THE first round of the FA Cup concludes tonight with the TV cameras heading to West Leigh Park in the hope of an upset. Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) looks at the best bets available.
Havant & Waterlooville v Preston | Monday 19.45 | BT Sport 1
Worcester (11/1) and Chester (9/1) hit the headlines this weekend in the FA Cup, dumping Football League teams out of the competition at the first attempt but can Havant join them in the second round hat?
Well I’m not ready to totally write off the hosts at 7/1 (Bet365). The Hawks have suffered just one defeat in 12 games and have recorded a mightily impressive nine clean sheets during that spell. As well as flying high in the Conference South, Lee Bradbury’s team have yet to concede a goal in their four FA Cup matches this season.
It’s been an impressive start to Bradbury’s managerial career. The former Portsmouth, Crystal Palace and Manchester City forward has transformed the club from relegation candidates to promotion contenders within the space of two seasons. Expect the underdogs to be competitive.
Preston bagged eight wins on the spin before crashing to successive league defeats ‘to nil’ against Swindon and Rochdale. And manager Simon Grayson must do without striker Callum Robinson and right-back Scott Wiseman through international call-ups as well as the injured Bailey Wright, Jordan Hugill, Calum Woods and Andy Little.
Having already touched on Havant’s outstanding defensive record, it would be a surprise to see the visitors rack up a cricket score and the 4/9 (William Hill) on the visitors is too short to consider. North End have won four of an unbeaten five games against non-league opponents but this match might be closer than the market suggests.
Instead, with Preston scoring just once in their last five away games before the half-time whistle and 12 of their last 17 goals coming after the interval, a small play on Draw-Preston at 7/2 (BetVictor) could be the best avenue. With three divisions between the two teams, the League One side’s superior fitness levels should come into play as the match progresses.
Havant & Waterlooville v Preston – Draw/Preston (7/2 BetVictor)