The FA Cup third round has been particularly kind on punters in recent years, with a bevy of giantkillings and shock results the order of the day.
And when you factor in the close proximity of this season’s third round to the chaotic festive period of fixtures, with many sides playing four games in the space of ten days, and as such a need to rotate weary players, the potential for more cupsets is there.
Having cast our eye over the fixture list, we’ve come up with three potential shocks that would reward punters handsomely.
Blackburn Rovers vs Hull City (Saturday, 3pm)
Such has been Blackburn’s improvement of late – and the rapid decline of Hull City – that the hosts here find themselves favourites with the bookmakers to win this match.
So Championship outfit Hull beating League 1 Blackburn wouldn’t be a giantkilling, of course, but at the same time the 5/2 odds available on a Tigers victory speaks volumes about the value available to punters here.
Blackburn boss Tony Mowbray was unequivocal this week: the league is his side’s primary focus as they chase an automatic return to the second tier of English football at the first attempt. “We won’t get overly-concerned about the result, at the end of the day,” he told the club’s website.
“Obviously, we’d like to win and progress in the cup, but we know what our main aim has to be this year and we’ll focus on that.”
“We’ll pick a team that can hopefully be very competitive, but I think they’re all big games and the main focus has to be Shrewsbury the following week.”
Hull, meanwhile, have been improving under new boss Nigel Adkins, with draws against Derby and Fulham backed by a narrow 0-1 defeat to a Bolton side that has beaten Cardiff and Sheffield United in the past fortnight.
It’s still baby steps of progression for Hull, but you sense they might to win this match more than their opponents – and what a lofty price they are.
Coventry City vs Stoke City (Saturday, 3pm)
You would think that punters would be biting off the hands of the bookmakers to have a bet on Coventry to upset Premier League Stoke on Saturday, although the bookies’ prices suggest little money has been forthcoming.
Odds of 4/1 are still widely available on Mark Robins’ side to complete another famous cup upset, and given what we know that seems tasty value.
Stoke are well in the doldrums, and Mark Hughes’ task is not being made any easier by the absence of some of his key defenders: Ryan Shawcross, Bruno Martins-Indi and Glen Johnson definitely miss out here, while Erik Pieters is very much a doubt too.
Another leveller to consider is this Coventry pitch at the Ricoh Arena. They share the ground with rugby union side Wasps, and it was clear for all to see in the 1-0 win over Chesterfield just how badly the surface was playing – these are not the top flight conditions that Stoke are used to.
With four wins in their last five games, punters with pound signs in their eyes will be backing Coventry to win this match at a fantastic price. But the smart play might just be the Sky Blues to avoid defeat by backing the Double Chance market at 6/5 – the replay, for differing reasons, suits both sides.
Wycombe Wanderers vs Preston (Saturday, 3pm)
The scheduling of the FA Cup third round is all wrong: coming so close to the manic Christmas and New Year period, managers have no choice but to rotate their squads.
And that’s exactly what Preston’s Alec Neil will have to do. Four of his players – Tom Barkhuizen, Paul Huntington, Ben Davies and Ben Pearson – all played every minute of the Lancashire outfit’s four game spree in the space of ten days, and surely some if not all of that quartet will be rested here.
Factor in the injuries to Tommy Spurr, Darnell Fisher and Sean Maguire, plus the fact that Kevin O’Connor’s head will be in the clouds after it was confirmed he had won the Irish lottery, and we have the recipe for a classic cup shock.
Wycombe’s decent home form gives them a fighting chance, too. They have lost just 3/13 at Adams Park this term (W7 D3 L3), and in front of an expectant home support they could well have the edge on their Championship opponents.
So quotes of 16/5 from the bookmakers on a Wycombe win are eye-catching indeed, but again the smart investment might just be that Double Chance market at 17/20.