Football: Villa wait as tasty bait for the minnows

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In the event, last night's much-vaunted televised draw for the third round of the FA Cup was neither fish nor fowl, avoiding game-show glitz while failing to convey the potential of some exceptional matches. Not that anyone in Cinderford or Gravesend & Northfleet would have noticed.

In the sixth tie out of the perspex bowl - the velvet bag of blessed memory now has only a cosmetic role - the two Beazer Homes League clubs were given the perfect incentive for their replay a week tonight. The winners will have a home tie against the seven-time Cup winners, Aston Villa, although neither is likely to receive police permission to entertain the Premiership's fourth-placed club in their own spartan surrounds.

The pairing will have been greeted with particular delight by Cinderford's Chris Price, who played at San Siro, Milan with Villa only four years ago but began this year's Wembley trail at Tuffley Rovers in September. On the same day, Gravesend's Cup odyssey was opening at Godalming.

The only other non-League survivors, Enfield or Woking, have a less glamorous task - a trip to Swindon - but Denis Law and Terry Venables still managed to pull out some plums for the lower-division clubs. No fewer than 12 will play host to their supposed superiors, the pick of the bunch being Tottenham's visit to Hereford, whose 23-year-old humiliation of Newcastle sparked an invasion of a thousand parka coats in one of the clips that opened the programme.

Coventry, bottom of the top flight, face a hiding-to-nothing haul to Plymouth; Nottingham Forest go to the First Division's form side, Stoke; Leeds return to Derby, where they won 1-0 in the Coca-Cola Cup in October; while Queen's Park Rangers, whose defeat at the same stage by Stockport was recalled by Les Ferdinand last night, were handed another northern trek, to Tranmere.

Manchester United, who have won the trophy a record eight times, were paired at home with Sunderland, now reviving under Peter Reid's stewardship. Liverpool, who together with United and Arsenal are 6-1 favourites, also avoided an away day. Their former player, David Hodgson, may have suffered a twinge of regret at having resigned as Darlington manager at the weekend.

Dave Watson, captain of holders Everton, had wanted "a home tie against a non-League team with an injury crisis", but seemed content to take Stockport at Goodison Park. Much more the stuff of the third round, however, were the two derbies that came out in quick succession: Southampton against Portsmouth on the south coast, and Birmingham versus Wolves, who are already looking forward to a Coca-Cola Cup date at Villa Park.

The dress rehearsal for last night's show had pitted Manchester United against Newcastle. Kevin Keegan's table-toppers avoided that fate, but will still be involved in the only all-Premiership tie, away to Chelsea.

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