THIRTY-TWO non-league sides are hoping to bring some romance to the FA Cup 1st Round this weekend – lower league lover Gab Sutton (@_FootbalLab) shares his best bets.
Yeovil v Stockport | Saturday 10th November 2018, 15:00
In their final game of October, Stockport County beat National League North leaders Chorley 3-0, thanks to a 17-minute hat-trick from substitute Matthew Warburton. That was the quickest treble for a County player since Les Bradd completed one inside 10-minutes against Barnsley in 1980.
Warburton, who plays on the left of a trio behind striker Nyal Bell in a 4-2-3-1 system, is now the Hatters’ top scorer with six and will be their biggest threat at Huish Park.
Hosts Yeovil, meanwhile, have won just one of their nine home encounters in league and cup. Manager Darren Way ideally wanted to keep a settled side to help maintain the impressive early season form.
Instead, he has had to contend with a host of injuries, most notably to his defence: key centre-back Gary Warren sustained a second lay-off of his campaign last month and his partner, Omar Sowunmi, is out for another eight weeks.
Tactical instability can be damaging to a team, especially from a defensive perspective; Stockport and Warburton – 15/4 with Betway to score anytime – could profit.
Rochdale v Gateshead | Saturday 10th November 2018, 15:00
Rochdale have scored just one goal in their last three games. Keith Hill has frequently changed the system but the uncertainty over formation and selection for this cup clash might affect the fluidity of the performance.
Evergreen forward Ian Henderson has 10 goals for the campaign but, in Dale’s expected XI, Brad Inman is the only player to have bagged more than once this year – and he’s scored just twice.
Such a heavy reliance on the 33-year-old might prove unhealthy, especially against a stable Gateshead rear-guard.
Mike Williamson, who was playing Premier League football with Newcastle as recently as 2015-16, won Player of the Month for October for the Heed Army. The experienced campaigner has been an inspired addition at centre-back next to Fraser Kerr, with whom manager Steve Watson worked at Birmingham.
Robbie Tinkler, at 22, has shown enough potential to suggest an EFL career may lie ahead while ex-Newport man Scott Barrow brings experience at left-back in front of goalkeeper Aynsley Pears, who kept four consecutive clean sheets last month.
We reckon the 20-year-old stopper, on loan from Middlesbrough, could further his reputation by keeping another shut-out at Spotland – a clean sheet for the Tynesiders is as big as 6/1 with BetBright.
Shrewsbury v Salford | Sunday 11th November 2018, 12:45
In Shrewsbury's last League One match, they started four players with 100+ EFL appearances to their name. In Salford City’s previous National League encounter, they started five.
The Ammies boast a well-travelled goalkeeper in Chris Neal, an experienced former Rochdale right-back in Scott Wiseman as well as a centre-back in Nathan Pond who won six promotions with Fleetwood.
Not only that, their front-line is packed full of EFL quality; Danny Lloyd offers flair in wide areas while Rory Gaffney provides selfless movement, with both forwards showing at Peterborough and Bristol Rovers respectively they can impress at League One level.
Heck, striker Adam Rooney has even scored in the Europa League for Birmingham City in 2011, before several productive seasons in the SPL for Aberdeen.
While Salford are in non-league, therefore, they have a side more than capable of competing with third-tier opposition.
Salop have won just four of their 17 League One encounters, scoring 16 goals; only Bristol Rovers have scored fewer outside the bottom two. There’s question marks, too, about the future of manager John Askey.
Betway’s 19/20 on Salford double chance looks excellent value; the price is very close to evens on a bet that covers two of three possible eventualities in a game between two evenly-matched sides.