel Barlaser, get through a lot of good work to deny space for attacking players in Derby’s fluid 4-3-3, but Accrington are more than capable of causing problems themselves.
The Betting Angle
In the last 11 FA Cup games in which a League One side has welcomed Championship opposition, the hosts have won on five occasions.
Accrington are the type of club that will buy into the spirit of this competition because, not only do they have a drive to take on any opposition, they also need the funds to try to sustain themselves in the third-tier.
The value, therefore, is on the cup upset.
Accrington v Derby – Accrington to win (15/4 Betfair)