FA Cup preview: Cumbrians to embrace cup fever

 

Every year, the same cliches get churned out about the FA Cup and the competition is built up to be something it used to be - but isn't anymore. Sure, these matches can still trigger joy and generate excitement, but only after the event.

So let's not kid ourselves that every team will be drooling at the prospect what awaits them this weekend. Some clubs have bigger concerns. They will turn up with the best intentions and give it a go, like good professionals, but there's no getting away from the fact that, in some cases, defeat will brushed off and forgotten about by six o'clock, as though it never happened.

Now let's try and pinpoint where the purpose is greater, by forgetting league form – perhaps even using good form as a stick to beat teams with – and see if we can identify the hottest opportunities. 

All of which in mind, we just have to be with Carlisle at 11/5 for the visit of Bournemouth. The Cumbrians are going through a difficult period as they languish in the lower reaches of League One but this competition offers a chance of salvation. A top-six finish already looks beyond them, but a money-spinning third round tie might just be enough to keep long-serving manager Greg Abbott in a job.

It's questionable how much players really care about club finances but Carlisle could certainly do with the money, whereas Bournemouth have more money than sense - well, that was until Eddie Howe returned to Dean Court. 

The 34-year-old has restored an instant sense of direction since ending his 21-month sabbatical with Burnley, leading the Cherries to a ten-match unbeaten run that leaves them within five points of the play-offs. It's a run that includes a convincing 4-0 win over League Two Dagenham & Redbridge in the last round, but that mission was no real hardship and arrived at a delicate point in the confidence-building process. 

The prospect of a 700-mile round trip obviously raised the issue of relevance when the draw was made but Bournemouth are flying most of the way - making good use of Maxim Demin's money on Flybe's Southampton to Newcastle route - and counterintuitive though this may sound, we reckon that dose of luxury might just temper the motivation of making an arduous journey worthwhile.

Carlisle have been disappointing this season but they haven't become a bad team overnight and they can right the wrongs of a 4-2 defeat to the Dorset outfit a month ago by outdoing them in terms of desire this time around. A morale-boosting 3-1 win at Yeovil last weekend was a handy way to prepare.

Meanwhile, Notts County occupy the position that Bournemouth are currently chasing and they look vulnerable for the much shorter trip to Rotherham. Take some of the 13/8 available on Steve Evans claiming his eighth higher-division scalp in three seasons.

The Millers did us proud by putting Stevenage to the sword in Round 1 and the challenge that now faces them at New York Stadium is no harder; the Magpies have an identical league record to Gary Smith's men with nine wins, seven draws and four defeats from the first 20 matches.

Keith Curle's men have thwarted us on a couple of occasions in recent weeks, picking up four points from matches against Scunthorpe and Swindon. Throw in the goalless draw at Preston that was sandwiched in between and you have three successive matches in which the Magpies have been second-best only to ride their luck and end up with more than they bargained for.

Finally, we'll complete a trio of chunky-priced home wins with a bet on Oldham to beat Doncaster, also at 13/8. 

These two teams played each other in a rearranged League One fixture at the Keepmoat on Tuesday with the Yorkshire club edging home by the only goal and it was a game that finished amid some controversy with a red card for either side in stoppage time. 

It remains to be seen whether any lingering contempt will spill over, making for a tetchy affair at Boundary Park four days on, but we suspect the Latics will be better equipped to cope with the loss of goalkeeper Dean Bouzanis, having recalled Alex Cisak from his loan spell at Portsmouth, than Rovers who must make do without striker Iain Hume.

That slender victory lifted Dean Saunders' men up to second in the League One table but it comes at the expense of giving away their best secrets and 16th-placed Oldham might have all the incentive to find an extra gear here. When you're dreaming of a promotion party in the blazing sun next May, the last thing you need is sub-zero tempartures at a notoriously inhospitable venue better known as Ice Station Zebra.

Betting advice...

1.5pts Carlisle to beat Bournemouth at 11/5 (Boylesports)

Cumbrians can make light of a difficult season with a big show against recent opponents.

2pts Oldham to beat Doncaster at 13/8 (Coral)

Latics can keep their season alive by gaining swift revenge for their defeat in midweek.

2pts Rotherham to beat Notts County at 13/8 (Coral)

Millers look a good bet to maintain Steve Evans' incredible FA Cup record of recent years.

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

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