Oxford City v Tranmere | Tuesday 20th November 2018, 19:45 | BT Sport
Both clubs have fond memories of this competition this century: Tranmere Rovers got as far as the quarter-finals in 2004, when managed by Brian Little, losing to eventual finalists Millwall.
As recently as last season though, Oxford City knocked out League Two Colchester en route to the Second Round, where they came within moments of Notts County to a replay in a bitter-sweet 3-2 defeat at Meadow Lane.
Who will make memories this time around?
Oxford can threaten
When these teams drew 3-3 at Prenton Park, the hat-trick hero was Kabongo Tshimanga, who produced arguably the best individual performance of the First Round.
It is worth though keeping an eye on another Milton Keynes Dons academy graduate up top.
Sam Nombe’s return on loan from the Buckinghamshire club has coincided with a run of two league wins in three.
The forward featured from the bench in League One several times last term, bringing pace and raw energy to the equation.
Tranmere's attacking intent
After a dramatic promotion from the National League last season via the play-offs, Micky Mellon’s side have returned to this level with a vengeance.
The Super White Army attack with energy and intent; the recent 5-1 home win over Crawley was a clear sign of their capabilities.
With ball-winners like Luke McCullough in midfield, speedsters like Larnell Cole out wide and a predatory goalscorer up top in James Norwood – more of whom anon – there is a refreshing vigour about the way they play.
A defence which has shipped 20 goals in the last 10 in all competitions though could be problematic: Micky Mellon expressed disappointment at the concession of cheap goals in Saturday’s 3-2 loss at Crewe.
The Tactics Board
Oxford showed in the initial tie that they are not afraid to put the Wirral outfit under scrutiny: the 4-2-3-1 can turn into a 4-1-4-1 with midfielder Reece Fleet pushing on from the double-pivot to trigger an intensive press, which played a key part in the goals.
We can expect more of that early on from City and it is possible that Tranmere, who will set up in a 4-4-2, might find it difficult at times to respond.
Centre-back Steve McNulty has kept his place in the team due to his leadership qualities, but the veteran’s lack of pace means Tranmere are reluctant to leave him exposed.
They are therefore not always able to engage with their opponents as a defensive unit as quickly as they might ideally like, so Nombe and Tshimanga could be capable of causing problems for their visitors.
Can Norwood be nullified?
James Norwood is becoming an iconic figure at Prenton Park.
When the 28-year-old described himself as a “poor man’s Dirk Kuyt” in the summer, he was being a bit harsh on himself: he could probably teach the Dutchman a thing or two!
Norwood has played in 29 games for Tranmere since February and has scored at least once in 18 of those matches; he therefore has around a 62% chance of scoring in the average game.
Betway’s 21/20 on the predatory poacher bagging at Court Place Farm, however, implies a probability of only 49%; giving us a theoretical disparity of 13%.
Some of that could be accounted for by the fact this is an away match – and, in a midweek FA Cup clash, there is an outside possibility that Mellon will decide to manage the squad by starting Harvey Gilmour and Paul Mullin.
That risk though is counter-balanced by the fact Norwood has six goals in his last four, he is facing on paper the weakest defence from the above sample and arguably has a better chance of scoring than usual.
Presuming that Mellon gives this televised clash the attention it deserves and starts Norwood, the price looks very generous.
The betting angles
Considering Tranmere’s defensive imperfections and Oxford’s willingness to attack, it looks unlikely that this will be a 1-0 job for the visitors.
For that reason, we seek to exclude that scoreline for a bigger price: Betfred offer 23/20 on Tranmere to win and Over 1.5 goals.
Those are generous odds-against quotes, bearing in mind that Rovers are 58 places above their hosts.
Although Oxford City might score here, the gulf in class should ultimately tell.
Plus, backing both of our recommended selections means we only need one of them to land to deliver profit.