Fa CupFootball

FA Cup betting: The pick of the bets across the fourth round

January 19, 2021

THE third and fourth rounds of the FA Cup really are chalk and cheese.

The first is a national institution evoking a nostalgia so warm and fuzzy it’s like being given a great big bear-hug by John Motson’s sheepskin coat. There are fantastical notions of giants being slain while goalkeepers who briefly drifted out of the game to become postmen are patronised to within an inch of their lives.

For want of a better word it’s all very…sentimental.

Its fourth-round equivalent however is anything but. After putting out weakened teams some weeks earlier the big boys start to sense a cup run in the offering and consequently attitudes harden. No longer are Premier League sides merely hoping to avoid an embarrassing exit at the hands of a minnow: now the minnows are viewed as dinner as the ‘magic of the cup’ dissipates and the competition becomes purely and mercilessly a results business.  

It is for this very reason why we can – reluctantly – discount the possibility of Chorley or Cheltenham Town getting anything from their respective hosting of Wolves and Manchester City at the weekend. Instead, it’s all-too-easy to imagine the commentators of each contest beginning their shift reeling off cliché after cliché, as if narrating the opening chapter to a fairy-tale. By the hour-hour mark the phrase ‘money-spinner’ will be mentioned, by way of consolation.

Which is not to say that this weekend will not produce an upset or two. Not for nothing have previous years routinely seen a smattering of League One and Two sides get within touching distance of the quarter finals. No, we just have to lower our expectations, that’s all and amend our betting accordingly. The romanticism of the third round is over and now reality bites.


The Pilgrims to progress past Sheffield United

Three teams from League One travel to Premier League opposition this weekend and from these Plymouth Argyle are the one to back.

The Blades may finally have a couple of wins under their belt after an utterly dire campaign but boy did they make hard work of both and with confidence still brittle and quality in short supply they are without doubt the most vulnerable of their peers.

What’s more, Plymouth fulfil every criterion needed for a lower league side to go deep in the tournament possessing a prolific goal-scorer in Luke Jephcott and by not being overly concerned by relegation or promotion.

With this one though, it’s the prospect of goals that appeals more than the result because it is almost guaranteed there will be at least a couple. Both sides have played 52 games combined this term and there isn’t a 0-0 among them.

We can predict too that the Pilgrims will open the scoring given they have done so in 14 of their 22 matches and this hardly surprises when you consider that in 36% of their fixtures they’ve scored inside the first 20 minutes.

But with Chris Wilder’s men losing 63% of their games by the slimmest of margins let’s go with that pattern continuing here. At 8/1 a single goal winning margin for the visitors smacks of value.



Manchester United v Liverpool to disappoint again

Fool us once, shame on you. Fool us two or three times a year, going right back to when Sir Alex Ferguson retired, shame on us.

When will we learn that this clash of titans is little more than a yawn-fest these days for all the deafening hysteria that accompanies it?

”A Manchester United-Liverpool game can be fiery, ugly, passionate, hostile, but it can never be boring”. So said Gary Neville in 2018. Well, tell that to the millions who struggled to sleep on Sunday night because of their prolonged nap, G-Nev.

There are many factors to this fixture, ranging from Liverpool’s recent goal drought to Jurgen Klopp’s habit of playing the kids – will he dare to do so here? – to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s propensity to set his side up to counter. Ultimately though what really matters is that the last ten encounters have eked out three 0-0 stalemates and a meagre 15 goals.

A tempting evens is available for under 2.5 goals. Don’t believe the hype.


Norwich to beat Barnsley

Ahead of the previous round the Canaries were tipped to have their wings clipped in these very pages, the logic being that a promotion chase would take precedence. It was a sound theory even if their routine victory over Coventry unseated it.

Here though, Norwich’s lofty league placing becomes only a positive and that’s before we get to the disparity in calibre between the two Championship sides.

"All the time it's the same story with us at the moment against the top six." – Barnsley boss  Valerian Ismael complained last Saturday after the Tykes lost at home to Swansea and it’s true his players seem to have a complex when facing promotion contenders this term.

So far Barnsley have come up against a team residing in the top six on seven occasions. With an aggregate score-line of 11-1 they have lost six of them, failing to score each time.   

Norwich are 6/4 to progress in South Yorkshire inside the 90 minutes


Bristol City to beat Millwall

How much do you think cup pedigree matters? If you believe it’s significant then by all means go for a Lions win here at the Den at a sensibly priced 11/10. Millwall after all have reached two quarter finals and a semi in recent years which is an outstanding achievement for a team beyond the Premier League.  In 2004 they lost to Manchester United in the final.

Bristol City by comparison have only got past this point once in the last 20 years.

If you think form trumps all however then seriously consider the Robins at a generous 13/5. Dean Holden’s side have been defeated only four times on their travels all season long while Millwall have consistently struggled to finish teams off on home soil, drawing seven of their 11 games in Bermondsey.


Brighton and Blackpool to draw

Each year the top-flight throws up a new draw specialist and this time out that appears to be the Seagulls who have shared the spoils on eight occasions to date. Only Liverpool – surprisingly – come close to that.

As for their League One opponents this Saturday afternoon Blackpool swap one seaside for another having also picked up the unfortunate habit. Four of their games since mid-December have finished honours even.

It’s worth noting too that in the last two years there have been nearly twice as many draws in the fourth round as the third (34.3% to 18.7%).

You can get 7/2 on a stalemate after 90 minutes and with Graham Potter expected to rest a couple of key men that amounts to the bet of the round.