THE FA Cup 1st Round gets underway this weekend and Jack Lambden (@_JackL_) has dug deep into Saturday's showdowns to share his best bets.
Mansfield v Chorley | Saturday 9th November 2019, 15:00
Mansfield host a Chorley side struggling to adapt to life in the National League, sitting bottom of the table with comfortably the worst goal difference of all 24 sides at -21. The Magpies face a daunting task in Nottinghamshire against a team who score regularly (fourth-most in League Two) and are second for shots per-game at 14.60 (7.80 of which hit the target).
Stags Top scorer Danny Rose looks set to return from injury to play a part in this game having missed a few weeks of action following an injury in the 6-1 demolition of Oldham but even if he does not make it, fellow strikers Nicky Maynard and Andy Cook are proven goalscorers and can make their mark.
Ottis Khan, who found minutes hard to come by last season after his move from Yeovil, is hitting form at was nominated for the League Two Player of the Month for October and he is likely to orchestrate proceedings from midfield in this match if he’s given time and space to play.
A market that appeals is the home side to score in both halves at 21/20 with Coral. Mansfield have managed that feat more times than any other side in League Two this season, with Chorley conceding in both 45 minutes on nine occasions in the National League against weaker opposition than Saturday’s opponents.
Stags’ boss John Dempster has said he wants to use this cup tie as a springboard to a more consistent league run and will play a strong team to counteract Chorley’s physicality. Having suffered 4-0, 5-1 and 6-1 defeats already this term, the away side could be in for a long afternoon at the One Call Stadium.
Sunderland v Gillingham | Saturday 9th November 2019, 13:00
Gillingham fans will embark on a 600-mile round trip to the north-east for Saturday’s early kick-off to back a team with just two wins in 10 matches and being punished for defensive errors. The colourful Steve Evans has failed to make the desired impact in Kent which culminated in a 3-0 defeat to his former club Rotherham last weekend.
The Gills’ away record reads one win in eight this campaign and although Sunderland are underachieving, their form at the Stadium of Light is polar opposite to that on their travels, with 2.43 points per-game (PPG) picked up on home turf compared to just 1.00 PPG in away matches which is the biggest variance in League One.
With next weekend’s league game against Bristol Rovers suspended due to international call-ups and the low priority EFL Trophy tie against Scunthorpe in midweek, there’s little reason for Sunderland to rest many of the key players in the squad and I think they’ll be too strong here.
The fans were rightly proud of the team’s cup wins versus Premier League sides Burnley and Sheffield United in the League Cup back in August and September so more cup success would be welcome to bring them a round closer to another potential big tie.
Furthermore, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Black Cats progressed deeper in this competition given manager Phil Parkinson’s cup pedigree – negotiating Bradford’s path to the quarter-finals in 2014/15 with wins against Chelsea, Millwall and his current club, as well as taking City to the League Cup final just two years earlier. The recent takeover of the club has lifted the mood amongst supporters who were disappointed with last season’s play-off defeat and Jack Ross’s uninspiring set-up.
Given Sunderland’s propensity to put the Mackem fans through the ringer even at home, with 21 of their last 24 on Wearside seeing Over 1.5 Goals, I can see them recording a win with a few goals to boot.
Parkinson’s men won the gaffers’ first game in charge 5-0 and both fixtures against Gillingham 4-1 and 4-2 in 2018/19 so Sunderland to win and Over 1.5 Goals is the bet I fancy at even-money with Coral.
Walsall v Darlington | Saturday 9th November 2019, 15:00
League Two outfit Walsall head into the weekend in horrendous form, the negative momentum from their relegation last season carrying into the new campaign and the Saddlers are currently 22nd in the table.
After losing their last six games, Darrell Clarke has assured supporters that he is the right man for the job and that results will improve but improvement is needed – and fast. Clarke was perhaps harshly sacked by Bristol Rovers but if his team continue on their downward trajectory he may suffer a second relegation out of the Football League at the age of just 41.
Walsall have the worst home form in League Two (five points from eight games) and goals have been a huge problem with the side hitting the net only 12 times in 17 matches. The four wins that the Midlands team have recorded this season have all been by a single goal so even when three points are recorded they are not blowing sides away.
National League North visitors Darlington will be backed by a near 1,000 away following for their first game against league opposition since the club was reformed seven years ago which means the players will be keen to make a mark by causing an upset.
Darlo have won six of their last seven games and I like the 99/100 price with Bet365 on them keeping this competitive with a +1.25 Asian Handicap. This means that even a one-goal defeat will bring a half stakes profit with anything better bringing in a full win.
The squad contains Jarrett Rivers who rose to national fame by scoring fellow north-east side Blyth Spartans’ winner at Hartlepool in 2014 and the Spennymoor-born man will I’m sure share some secrets for knocking out league opponents with his teammates.