FA Cup preview: Cobblers to oust tired Bantams


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The Independent Football

Bradford performed heroics against Premier League opposition in the Capital One Cup in midweek but it could come at the expense of their FA Cup aspirations at Northampton on Saturday. Take some of the 7/4 on Aidy Boothroyd's men bringing them back down to earth with a bump.

The Bantams bridged a gap of 59 league places when holding Wigan to a goalless draw over 120 minutes on Tuesday, eventually winning through on a penalty shoot-out to set-up a money-spinning quarter-final tie with Arsenal. But, afterwards, manager Phil Parkinson was quick to acknowledge the huge effort it required from his players and those exertions could take their toll against a robust Cobblers outfit.

The two matches will seem like chalk and cheese to the Yorkshire club. After all the concentration required to track the movement of a slick Latics outfit, such subtlety will be at a premium at Sixfields with Boothroyd bound to order a merciless high-tempo approach from his troops in the hope of preying on any lingering fatigue.

The two teams met at the same venue only last week and Bradford were worthy 1-0 winners on that occasion, so they know what's required, but that's unlikely to serve as any encouragement should it dawn on them that they cannot repeat those standards with what remains in the tank after their show of endurance at the DW.

Instead, the Cobblers can learn from their shortcomings in that encounter and build on the morale-boosting win they posted against high-flying Port Vale in League Two last weekend, a match overshadowed by a horror injury to Alex Nicholls who sustained a broken leg in scoring the opening goal.

We cannot hide from the fact that Northampton have selection issues with David Artell, Ben Harding and Luke Guttridge also sidelined but they were down to the bare bones against the second-placed Valiants and landed odds of 9/4 in that game. Now the crisis has eased somewhat with Chris Hackett and John Johnson returning this week and expected to feature.

Meanwhile, Steve Evans boasts a remarkable FA Cup record over the past couple of seasons and he can work his motivational magic to get an inconsistent Rotherham side firing on all cylinders for the visit of Stevenage.

The Millers are 7/4 and that looks about right in the scheme of a 26-place differential, but extra weight must surely be added to the home win when you exhibit the six higher-division scalps that Evans claimed with Crawley, bridging a gap of at least two divisions on four of those occasions.

Clearly, the belligerent Glaswegian has a knack for the fine art of giantkilling, so let's not be put off by Rotherham's patchy league form, the worst of which occurred during Evans' six-match stadium ban in any case.

Rotherham spent big over the summer and this presents an opportunity for them to demonstrate their credentials as future third-tier material. If both teams perform to the standards expected of their respective playing budgets, then you'd probably have to make the Millers slight favourites with home advantage.

Stevenage have shown great consistency under Gary Smith but their measured approach isn't necessarily suited to knockout football and you do wonder whether they can raise their game to match the intensity of the opposition if a typical cup-tie atmopshere awaits.

Finally, those looking for a big-price winner could do worse than backing Boreham Wood to beat Brentford at 5/1. The Hertfordshire club are going great guns in the Conference South and came from two goals down to beat Hayes & Yeading in the last round, reaching the first round proper for the first time in eight years.

As with any giantkilling, the stars need to align in favour of the underdogs, meaning the Londoners must have an off-day, but Uwe Rosler's men have an unwanted habit of coming up short in the relationship between results and territorial dominance, a point the German has touched upon more than once in recent weeks.

If the Bees bring their shooting boots, they could win this match at a canter. But if their profligacy continues, then Ian Allinson's men could be in a position to make them pay. The Wood have won six of their last seven matches at Meadow Park, scoring 20 goals and conceding just three.

Betting advice...

2pts Northampton to beat Bradford at 7/4 (Bet365)

Bantams could pay for their exertions in midweek against a robust Cobblers outfit.

2pts Rotherham to beat Stevenage at 7/4 (Blue Square)

Steve Evans can get inconsistent Millers firing to maintain his remarkable cup record.

1pt Boreham Wood to beat Brentford at 5/1 (Sky Bet)

Big price in light of Bees' nasty habit for not making territorial dominance count.

For more betting advice, visit Best of the Bets by clicking here.