FA Cup is brimming with possible shocks and slips


Bolton Wanderers v Lincoln City



Today 3pm. TV: Highlights ITV1 10.30pm


In one dugout, a caretaker, in the other, a rookie. For both the FA Cup offers a shot at glory. While Chris Evans, previously Gary Megson's assistant, takes charge of Bolton for probably his only match, Chris Sutton seeks respite from a difficult first post.

After a decent playing career, in which he showed he was very much his own man, Sutton made a bright start with twin victories after taking over in October. However, Boxing Day brought only a first league win in 10 and Lincoln are one place above League Two's relegation zone. "You don't normally get jobs when teams are doing well and it's the same here," said Sutton, adding, "Nobody expects us to win, so we can go there and play with a bit of freedom." It is Lincoln's first third-round tie since 1999.

Last FA Cup meeting: Lincoln 1 Bolton 3 (2nd rd, 1994)

Best: Bolton: Winners 1923, 1926, 1929, 1958; Lincoln: Fifth rd 1887, 1890, 1902.

Leading scorer: Bolton: Ivan Klasnic, 6; Lincoln: Rene Howe, 5.

Milton Keynes Dons v Burnley

Today 3pm. TV: Highlights ITV1 10.30pm

Wimbledon, the club MK Dons swallowed, famously came to note when winning at Burnley in the FA Cup 35 years ago. Then, as now, Burnley were a top-flight team and while a similar victory will not carry the same resonance, it will confirm that MK are a club on the move. It is also useful exposure for stadium:mk, now a potential World Cup 2018 venue, and manager Paul Ince, rebuilding his career after being spat out by Blackburn. Burnley, with three of their back four suspended or injured, look vulnerable to opponents who have giantkilling experience in Jermaine Easter, whose goal for Wycombe despatched Premier League Charlton from the Carling Cup in 2006.

Last FA Cup meeting: Wimbledon 3 Burnley 1 (Third rd, 1985)

Best: Wimbledon: Winners 1988; Milton Keynes Dons: Third rd 2005, 2006, 2010; Burnley: Winners 1914.

Leading scorer: MK Dons: Jermaine Easter, 15; Burnley: Steven Fletcher, 8.

Nott'm Forest v Birmingham City

Today 3pm. TV: Highlights ITV1 10.30pm

Alex McLeish will be tempted to rest players after fielding an unchanged team for eight matches, but with Birmingham's Premier League safety all but guaranteed he should be looking at the FA Cup as a competition to make an impact in, not least because there is a European place at stake. Birmingham have a shocking record, never winning the pot, last reaching the final 54 years ago, and not making the last four since 1975. Forest's Billy Davies could be forgiven for resting a few, but if he does not the tie may turn on whether Lee Bowyer can shackle Paul McKenna, whose summer move from Preston has been so influential. City are unbeaten in 11, Forest in 16. Must be a draw.

Last FA Cup meeting: Birmingham City 0 Nottingham Forest 1 (Fifth rd, 1988)

Best: Nott'm Forest: Winners 1898, 1959; Birmingham: Finalists 1931, 1956.

Leading scorer: Nott'm Forest: Dexter Blackstock, Robbie Earnshaw, 7; Birmingham: Lee Bowyer, 6.

Portsmouth v Coventry City

Today 3pm. TV: Highlights ITV1 10.30pm

It is just two seasons since Portsmouth won the FA Cup but the price of that heady success is becoming ever more apparent. They desperately need another good run, both for the cash it can generate and the lift in morale, but Avram Grant's squad is a shadow of the lavishly-renumerated one Harry Redknapp took to Wembley. Already missing his quartet of African Nations Cup players, Grant cannot play the influential loanee Jamie O'Hara. Coventry, lower mid-table in the Championship, are hardly flush with cash themselves and Chris Coleman will hope his theoretically potent strike force of Clinton Morrison, Leon Best and Freddy Eastwood can create a (minor) shock.

Last FA Cup meeting: Coventry City 2 Portsmouth 1 (Fourth rd second replay, 1963)

Best: Portsmouth: Winners 1939, 2008; Coventry City: Winners 1987.

Leading scorer: Portsmouth: Frédéric Piquionne, 6; Coventry City: Leon Best, 9.

Stoke City v York City

Today 3pm. TV: Highlights ITV1 10.30pm

This should be straightforward for Stoke, but Tony Pulis tends to rest players in the FA Cup and pay for it – his team went out at Hartlepool last season. They are also six games without a win and scoreless in three. York are unbeaten in 11, winning 10, and in Richard "the Angel of the North" Brodie, have a 25-goal striker. The Conference club also have Richard Pacquette, who will be reminding everyone of what is possible after scoring at Liverpool for Havant & Waterlooville in 2008. So might Denis Smith, a legendary former Stoke centre-half, who will be at the Britannia Stadium today. Smith managed York when they beat Arsenal and held Liverpool 25 years ago.

Last FA Cup meeting: York 0 Stoke 2 (Third rd, 1969)

Best: Stoke : Semi-finals 1899, 1971, 1972; York: Semi-finals 1955.

Leading scorer: Stoke: James Beattie, Matthew Etherington, Dave Kitson, 3; York: Richard Brodie, 18.

Sunderland v Barrow AFC

Today 3pm. TV: Highlights ITV1 10.30pm

Ninety-eight places separate these teams, the largest gulf in the third round, but the tie could be closer than that statistic suggests. Sunderland are without a win in seven, Barrow are unbeaten in seven and last season they only lost 2-1 at Middlesbrough. Steve Bruce has injury problems, plus Michael Turner is suspended. Reality suggests none of this will matter but Barrow's joint-managers, Darren Sheridan (below left) and Dave Bayliss, are full of optimism. Sheridan, who played under Bruce at Wigan, said, "Last year we cherished being the underdogs and will do the same again, we have nothing to lose and everything to play for. I will tell the players to go and express themselves."

Last FA Cup meeting: Clubs never met.

Best: Sunderland: Winners 1937, 1973; Barrow: Third round 1946, 1948, 1954, 1956, 1959, 1964, 1967, 1968, 1991, 2010.

Leading scorer: Sunderland: Darren Bent, 13; Barrow: Jason Walker, 11.

Reading v Liverpool

Today 5.15pm. TV: ITV1; Highlights ITV1 10.30pm

Since Reading are without a manager, winless in five games, and hovering just above the Championship's relegation zone, this ought to be a cruise for Liverpool, even in their current fragile state. However, a glance at Reading's team-sheet should remind them not to be complacent. Two years ago Brian Howard scored the goal which earned Barnsley victory at Anfield, today he is expected to start his first match after a broken jaw. However, winger Jobi McAnuff represents Reading's best chance of opening up a Liverpool team which is missing Glen Johnson (injured) and Javier Mascherano (suspended).

Last FA Cup meeting: Clubs never met.

Best: Reading: Semi-finals 1927; Liverpool: Winners 1965, 1974, 1986, 1989, 1992, 2001, 2006.

Leading scorer: Reading: Gylfi Sigurdsson, 7; Liverpool: Fernando Torres, 12.

Manchester United v Leeds United

Tomorrow 1pm. TV: ITV1; Highlights ITV1 11.15pm

A tie to stir the memories, and the passions. Promotion is Simon Grayson's aim for Leeds but with an 11-point cushion from third place in League One he can afford to play his best XI and regard this match as a chance to measure their progress, especially with Sir Alex Ferguson promising to field a reasonably strong team. Leeds are unbeaten in 15 and in Jermaine Beckford, once a windscreen-fitter, now a £1m-plus target for Newcastle, have a striker to punish any complacency. But Manchester United have not lost at this stage in 26 years and it is hard to see them doing so tomorrow.

Last FA Cup meeting: Manchester United 3 Leeds United 1 (Fifth rd, 1995).

Best: Manchester United: Winners 1909, 1948, 1963, 1977, 1983, 1985, 1990, 1994, 1996, 1999, 2004; Leeds: Winners 1972.

Leading scorer: Manchester United: Wayne Rooney, 15; Leeds: Jermaine Beckford, 19.

Notts County v Forest Green Rovers

Tomorrow 3pm. TV: Highlights ITV1 11.15pm

Not, one suspects, the sort of fixture Sven Goran Eriksson had in mind when he signed up to the Notts County project at the start of this season. There will be those hoping for a draw so the former England manager has to take his stack-heeled shoes to Rovers' Gloucestershire ground. The man charged with averting this scenario is Dave Kevan, caretaker incumbent of the ejector seat in County's dugout, and presumably a candidate for the post given their good form. County, well set in the upper reaches of League Two, should ease past their struggling Conference opponents but they have gone out to non-League opposition in the last two seasons.

Last FA Cup meeting: Clubs never met.

Best: Notts County: Winners 1894; Forest Green Rovers: Third rd, 2009, 2010.

Leading scorer: Notts County: Lee Hughes, 18; Forest Green Rovers: Sean Rigg, 7.

Tranmere Rovers v Wolves

Tomorrow 6.15pm. TV: thefa.com; Highlights ITV1 11.15pm

A few years ago Prenton Park was a dangerous place for visiting Premier League clubs, in FA and League Cups, but the giantkilling has declined along with Tranmere's league form. That might change under Les Parry, the latest physio to switch to the manager's seat, who has overseen an improvement in form since taking over from John Barnes. Rovers' most likely source of goals is Ian Thomas-Moore, who also holds the distinction of being, probably, the only footballer to change his name to incorporate his wife's. He was Ian Moore prior to marrying Victoria Thomas in the summer.

Last FA Cup meeting: Tranmere Rovers 0 Wolverhampton Wanderers 1 (3rd rd, 1983).

Best: Tranmere Rovers: Sixth rd 2000, 2001, 2004; Wolverhampton Wanderers: Winners 1893, 1908, 1949, 1960.

Leading scorer: Tranmere Rovers: Ian Thomas-Moore, 6; Wolverhampton Wanderers: Kevin Doyle, 5.

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