Tonight is the draw for the FA Cup Second Round and, once again, the Imps are in it.
It is no secret we have a bit of a love affair with the cup recently, 2016/17 and the run to Everton in the third round were both fun. Ok, in between we had defeat at Wimbledon and against over two matches against Ipswich, but it still feels like we’re turning around what was a long and dire relationship with the oldest cup competition in the world.
The draw will take place before tonight’s game between Oxford City vs Northampton Town at 7 pm on the BBC. Danny Cowley will be involved too, so hopefully, he can do us a favour when he draws the balls for the ties set to take place before the end of the month. So, who do we want? Well, there are 40 balls in the bag, with us being numbered number 39. The obvious shout is a non-league side at home, but I think we showed that almost anyone at home will be a good draw for us. As a reminder, these are the balls in the bag this evening.
1 Newport County, 2 Havant & Waterlooville, 3 Mansfield Town, 4 Crewe Alexandra, 5 Peterborough United, 6 Exeter City, 7 Bradford City, 8 Bristol Rovers, 9 Stockport County, 10 Darlington, 11 Barnet, 12 Chorley, 13 Tranmere Rovers, 14 Oxford City or Northampton Town, 15 Morecambe, 16 Yeovil Town, 17 Crawley Town, 18 Blackpool, 19 Cheltenham Town, 20 Stevenage, 21 Harrogate Town, 22 Gillingham, 23 Plymouth Argyle, 24 Carlisle United, 25 Doncaster Rovers, 26 Salford City, 27 Solihull Moors, 28 Hull City, 29 Marine, 30 Barrow or AFC Wimbledon, 31 Dagenham & Redbridge, 32 Shrewsbury Town, 33 Brackley Town, 34 Milton Keynes Dons, 35 Oldham Athletic, 36 Boreham Wood, 37 Portsmouth, 38 King’s Lynn Town, 39 Lincoln City, 40 Canvey Island
I have categorised these in three ways – games I would not want us to get, games I think would be okay, and those that I think might be on TV. The ones in normal text, I wouldn’t want to see come out of the bag against us. There are nine, all clubs in our division who I feel would present the sort of challenge that meant the entire first-team squad would be needed, no exception. I’m not arrogant enough to suggest that we could beat any of the other sides at less than full strength, but progress in the competition is important and I don’t think MA would take risks by resting James Jones or Tom Hopper. If we played any of the other sides, we might see Theo Archibald, Anthony Scully and the like get a game and that is only a good thing for our depth If pushed, Crewe or Gillingham at home might be alright ties, but they would still pose certain challenges.
As for the ties in red, they’re the ones I wouldn’t mind getting away, as well as at home. I’ve based that mainly on proximity for travel for the lads, as well as the other side’s home form, ground, pitch etc. I think I’ve covered just about everything there, except xG, eh Jack?
The key is all about progression, so that’s where the other, bold clubs come into it. These are teams I feel are on their arse (Shrewsbury), or in a division below us that we should be okay against. Again, I’m not saying these represent an easy passage, the FA Cup Second Round is perhaps the most challenging of all for us. Before this stage, there are enough teams below you to warrant confidence and none of the non-league sides are known as giant killers. In round two there are fewer ties, everyone has already won one game and some of the non-league teams have gained huge confidence by beating a bigger club. It’s tricky, we will be hoping, and to a degree expecting to progress, but with a selection of teams with wins already behind them.
If we want to put money in the bank, we should be aiming for a TV tie, so a non-league side who have already beaten a Football League team would be a good bet. Luck is either with you or not in this instance – Solihull Moors going to Hull might pip Chorley coming to us, but if Solihull drew Boreham Wood, it might not be such a big draw for TV. It is hard to pick one side and say ‘if we get them, it’ll be on TV’, and the cameras will likely go for the upset. If Shrewsbury, for instance, get one of the non-league sides at home, that’s the draw they’ll put on the box. After all, you don’t think they picked us and Oldham because we were doing alright (at the time) in the National League do you? Nope, it was because Oldham were dire and they sensed an upset.
I think a TV game might be a lot to hope for and perhaps a game at home to Hull would be more likely to get on TV than away at Kings Lynn, I don’t know. What I do know is progression is very important for our finances, and so a home tie against a side we can feasibly beat (and should beat) given the club’s status in League One, is important. Therefore, if I had to pick a selection of ties for us, I’d go for Havant and Waterlooville, Brackley, Yeovil or Canvey Island, ideally at home. All four of those teams are non-league, all beat fellow non-league opposition and therefore don’t have the giant-killing bug just yet. The ties we absolutely do not want, at all, are Portsmouth, Doncaster, Peterborough or Hull City.
Regarding Yeovil, I found it interesting Alex Bradley was allowed to play for them in their win against Bromley this weekend. I wonder if that might be a good draw, because he is likely to be a first-team player for them and couldn’t play against us, weakening their right-hand side. Maybe, just maybe, I’m overthinking this.
I hate predicting who we’ll get because it is completely random and there is no science to it at all, but my gut feeling is we may get Mansfield Town, Crewe or Bradford City. History does have an odd way of pitching you against the same teams in two cup competitions – in 1993/94 we faced all of our FA Cup opponents in other competitions, Hull and Huddersfield in the AWS Shield and Palace in the Coca-Cola Cup, with Notts County another example in 1981/82. Everton in three different competitions in successive seasons is another example of the quirky sequences random draws produce.
I think whoever we get, we will be competitive, we will be confident we can give them a game and who knows, maybe those FA Cup montages can begin to extend to the new era, as well as serving as a reminder of the journey we have been on.