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Fulham's first three goals were gifts from set pieces, but there's no taking away from Moussa Dembele on the fourth. Just before the stroke of halftime, the Belgian scored with an absolutely brilliant strike to give the Cottagers a 4-0 lead over Tottenham Hotspur. William Gallas and Benoit Assou-Ekotto defended very poorly on the goal, but Dembele still deserves all of the credit in the world for his great strike.
Fulham took a bit of a surprise lead in the 11th minute when Alan Hutton committed a foul in the box on Clint Dempsey, leading to a penalty that Danny Murphy converted. The game was then, very surprisingly, all but ended just three minutes later when Michael Dawson was shown a straight red card for pulling Dempsey's shirt in the box. Murphy converted, and the fat lady sung. Brede Hangeland added a third from a corner kick, and Dembele added some style points to Fulham's victory with a fourth.
Wait...it's only halftime? Oh. Spurs actually have to deal with another 45 minutes of this.
It's gone from bad to worse to worser for Tottenham Hotspur, as the visitors are now down three goals and a man against Fulham at Craven Cottage. At least this time the goal wasn't a penalty kick, but it still hasn't come from open play.
Brede Hangeland was the scorer, putting in the goal with his head from a corner. Danny Murphy is now having the greatest day in the history of football from dead balls, which might be a slight exaggeration. I'm going to pretend I'm not old enough to have seen Juninho play for Lyon.
This game can now be classified as an absolute disaster from a Spurs standpoint. To be honest, Harry Redknapp should probably sub off Luka Modric and Rafael van der Vaart in case they get injured. If they managed to come back from this, it would be nothing short of remarkable.
For the second time in three minutes, Fulham's Clint Dempsey has drawn a penalty kick and Danny Murphy has converted. This time, it was Tottenham Hotspur's Michael Dawson who committed the foul, and he was shown a straight red card for his troubles. The penalty was probably the correct decision, as Dawson did appear to tug on the shirt of Dempsey inside of the box, but the decision to show him a straight red card seemed questionable.
It's a shock turnaround for Spurs, who got off to a solid start before the first penalty. The second penalty and red came as an even bigger shock, and there seems to be no way back for Spurs after that. Interestingly enough, Spurs have had quite a few good performances with ten men this season, but a two goal deficit on the road without Gareth Bale seems insurmountable.
Reacting to Dawson's sending off, Harry Redknapp has opted to sub William Gallas in for Sandro, who did not have a good start to the match.
Alan Hutton has given Fulham a gift in Tottenham Hotspur's FA Cup fourth round match at Craven Cottage, taking a senseless stab at a tackle on Clint Dempsey, causing Phil Dowd to point to the spot. With Dempsey at the far left of the Spurs area and approaching the byline, there was no need for Hutton to do anything but guard against the cross. Instead, the Tottenham right back lunged for the ball, gave an obvious penalty, and has put Spurs down one after 11 minutes.
Danny Murphy, scoring his first goal in 10 months, converted the kick. The Fulham captain put the ball high into the right side of Heurelho Gomes's net, his shot evading the Brazilian `keeper, who had guessed the right way.
And as we post this update, Phil Dowd has reached for his card and pointed to the spot again. Update is coming, but Spurs' may have just seen this match handed to Fulham.
Nottingham County battled hard against Manchester City and ultimately earned a draw and a lucrative replay at the City of Manchester Stadium. Although City were outplayed for significant periods of the match and deserved to go behind to Neil Bishop's header, much their poor play can be attributed to the appalling state of the surface, which had recently been used for a slew of rugby games and served to take much of the skill out of the game. But if mud was the great equaliser for home side, Edin Dzeko was the visitors'. With Notts County 1-0 ahead, Dzeko salvaged the mediocre display, evening up the score with ten minutes to go. The Bosnian found himself on the end of a superb cross from Micah Richards and volleyed home his first goal for the club, sparing Roberto Mancini's blushes in the process. Aston Villa await the winner in the next round.
Elsewhere, the other Nottingham side crashed out of the competition as West Ham United came from behind to beat back a spirited Nottingham Forest thanks to a hat trick from Victor Obinna. The Hammers went ahead in the fourth minute as Obinna deflected a Mark Noble shot beyond the reach of Lee Camp, but the visitors pegged back their Premier League hosts with goals from Dele Adebola and David McGoldrick, the latter coming after Rob Green could only parry a back-header from one of his defenders into McGoldrick's pass. Obinna leveled the score immediately before halftime with an attempted cross that went horribly right, before sealing the deal in the 52nd minute when he slotted home a penalty kick. West Hame face Burnley at home in the next round.
Although we're not quite done with the FA Cup's fourth round matches, with Tottenham Hotspur about to kick off against Fulham at Craven Cottage and several replays yet to be staged, the fifth round draw has been announced. Mark Watson and Neil Ruddock have been pulling the names out of the hat, and the results were... interesting. Manchester United face Crawley Town at Old Trafford in what surely represents the sinister non-League side's cup run as well as putting a lot of cash in their chairman's pocket, while Manchester City - if they can beat Nottingham County in their upcoming replay - have to deal with Aston Villa at home.
Chelsea or Everton have what should be a fairly relaxing draw at home to Reading, while one draw is totally up in the either, as Fulham or Tottenham Hotspur play either Bolton or Wigan. There are no matches without at least one Premier League side, which means we are not guaranteed a low-league team in the quarter finals (hopefully at least one can make it through). The full draw is below:
West Ham vs. Burnley
Notts County / Man City vs. Aston Villa
Stoke City vs. Brighton
Birmingham City vs. Sheff Wed
Leyton Orient vs. Arsenal
Everton or Chelsea vs. Reading
Manchester United vs. Crawley Town
Fulham / Tottenham vs. Bolton / Wigan
Although defender Robert Huth scored the winning goal for Stoke in their FA Cup clash against Wolverhampton at Molineux, it's Thomas Sorensen who's the hero after saving a penalty deep inside injury time and preserving Stoke's 1-0 lead. Serbian midfielder Nenad Milijas was brought down in the area by Huth, and he dusted himself off to take the 92nd minute spot kick. Astonishingly, Sorenson managed to keep it out, leaving the home fans heartbroken in what was a far more dramatic finish that the game strictly deserved.
Huth's goal had only come nine minutes prior to the penalty, after eighty minutes of what could probably be charitably described as hideously boring football. The ex-Chelsea defender jumped high to nod in a neat delivery swung in by Matty Etherington to give the visitors the lead in the 81st minute - and the Potters magically survived a late Wolves onslaught as well as the penalty scare to advance to the fifth round.
Two other FA Cup matches are at half time right now, with Manchester City being held scoreless at Nottingham County on a pitch that would barely be considered suitable for a demolition derby. Playing in knee-deep mud is apparently the great equaliser. Meanwhile, West Ham aren't making themselves look very special at home against Nottingham Forest, and a the only reason they're not behind is a Victor Obinna long range goal from a highly improbably angle that leveled things up at 2-2 in the 42nd minute.
Undeserved victories are still victories, but while only one side will be happy about their performance today (hint: not Arsenal) it's the home side who will move on in the tournament thanks to a very late penalty won by Nicklas Bendtner and converted by Cesc Fabregas. It was a heartbreaking blow for League One Huddersfield, who played exceptionally well and were unlucky to score only once, with a host of chances going just wide and Manuel Almunia playing the occasional hero for Arsenal.
The game didn't look as though it would be controversial - Nicklas Bentdner got the Gunners an early lead via a deflected goal that left Ian Bennett completely stranded, and it looked like more were coming. Then things all went terribly wrong. Samir Nasri left the game with a hamstring injury shortly afterwards, probably the most important event of the day, but worse was yet to come as far as the game was concerned for Arsenal. Sebestian Squillaci, who hasn't exactly been a paragon of defensive fortitude, was rightly shown a straight red card for a professional foul against Jack Hunt, and with Arsenal down to ten men and without their best player Huddersfield were suddenly back in it with a chance, and their play suddenly became infinitely more fluid and threatening.
They took it in the 66th minute, thanks to an Alan Lee header. All of their good work was undone, however, when with less than five minutes to play Bendtner tumbled dramatically over Jamie McCombe, and Fabregas was on hand to fire the Gunners into the fifth round.
Cesc Fabregas was the man to spare Arsenal's blushes, threading a pass to Nicklas Bendtner in the Huddersfield box that the Dane ultimately parleyed into a (possibly deserved) penalty by tumbling over Jamie McCombe's challenge. Showing that his personality is a perfect fit for Barcelona by harassing referee Mark Clattenburg for a sending off (just a booking says Clattenburg) and making about eight pauses in his runup, the Arsenal captain eventually sent Ian Bennett the wrong way and hammered the spot kick low and left. 2-1 Arsenal with very little time left in the match, and it looks like Huddersfield will not get the result that their play deserves.
Since going down for the second time in the match, the Terriers have had a few chances, including a gorgeous free kick that skimmed the roof of the net, but time is very much running out for the League One side against the Premier League giants here at the Emirates.
If Nicklas Bendtner could finish, this game would be out of sight, ten men or not. For the second time today, the Danish striker is clear - he must score after great work by the industrious Andrei Arshavin on the left. But he doesn't, opting to take a touch to control the ball on the penalty spot instead of shooting first time, which gives a scrambling Huddersfield defence enough time to pinch the ball off his toes. Any striker worth their salt has the ball in the back of the net, and any striker at all at least attempts a shot there. Nicklas Bendtner, you are no striker at all.
Arshavin's also had a recent effort not turn out too brilliantly, ballooning well over the bar, but his was more forgivable considering a) he actually shot b) he had run through two defenders as he hit it c) he was falling down d) he actually shot and e) the ball was actually deflected behind for a corner. Arsenal need a goal here to avoid a replay and Robin van Persie isn't going to be around to save them. It's going to be a very interesting final fifteen minutes at the Emirates.
Well, it had been coming. After a veritable onslaught from the League One team, Huddersfield Town are level thanks to the head of Alan Lee, who rose high above Arsenal's sleeping defence to power home a corner smack into the middle of the need. The goal arrived after a spell of major pressure, and indeed Arsenal have Manuel Almunia to thank for still being in this match at all.
After Kieran Gibbs cut out and cleared an incisive pass intended for Anthony Pilkington, it look as though the immediate danger was over. Not so. A short throw for Huddersfield Town was worked into a brilliant cross, and Alan Lee's subsequent header was directed towards the bottom corner but a spectacular save kept it out. Joey Gudjonsson had a volleyed effort fly less than a foot wide of the post seconds later, and Jack Hunt buzzed the side netting before Lee managed to grab the goal his team deserved. It's now Arsenal 1-1 Huddersfield Town, with the home side down to ten men.
Arsenal haven't lost an FA Cup match at home to lower league opposition for upwards of fifty years, and Huddersfield haven't beaten the Gunners in almost a century. Should they win now - and believe me, they have the momentum - it'll be one of the most important wins in club history. Cesc Febregas, Arsenal's last substitute, comes on for Abou Diaby in a bid to stem the bleeding.
Huddersfield Town won't ever have a better chance of coming away from the Emirates Stadium with a win. Arsenal have to adjust to losing a centre back after Sebastein Squillaci's sending off, and Arsene Wenger has opted to deploy Alex Song in place of forward Marouane Chamakh in order to shore up the home side's suddenly shaky defence. Arsenal have now used two of their three substitutes already, and we're not even to the 50th minute yet, which will make it very difficult for them to re-seize the match should something go wrong in this half. Nicolas Bentdner will lead the line for the Gunners in Chamakh's absence.
Andrei Arshavin is probably the most dangerous player on the field now that Samir Nasri has departed, and although the Russian winger has tormented Huddersfield's defence he still hasn't managed to seriously test goalkeeper Ian Bennett, instead hitting the side netting several times. At the other end of the pitch, Manuel Almunia's been forced into a few saves, but nothing that's been overly troublesome for the sometimes erratic keeper - perhaps it would have been different if the aforementioned Arshavin hadn't sprinted down the entire length of the pitch to pull off a goal-saving challenge on Joey Gudjonsson as the Huddersfield man lurked with intent inside the six-yard box. That was an absolute peach of a tackle.
Arsenal are losing their cool. Kieran Gibbs has already been booked for getting into a pushing match with his Huddersfield opponents, and now Sebastien Squillaci has been dismissed for a professional foul following his rather cynical block on right back Jack Hunt, who had been embarking on a swashbuckling run through the very heart of the Arsenal defence. Had Hunt got past Squillaci (Laurent Koscielny was already out of the picture thanks to a very neat flick and feint), he was in the clear and probably would have equalised. Instead, Arsenal are down to ten men and the resultant free kick from thirty yards out is blazed well over.
Don't let the bad free kicks fool you, though, Huddersfield do have enough quality to punish their rather more illustrious hosts, and most of their threat comes from winger Anthony Pilkinson, who came close three times towards the end of the second half. The visitors were also fairly unlucky in that Mark Clattenburg's failed to award a penalty for a clear handball in the box by Gibbs during injury time. Sloppy mistakes by Arsenal may well cost them dear here, but they just about lead 1-0 going into halftime.
This is the last thing Arsenal fans wanted to see right now. Samir Nasri, chasing a long clearance from goalkeeper Manuel Almunia, has pulled up limping with no contact from the defender, leaving the French winger in obvious pain - that looks like a hamstring injury to me. Arsene Wenger isn't taking any risks with arguably the Premier League's player of the year thus far, and Nasri was immediately withdrawn for Czech midfielder Thomas Rosicky.
Nasri's injury doesn't look like a particularly bad one, but even missing a few games will be a major blow to Arsenal as they look to get maximum points against Everton and Newcastle over the next few weeks in their bid to chase down Manchester United at the top of the Premier League table. I’ll join in with Arsenal fans – and anyone who likes a bit of magic in their lives – in wishing Nasri a swift recovery.
If the side netting counted for half, Arsenal would be 3-0 up against Huddersfield Town already. As you might expect, the home side are dominating possession and creating the better of the chances, but none of Andrei Arshavin, Marouane Chamakh or Nicklas Bendtner were able to hit the target early on, with Bendtner especially guilty of missing a gilt-edged chance when he literally missed a cross swung over by Samir Nasri while the Dane was in at least four yards of space.
Fortunately for Bendtner, redemption was at hand in the 21st minute, and while it may not be 3-0 Arsenal are very much in the driver's seat with a 1-0 lead. Released down the middle, Bendtner took his time lining up the shot - enough for a defender to get himself in the way of the effort. Regrettably for Huddersfield, that touch merely took the ball around goalkeeper Ian Bennett, and Arsenal find themselves with an early league in this FA Cup tie.
Huddersfield aren't just lying down and letting themselves be stamped on, though - they've come close a few times thanks to a good breakaway chance, and right winger Anthony Pilkington's swung in a couple of very nice crosses, the latest of which should have resulted in a goal for the Terriers.
A trip to the Emirates isn't the sort of match that Huddersfield sees every year. The League One team faces off against Premier League giants Arsenal in Sunday's first FA Cup tie of the day, and although Leeds United held off Arsenal's efforts here last round, it's very difficult to envision the Gunners making similar mistakes here. Indeed, Arsene Wenger has chosen a fairly strong squad to put down their guests, and with the likes of Samir Nasri on the field and Jack Wilshere and Robin van Persie on the bench if needed, I don't think there's an upset on the cards in London today.
Arsenal (4-3-3): Almunia; Eboue, Koscielny, Squillaci, Gibbs; Diaby, Denilson, Bendtner; Nasri, Arshavin, Chamakh.
Subs: Szczesny, Fabregas, Rosicky, van Persie, Walcott, Song, Wilshere.
Huddersfield (4-4-2): Bennett; Peltier, Peter Clarke, McCombe, Kilbane; Roberts, Gudjonsson, Tom Clarke, Hunt; Pilkington, Lee.
Subs: Colgan, Naysmith, Kay, Arfield, Novak, Atkinson, Chippendale.
Goals from Javier Hernandez and Michael Owen give Manchester United an ultimately deserved come from behind win at Southampton, who battled hard until the very end and will be disappointed that they've fallen to defeat after starting so brightly. The Saints took the lead on the stroke of half time thanks to an excellent strike by Richard Chaplow and were playing United off the park, but when Sir Alex Ferguson threw Ryan Giggs and Nani on at the hour mark things changed significantly.
Southampton simply could not cope with the skill of Nani down the left, with Danny Butterfield victimised by the Portuguese winger on several occasions. Gabriel Obertan, who was quiet in the first half before being move further out onto the right wing, set up the first Untied goal with a cross, while Giggs was the provider for Hernandez's decisive second. However, things weren't all good for United - none of their defenders were impressive, Anderson and Darren Gibson were depressingly bad in the centre of the park, and Anders Lindegaard looked rather like he'd never seen a cross before in his entire life.
For Southampton, Chaplow was the standout, but Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was impressive as well, although he didn't quite justify the supposed £10M that half the teams in the Premier League are supposedly willing to pay to acquire his services. The Saints played well, and fought hard, but were eventually outclassed, and they only have themselves to blame for an awful error in the buildup to Hernadnez's goal. Still, Southampton did League One reasonably proud against their illustrious opponents. While the team and fans are contemplating a moral victory, Untied advance to the 5th round on the back of their actual one.
The stormtrooper lurking behind the Southampton net will be happy - Manchester United are now 2-1 up over their hosts. They have Javier Hernandez to thank, the young Mexican striker somehow sliding the ball beautifully into the far corner past Bartosz Białkowski despite falling down in the process. Just why he was falling down is an interesting question, as he was one on one against the Southampton keeper with zero defenders in his vicinity, but it's a goal despite Hernandez's unorthadox technique.
Ryan Giggs was the provider, though, threading in an inch-perfect pass that left Southampton's defence totally at sea after an awful defensive error gifted the veteran with the ball just outside the area. United have looked a totally different side since Giggs and Nani have made their appearances twenty minutes ago, and are now full value for their lead. Southampton probably don't deserve to be losing the match, however, and they're still making the occasional threat at Anders Lindegaard's goal. If they're going to get something out of this match, though they'll have to do it in the next ten minutes.
I guess those substitutions worked. Moments after flicking over the bar from Nani's left-sided cross, Michael Owen has grabbed a vital equaliser for Manchester United, although there's some question as to whether Javier Hernandez committed handball in the buildup. Gabriel Obertan, pushed much wider after the introduction of Ryan Giggs, got to the byline and pinged a cross into the Southampton box. The ball deflected off Hernandez's hand and bobble up for Owen, who did a fine job keeping his header on target. Bartosz Białkowski was well-beaten.
Southampton would have loved a win, but they'll definitely take a replay at Old Trafford. They're not out of this game, either, especially considering how poor United's back four have been, generating two great chances within minutes of Owen's goal, both from crosses fizzed through the area. The tie is now totally up for grabs - who's going to be the one to take it?
This will cheer Southampton hearts - Sir Alex Ferguson has now used up all three of his substitutes, and the game's not even an hour old. Off go Fabio da Silva, Darren Gibson, and Anderson. On come Wes Brown, Nani, and Ryan Giggs. Although Fabio da Silva wasn't actively bad, United's centreback pairing needed more protection than it was getting. Gibson and Anderson, however, were both horrific today, bringing rather a lot of dishonour upon their club. Giggs saved the day for United at Blackpool earlier this week - it remains to be seen whether Ferguson's good luck charm can pull that same trick out of his hat twice in a row.
Although United have had a little more possession this half, they're still not exactly bossing the game. Removing Gibson and Anderson, who were giving the ball away more often than keeping it, will help, but I'm not sure it will totally turn the tide for the Red Devils. Southampton are still looking to attack at every opportunity, and are a real threat to poach another goal on the break.
Southampton have been the better side this half, and the hosts are deservedly ahead after Richard Chaplow absolutely obliterated a shot into the back of Anders Lindegaard's net just seconds before halftime. Manchester United have been fairly poor so far in this match - possibly a function of Sir Alex Ferguson's decision to deploy his reserve team rather than that any of his first-choice players - and they deserve to be behind after some frankly rubbish defending.
They were warned when Guilherme do Prado was free in acres of space to receive Danny Butterfield's cross, only to be let off when the Brazilian headed well over, but they failed to take heed of the danger posed by Southampton and simply allowed Chaplow to waltz into the penalty area totally untouched. While Anderson stood around gawking at the midfielder's nerve (how dare he violate the sanctity of the area), Chaplow had time to line up a vicious drive with the outside of his right boot, and milliseconds later it was 1-0.
The halftime whistle blew before much else could happen, but I can't expect Ferguson's too happy with the way things are going so far. His team have definitely been second best in this game - but if we've learned anything from United's 3-2 win over Blackpool it's that game are ninety minutes long.
Southampton are rolling with a kit that makes them look an awful look like Manchester City's collective younger brothers, white with a big red sash running right to left. Meanwhile, Manchester United are playing in black and blue for some reason. It's been a pretty promising start from the hosts - they've had a Ricky Lambert goal disallowed, correctly, for offside, and haven't been afraid to take the game to their illustrious guests, looking very likely down both flanks. Anders Lindegaard has even been called into action once or twice, although there's been nothing too testing for the backup keeper.
United are still dangerous even if they're not yet dominant. Michael Owen, paired with Javier Hernandez, has just flashed a very nice low effort past the post with goalkeeper Bartosz Białkowski completely out of the picture, right before hitting the angle of post and bar with a cross that nearly went horribly right. Southampton don't have to deal with Dimitar Berbatov or Wayne Rooney, but the reserve strike pairing still has enough firepower to keep that defence on its toes.
Six clubs from Saturday's 10:00 a.m. kick-offs booked places in the FA Cup's fifth round, with Bolton and Wigan taking the start time's only all-English Premier League tie to a replay. That match ended scoreless at the Reebok, while Brighton & Hove Albion, Burnley, Birmingham City, Reading, Sheffield Wednesday and Crawley Town are all through. They join Aston Villa and Leyton Orient, winners of early kick-offs, while the draw at the Reebok mimics the result at Goodison, Chelsea drawing Everton.
With SB Nation Soccer's Graham MacAree having Birmingham City-Coventry City covered, here is the wrap-up of the other 10:00 a.m. kick-offs:
Watford 0-1 Brighton & Hove Albion: A well-deserved victory for Brighton, who saw an early Ashley Barnes goal hold up. Rene Gilmartin, Watford's `keeper, will be the goat, having conceded on a stoppable shot, with with Watford having done little to compromise Brighton's lead, the Championship team were deserved losers to their League One opponents.
Bolton 0-0 Wigan Athletic: Wigan will feel the better about this result, having rotated a number of their first choice for this trip to the Reebok. While the first half gave the impression this match had goals in it, the clubs go to the DW, having played to a scoreless draw.
Burnley 3-1 Burton Albion: The dream ends for the League Two side, Burnley taking out their frustrations with two goals from Chris Eagles. Martin Paterson added a late consolation to restore the two goal lead Calvin Zola'd cut in half.
Stevenage 1-2 Reading: Darius Charles's 72nd minute equalizer restored Stevenage's hopes, canceling out Mikele Leighterwood's 29th minute opener. But when Shane Long pulled Reading back in front in the 87th minute, the Royals were into the fifth round.
Sheffield Wednesday 4-1 Hereford United: Swapped goals within 15 minutes held-up until Joe Heath's sending-off broke the match open. Wednesday converted the ensuing penalty kick and was awarded another on their way to three 11-on-10 goals.
Torquay United 0-1 Crawley Town: A huge result for Crawley Town, the non-league club potentially earning another payday with their upset win at Torquay. Both teams ended on ten men, and when Torquay's Kevin Nicholson hit the woodwork late, Crawley were almost made to pay for missing two penalty kicks.
Manchester United are at the top of the Premier League. Southampton are in League One. United have won nine out of their last ten matches against the Saints. If you can't figure out where I'm going with this, I'm not exactly predicting a shock upset here. Despite not playing a full-strength team United should be able to dominate the midfield and score enough goals to keep their FA Cup train rolling. If Southampton are to progress they'll have to make good use of their wingers and give United's fullbacks problems. I wouldn't bet on that happening, but you never know. That's the magic of the cup!
And if you're not watching because you're a United fan, why not tune in to see what all the fuss about Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's about?
Southampton (4-4-2): Bialkowski; Butterfield, Fonte, Seaborne, Harding; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Schneiderlin, Chaplow, Do Prado; Lambert, Barnard.
Subs: Davis, Richardson, Dickson, Martin, Gobern, Doble, N'Guessan.
Manchester United (4-4-2): Lindegaard, O'Shea, Evans, Smalling, Fabio Da Silva, Gibson, Anderson, Scholes, Obertan, Hernandez, Owen.
Subs: Kuszczak, Brown, Berbatov, Rooney, Giggs, Nani, Bebe.
For a little while Coventry looked like they'd pull off a surprising win in Birmginham, but despite some fairly dire play, the hosts came back from a 2-0 deficit to pull off the win. Although Kevin Phillips will get the bulk of the plaudits for netting the go-ahead goal, it was David Bentley who inspired Birmingham's comeback, creating a host of chances and scoring a stunning 25-yard goal to get the Blues back into it. Naturally, Phillips was named man of the match anyway.
Marlon King and Richard Wood were the goalscorers for Coventry, the former sliding home a prescise far-post delivery while Liam Ridgewell lay rather pointlessly on the ground and the latter exploiting Birmingham's rather bizarre set-play defence by nipping home unmarked from a corner. However, Bentley scored a rocket, Stuart Parnaby equalised after something of a scramble in front of Keiren Westwood's goal, and Kevin Phillips broke Coventry hearts with a goal that sent Birmingham into the fifth round of the FA Cup.
Mere minutes after Stuart Parnaby leveled matters at St. Andrews, Kevin Phillips has compounded Coventry's misery by smashing in Birmingham's third goal. The striker defied both his age and his ability by taking down a corner with a brilliant first touch before rifling a half volley straight through Keiren Westwood, who helped it into the back of the net. The young goalkeeper really ought to have stopped that shot, but it was at least hit firmly enough not to be a total embarrassment. Anyway, Premier League Birmingham now lead Championship side Coventry 3-2 after their guests were 2-0 ahead.
Cameron Jerome was introduced for the hilariously ineffective Nikola Zigic immediately following Phillips' goal, which lowers the side's average height by six inches but does allow them to play with eleven footballers rather than ten. Coventry have ten minutes to find the goal that would force the equaliser, and they don't look that likely to get it. Freddy Eastwood and Nathan Cameron have come on for Clive Pratt and Conor Thomas, which is something, I guess.
Coventry will be distraught at conceding a goal scored by a Jane Austen character as Stuart Parnaby smashes home an Alexander Hleb cutback. Birmingham have been on the front foot for most of the half and now have the goal their play (sort of) deserves. With David Bentley, who, depressingly, is the best player on the pitch, moved to the right side, most of their good play is coming down that flank, and the goal was made by a cross from that side.
Bentley drew Keiran Westwood out of position and floated in a cross to the far post, where if Nikola Zigic were twelve feet tall he would have been faced with an open goal. Which he'd have missed Fortunately for the hosts, Zigic is not that tall, and Birmingham were able to retreive the ball on the left, let Hleb charge into the area, and feed Parnaby, who finished rather adroitly past Westwood. 2-2.
There's been a strong response by Coventry, who've threatened more than a few times since the goal, but they may be pushing up too high in their hunt to get back in front, leaving them a touch exposed at the back.
We have a delayed second half kickoff because Keiran Westwood's net is broken. This is thrilling stuff. But never fear, the fourth official is on hand to patch up the offending material with some magical tape and we can get back underway.
And now I wish we hadn't. Birmingham have 'dominated' the first ten minutes of the second half, but that's only because their hideous mistakes are coming higher up the pitch than Coventry's hideous mistakes. David Bentley is looking pretty lively on the left but Jean Beausejour is having one of the worst games I've ever seen from any professional footballer, and I regularly watch Major League Soccer. As I write this, Beausejour nods well wide from ten yards out whilst under no pressure. Nice.
Marlon King has come reasonably close to scoring, but the metaphorical and literal striker's finish didn't match his excellent take. The Birmingham left looks dangerously exposed on the counterattack, with Davids Bentley and Murphy spending all of their time in the Coventry half - quick releases deep down that flank have already caught the home side out twice. They'll have to be pretty careful not to concede again as they press for an equaliser.
It's still anyone's game at St. Andrews, with goals from Marlon King and Richard Wood answered by a quality strike long-range from David Bentley. On chances, Birmingham might think they should be ahead, but that's not how football works, and Coventry have been able to put theirs away while the home side has not. I regret expecting a boring match now - it's actually pretty exciting, but that's more to do with how bad both sides are, especially on the defence. Here are my notes from the match:
As we approach half time of the FA Cup fourth round's 10:00 a.m. (Eastern) kick-offs, let's take a survey of where the matches stand. Chelsea and Everton are already headed back to Stamford Bridge, a 1-1 draw forcing a replay. Aston Villa eliminated Blackburn 3-1 at Villa Park, while Leyton Orient pulled the day's first (rather large) upset, beating Swansea City in Wales, 2-1.
Watford 0-1 Brighton & Hove Albion: A goalkeeping blunder in the first half has League One's Brighton up on Watford, Ashley Barnes with the goal after Rene Gilmartin failed to deal with his 20-yard shot.
Bolton 0-0 Wigan: The only active Premier League-versus-Premier League match sees a near-full-strength Trotters side hosting a change crew from Roberto Martínez. David Wheater got the start for Owen Coyle.
Burley 1-0 Burton Albion: Chris Eagles converted Jack Cork's work to put Burnley up one on League Two's Burton Albion. Burton had come close with a Scott Malone free kick, but the former Manchester United man's run through the visitor's defense has the favorites up early.
Stevenage 0-1 Reading: The Cinderella story may end, with Champoionship side Reading proving a more difficult foe than Newcastle, who Stevenage sent out in the last round. Stevenage's loss might not be a bad thing, given what happened the last time the club pulled off a shocker at home.
Sheffield Wednesday 1-1 Hereford United: A Darren Potter goal has pulled Wednesday even, with the League Two side going up early through Stuart Fleetwood.
Torquay United 0-0 Crowley Town: This match was 15 minutes late kicking-off, and once it did, Torquay took its expected control. But Crowley, the last non-league side alive in the draw, has been able to withstand the early pressure, keeping the match even through the first half hour.
It's 2-1 at St. Andrews! Long range shots are about the only things that David Bentley is good at, which makes it somewhat surprising that Coventry have let him shoot. The ex-Tottenham man does a couple of stepovers to get some space, the defenders back off, and then he spanks a shot over Keiren Westwood that hits the bottom of the crossbar before nestling rather happily in Coventry's goal. It really was a stunning strike, but the ineptitude of Coventry's defence was total.
Anyway, I'm happy to report that this game is not in fact boring. Instead, it looks like a U-18 game where every single defender is four years underage. Coventry were well in control at 2-0 up, but there are more goals in it (as I write this, Birmingham try another cross to Nikola Zigic, so maybe not) and the visitors will be irritated that they've let their opponents get back into the match. With halftime coming up, they'll still be more pleased than their hosts, who are probably in for a right old shouting at in the dressing room.
... yeah so that was pretty embarrassing for the Premier League side. Granted, they're playing their reserve squad right now, considering their good* players all spent 120 minutes barely beating West Ham United earlier in the week, but reserve players should really know how to walk without falling over or jump for a corner. Apparently not, though. There had been warning signs for the hosts from previous set pieces, but these were apparently ignored, and Birmingham left centreback Richard Wood totally unmarked from a corner to nod past an amusingly flailing Colin Doyle and into the net.
Alex McLeish looks mortified, like a man who's woken from a seem slumber and lovely dream to find himself managing Birmingham. Meanwhile, Coventry's fans, secluded away in some dark corner of St. Andrews, are making some noise. Can't blame them, really, their side is very much on the front foot.
*These things are relative.
Liam Ridgewell is running around just fine, which must make him feel even sillier than he usually does for a) being named Liam and b) playing for Birmingham. The centre-back's curious decision to fall over in a heap in the middle of the pitch is one of the major reasons his side are behind right now. Coventry are slinging long passes in his general direction, obviously hoping he'll repeat his earlier antics, but nothing doing there.
Speaking of nothing doing - do Birmingham practice corner defence? If so, they're either a very unorthadox team or their whole back line just earned themselves three days of having to watch Birmingham vs. Blackburn replays. After the visitors won a corner on the right, Colin Doyle came out for the inswinger, decided not to take the catch, and watched with horror as his defence opted not to bother heading it, either. Coventry were bamboozled by this hilarious display of ineptitude and their attackers watched bemused as the ball deflected off Nikola Zigic, bounced in the middle of the box, and ran behind for another corner. And now here's another one. Let's see what amusement stems from this...
Goodness me, that'll be talked about after the game. Coventry City go 1-0 up against the home side in very controversial circumstances. A Birmingham defender (Liam Ridgewell, it looks like) was down on the ground in rather obvious pain, but the referee did not stop play and Marlon King kept going, racing towards Colin Doyle's goal and sweeping in a delicious shot at the far post. Alex McLeish is incensed, always a wonderful sight - his team should have been 1-0 up and now they're behind after that frankly rude goal.
Immediately before King's opener, Keiran Westwood pulled off a fabulous save to deny striker Kevin Phillips, who received a tasty cross after David Bentley released David Murphy on an overlapping run, only to see his close range header pushed onto the crossbar by Coventry's highly rated goalkeeper. Philips hasn't really been having a good game so far. His previous attempt at goal had been an ambitious twenty yard shot, and unless his ambition was to push the ball at four miles an hour straight towards Westwood, he didn't do a very good job with it. Anyway, 1-0 to the Championship team. Birmingham will have to step things up here.
There are literally twenty four people in the seats at St. Andrews. I can only assume that this they are there as some sort of punishment. The first ten seconds of the game sees the ball go out for a Coventry goal kick. I wish I was making this up. Eventually, Birmingham pick up the ball, and eventually Nikola Zigic heads wide. Zigic is very tall, and he also couldn't hit the broad side of a barn if it fell on him. Wide headers are what he does. At the other end of the pitch Carl Baker skips through a pair of sleeping Birmingham shirts on the left (I don't blame them) and runs the ball straight to Colin Doyle in the Birmingham goal.
There are at least three and possibly four balloons on the pitch right now. I thought you all should know. Oh, they're blowing away now. That's a shame.
The FA Cup can bring us great games. There've been numerous classic FA Cup matches over the years, and this is almost certainly not going to be one of them. Birmingham City are the second most boring team in all of Europe's top flight leagues, and although I don't want Coventry anymore, I used to and they used to be boring. They're also 14th in the Championship without scoring or conceding many goals, which makes them even more likely to be boring. So I'm going to be closed minded and declare that this game will quite probably be boring. Birmingham don't even care about the FA Cup, considering the lineup they're putting out, but considering the way their first team play that might actually help:
Birmingham (4-4-2): Doyl; Parnaby, Jiranek, Ridgewell, Murphy; Bentley, Fahey, Hleb, Beausejour; Phillips, Zigic.
Subs: Foster, Larsson, Gardner, Jerome, Derbyshire, Mutch, Kerr.
Coventry (4-4-2): Westwood; Keough, Craine, Wood, O'Halloran; Baker, Thomas, Gunnarsson, McSheffrey; King, Platt.
Subs: Ireland, Bell, Eastwood, Jutkiewicz, Clarke, Cameron, Ruffles.
A lackluster performance from holders Chelsea FC needed a late goal from Salomon Kalou to force a replay, earning a 1-1 result at Goodison Park on Saturday. Louis Saha opening the scoring in the 62nd minute, converting a Diniyar Bilyaletdinov corner kick, but when another Everton corner led to a counter attack opportunity for the Blues, Everton was left with only a replay to show for their strong performance.
An even start saw neither side generate a clear chance through the first 20 minutes, Everton crosses from the left side sporadically breaking-up Chelsea's slight advantage in possession. With the Blues unable to translate any of their advances into questions of Tim Howard, the match's first opportunity came off the foot of Jack Rodwell, a right-footed shot from 12 yards hit directly to Petr Cech in near the half hour mark. Moments later Nicolas Anelka was put behind the defense, with a right-footed shot from 16 yards saved by a Tim Howard kick.
With that chance, Chelsea had come into the match, exhibiting control into half time. But with intermission came a break in the Blues' momentum. something the holders were never able to regain through full time.
Instead, it was Everton who dominated the second half, creating a number of chances (most notably, through Seamus Coleman) before Saha broke through in the 62nd minute. Beating John Terry on a run to the edge of the six yard box, Saha was picked out for a relatively easy finish, the Frenchman heading the ball down and to the left of Peter Cech, giving Everton the match's first goal.
When Chelsea failed to respond in the minutes that followed, Everton looked on course to advance, particularly when they pressured for a second goal just after the 70 minute mark. But after forcing another corner kick, Everton was caught out by a Chelsea counter, the play moving from left-center to right as is went up the pitch. By the time it reached the Everton area, Salomon Kalou was running onto a 16 yard shot, putting a ball through Sylvain Distin's leg to Tim Howard's far post, equalizing.
Perhaps it was a fortunate result, though others would be justified in calling the final fair. Chelsea's 1-1 result at Goodison earns the holders a replay.
Perhaps hinting a willingness to take the tie back to Stamford Bridge, Carlo Ancelotti's brought Mikel John Obi off the bench, set to replace Frank Lampard in what would normally be a defensive move. The move, however, could just be able trying something new, as Lampard has not influenced the match. But in lieu of keeping on a player with an attacker's profile who has done little attacking, may as well bring on a player who might influence the match.
Now in the 84th minute, Mikel stands at the sideline while Chelsea enjoys a rare spell of possession. A great ball from the back from Petr Cech one minute ago established Chelsea possession deep in the Everton half. Since, the Toffees have been packed in, with the Blues willing to kick the ball around the perimeter of defense rather than forgo possession.
Entering the 86th minute, Mikel is now on, possibly hinting at a more advanced role for Michael Essien, though the Ghanaian is still dropping deep to get the ball. And as he does, with the ball moving left-to-right along the back, and innocent ball placed from Branislav Ivanovic to Ramires allowed the Brazilian to turn up field and blast a 30-yard shot, one that hits the bottom of Tim Howard's left post.
With David Moyes responding to Ancelotti's change by bringing on Jermaine Beckford, a 4-4-2 Everton are set to pursue a second goal over the match's final three minutes of regulation time.
Salomon Kalou's first touch is a goal, pulling Chelsea even in the 76th minute. On a counter attack born from an Everton corner kick, Chelsea moved play to Kalou at the right side of the box. His shot, going between the legs of Sylvain Distin, saw a late reaction from Tim Howard, who otherwise may not have been able to protect his far post. Kalou's ball rolled one ball length inside Howard's right upright, tying the match, 1-1.
The goal was classically against the run of play. The Blues had experienced some possession when Kalou entered the match near the 70 minute mark, but in the five minutes that followed, Everton exhibited as much control as they had at any point in the match. Two corner kicks earned and two other crosses from open play spoke to the Toffees' increased threat for a second goal.
But it was Chelsea and Kalou that would find the match's second tally, and regardless of how you feel about the tally's justice in the context of the match, the teams are back even. Now entering the 80th minute, Everton and Chelsea at 1-1 at Goodison.
Six minutes after the goal and seeing little response from his team, Carlo Ancelotti has made Chelsea's first change. Sacrificed is Florent Malouda, anonymous today. Salomon Kalou is on as the Blues chase a 1-0 deficit against Everton.
The substitution's served as a wake-up call, though Kalou, two minutes into his shift, has yet to make an impact. Still, Chelsea looks more ambitious, actually holding possession in the Everton half for a few seconds. Thinking back on the preceding half hour, I'm not sure that has happened since Howard Webb blew the second half's whistle. As we approach full time, Everton may also be sacrificing ambition for defensive shape. Regardless, Chelsea is starting to take on the posture of the chaser.
Which is not to say Everton will be feckless. At the end of the 74th minute, Leighton Baines spotted an unlikely aerial threat, Seamus Coleman, who left over Ashley Cole to force a diving stop from Petr Cech at the `keeper's right post. The rebound came out to Coleman, his shot blocked over the bar why Michael Essien.
Everton FC has gone up on visiting Chelsea FC, a corner kick from Diniyar Bilyaletdinov finding Louis Saha for the simplest of goals. Beating John Terry on the play, Louis Saha put a header from just inside the six yard box down and to the left of Petr Cech, giving Everton a 1-0 lead with just under 30 minutes to play.
The goal comes as Everton has had clear control over the half's first 15 minutes, with Chelsea allowing the Toffees to build through the right before trying to their luck crossing the ball. Most of those crosses were easily dealt with, but yielding a corner just after the hour mark, Chelsea would allow Everton to take the lead.
A left-footed ball from Bilyaletdinov swung in and dropped near the middle of goal, five yards from the line. Driving hard enough to freeze Cech, Bilyaletdinov's bell left Terry to deal with the chance. Saha's run, however, took Terry too far under the ball, and when the Everton striker pulled back and rose for the ball, his chance was uncontested. Low, into goal, giving Chelsea's `keeper and post guards no chance, Saha gave Everton the lead.
You wouldn't call it a glorious chance, but it was Eveton's stiffest test of Petr Cech yet, with a header from Marouane Fellaini forcing the Chelsea `keeper to steer the shot over the bar. On the end of a dead ball lofted-in from the right flank, Fallaini redirected his shot from 10 yards out, and while it was a relatively easy save for Cech, it was a reminder that another 20 minutes of lack-luster football could see the holders go down.
As the match approached the hour mark, Everton was able to maintain their advantage, but whereas their previous spell of control - the match's first 15-20 minutes - saw most of their entries go through the left side, this stretch seems much of Everton's play worked through the right. The ball for Fellaini came after a foul earned on the right flank, and with a recent block from Ashley Cole and a header out from John Terry, Chelsea has had to deal with more tries from Phil Neville's side.
Having just earned a corner kick, Everton continues to mildly threaten. This half is completely mimicking the first.
The first five minutes of the second half saw Chelsea return to the pitch with none of the fluidity and ambition they took into half time. While they were on the front foot when Howard Webb blew the first half to a close, the match that's resumed at the second half's kick-off gives us the play we saw at the 20 minute mark, with Everton generating the first chance.
Just after the 50 minute mark, Jack Rodwell was able to get onto the ball played between John Terry and the advanced José Bosingwa. Being the veteran center half to the byline, Rodwell was able to float a cross far post for Louis Saha. The Frenchman's left-footed volley was blocked by Ramires, but the opportunity was reminiscent of the match's first act, where sporativ Everton attackes broke-up periods of ineffectual Chelsea play.
Now in the 54th minute, Chelsea has still yet to show anything positive in this half. If this 45 plays out like the first, expect 15-20 more minutes of this before the Blues wake-up to control the match. Whether the score, currently 0-0, will be as kind to them at that time remains to be seen.
Beyond Chelsea continuing their FA Cup-defense at Everton, there is another all-English Premier League battle going on at Villa Park, with Gèrard Houllier's Aston Villa hosting Blackburn Rovers. That match is even at one, with Ciaran Clark's early conversion of a Barry Bannan corner being canceled out seven minutes later by Nikola Kalinic, on in the 10th minute for Roque Santa Cruz, converting a Michel Salgado ball in the 18th minute. Ten minutes before half, that match is still 1-1.
One other match is underway, with Swansea City welcoming Leyton Orient to Wales. Amidst reports of a strong day from Swans star Scott Sinclair, the home side has gone down in the 26th minute, with midfielder Jimmy Smith's header scoring from a dead ball, putting Leyton Orient up against the run of play. Approaching the half hour mark at Liberty Stadium, Swans are being lined up for the upset.
Soon to kick-off, the seven, 10:00 a.m. Eastern kick-offs, including our second all-Premier League contest of the day, Bolton hosting Wigan.
In the 38th minute, Chelsea experienced the largest spell of possession of the match, and while most of the touches were either in their own half or near the center circle, the patience led to a ball for Frank Lampard, situated high, next to the Everton line, that the Chelsea midfielder was nearly able to feed through to Nicolas Anelka. Still, with Michael Essien at the base of midfield, helping the Blues move the ball methodically from flank-to-flank, Chelsea was able to get Ashley Cole put the flank and parked near Phil Neville, our first glimpse of the attacking shape we've become accustomed to seeing from Carlo Ancelotti's team. Perhaps it's no coincidence that the built-up nearly led to a change for a runner between right back and right-center half.
But while Chelsea has fully come into this match, Everton still look capable. As Chelsea held possession, Everton remained patient in defense, for the most part maintaining their shape as a more active, more ambitious opponent started asking more questions. Now minutes before halftime, the Toffees look set for a different type of match, going forward. Whereas before they were content to cede some possession while looking the slightly more threatening side, now they'll have to rely on opportunism, should they choose to not put more, higher pressure on the holders.
Sylvain Distin has unintentionally deflected a shot on Tim Howard while Mikel Arteta speculated from 30 yards out, but as the last minute of stoppage time now winds down, the sides are set to go to half as they started: 0-0.
One minute after Chelsea's first test of Tim Howard was whistled offside, the culprit nearly opened the scoring, Nicolas Anelka's shot toward the far, right post saved by the Everton `keeper. Anelka was alone on the keeper, a run behind the defense found by a Ramires ball, the built-up giving Anelka a clear shot from 16 yards. Howard did well to cut-off the angle, giving Anelka almost no daylight to the far post, saving the Toffees' from ruing their first defensive break down.
The play, however, was made by Ramires, who started the movement in Chelsea's half of the field. A pass out right to a teammate led to a run through the middle of the park from the Brazilian, his effort rewarded with a pass to the ended of the attacking third. Ramires's next touch was a well-weighted ball behind John Heitenga, with Anelka's distance between himself and Sylvain Distin creating the room to test Howard.
Now in the 35th minute, the match remains scoreless, but Chelsea has started to look the part of holders. Beyond the Anelka chance, the team's movement is much better, but it from Ramires or Anelka. José Bosingwa remains active on the right, and if Chelsea can get Frank Lampard, Florent Malouda, or Didier Drogba more involved, they should be able to fully assume control of the match.
Those opening hopeful moments of a match - where each team, unsure of what their opponent will offer, play hopeful of an early, shock goal - have faded. Ambitious runs with tight muscles and dry skin end after 15 minutes, the lack of goals telling each side to settle-in. Everton and Chelsea have both settled-in, spending more time on the ball, with defenders less likely to abandon positioning in search of a tackle. Thus, the mid-point of the first half has come and gone, with both sides still scoreless.
If there is a reason for either side to worry, it's Chelsea's inability or unwillingness to challenge on the flanks to prevent crosses. During one stretch in the 19th minute, the holders were able to block successive crosses from Everton's left, but that stretch has been the exception. While the crosses have lacked precision and the target man's lacked ambition, Chelsea has yet to be punished by Everton's ability to pump crosses in, but in the 22nd minute, when an unmarked Sylvain Distin was able to head a ball down and toward goal, the Blues has their first minor scare, one that ended when Petr Cech came off his line to cover the ball.
In the 25th minute, Everton created the match's first legitimate chance, with the continued strong play of Marouane Fellaini leading to a won ball in midfield, a pass through the defense for Jack Rodwell. Soon to be troubled by a defender, Rodwell has no choice but to put his first touch on goal. His right-footed shot from 14 yards out went straight to an oncoming Cech.
Now in the 29th minute, a Diniyar Bilyaletdinov header - on the end of service from Phil Neville - is whistled offside before the Russian can redirect the ball onto Cech. Moments later, Nicolas Anelka hits the post after a offside whistle, Frank Lampard having put the forward in on Tim Howard. Regardless, the match remains 0-0, approaching the half-hour mark.
The opening feeling-out period at Goodison Park has seen Chelsea hold a slight advantage in possession with nothing to show of it. Tim Howard could be in the dressing room and it wouldn't matter. Chelsea is having trouble getting through the Everton midfield, with a deep-lying Marouane Fellaini proving problematic. The few times the Blues have tried an alternative route, Phil Neville has proven stalwart down the Blues' left flank, even if he's already drawn the attention of Howard Webb.
Everton has had limited success going down their left side, already able to pump in three crosses from that side. Leighton Baines's service has, to this point, proven fruitless, but an 11th minute cross from midfielder Diniyar Bilyaletdinov did find a mark, leading to a harmless knock-down cleaned-up by Michael Essien.
Chelsea's midfield has featured the all-world Ghanaian at its center. Frank Lampard, returning from a calf injury, is being used center-left, while Ramires is playing toward the right.
Now through 14 minutes, Everton has having Chelsea a brief moment of pause, a Jack Rodwell flick-on finding Bilyaletdinov in the six. José Bosingwa does enough to let Petr Cech come for it, keeping it 0-0 a quarter hour into the match.
The competition's holders, Chelsea, kick-off the FA Cup weekend with a trip to Goodison Park, facing an Everton side they've recorded only one win against in the clubs' last six meetings. With that recent history of trouble against the Toffees, it's no surprise that Chelsea is set to start a full-strength side for today's 7:30 a.m. kick-off,one which includes Frank Lampard, returning from a calf injury which sidelined him for Monday's trip to Bolton.
Likewise, Everton is starting a full strength side, with Louis Saha starting at the top of a 4-5-1. The only possibly surprise, normal starting center half Phil Jagielka starts the match on the substitutes bench.
Brace yourselves, everybody, because it’s FA Cup fourth-round weekend in England (from here on out known as the tremendous thirty-two). The FA Cup is the most exciting tournament in the country, and there's always the chance for huge upsets in every round. We’ve got our share of big matches: Everton host Chelsea at Goodison Park in what looks to be the choicest fixture of the round. We've got David and Goliath games such as Nottingham County vs. Manchester City. We’ve also got some not-very-big-at-all-matches – apparently I have to preview Burnley vs. Burton Albion and yeah, that’s going to go well.
Everton vs. Chelsea
Time: 12:30PM GMT (7:30 AM EST)
What could be better than a good old fashion clash between Everton and the defending champions? David Moyes vs. Carlo Ancelotti is a contest between one of the game’s great managers and some Italian, so it’s obvious who’s going to win – the Scotsman. I mean, come on. Ancelotti’s let Didier Drogba be sick with malaria for months. If Moyes caught Jermaine Beckford getting malaria, he’d just make him bite Fernando Torreshen run sprints until he started being more manly.
Pick: 2-1 Everton.
Swansea vs. Leyton Orient
Time: 12:30PM GMT (7:30 AM EST)
Who let the Welsh play in this cup, anyway? I thought the FA Cup was reserved for English teams like Manchester City and Arsenal. And now they’re playing some team from the Orient? Ridiculous! Just a heads up, Leyton Orient, whoever you are – Asia has its own cup. They’re playing right now, in fact. Why aren't you there? Are you disoriented?
Pick: 2-2 Draw.
Time: 1:00 PM GMT (8:00 AM EST)
There was a time when Blackburn played skillful, imaginative football. That time was when I was confusing them for Blackpool. They’ll go to Villa and try to kick their hosts to death, but Gerard Houllier hasn’t been in Birmingham long enough for his Frenchness to influence the team, so they won’t just roll over. James Collins looks like he’d kick back pretty hard, too.
Pick: 3-1 Aston Villa.
Birmingham City vs. Coventry
Time: 3:00 PM GMT (10:00 AM EST)
When I think Birmingham, I think Aston Villa. Somehow, despite being rubbish, Birmingham’s other team has advanced to the Carling Cup final, and I’m told that the certainty of either Arsenal or Birmingham winning a trophy that matters is at the very least a major harbinger of the apocalypse. Fortunately, it’s just the Carling Cup up for grabs at Wembley next month. As for this match, both sides are bad. Draw.
Pick: 0-0 Draw.
Time: 3:00 PM GMT (10:00 AM EST)
Bolton just lost 4-0 at home to Chelsea, which doesn’t bode well for the Trotters. Fortunately for them, they’re up against Roberto Martinez’s Wigan side, who lost 6-0 at home to Chelsea earlier in the season. I can do the calculations here – Bolton to win by three.
Pick: 3-0 Bolton.
Burnley vs. Burton Albion
Time: 3:00 PM GMT (10:00 AM EST)
Last round, League Two Burton only went and beat Middlesbrough. Who’ve Burnley ever beaten at home? Nobody, that’s who.
Pick: 2-1 Burton.
Sheffield Wednesday vs. Hereford
Time: 3:00 PM GMT (10:00 AM EST)
They say Sheffield Wednesday were once a proud side whose tragic fall to League One reflects badly on all of football. I say a proud side would never have employed John Harkes. Look for Owls manager Alan Irvine to get sacked mid-game and for his side to win anyway.
Pick: 2-0 Sheffield Wednesday.
Stevenage vs. Reading
Time: 3:00 PM GMT (10:00 AM EST)
Normally I’d call this an easy win for the Championship team over the League Two side. Then I noticed something interesting: You can’t spell Steven Gerrard without ‘stevenage’, and Steven Gerrard is amazing. Considering all factors, I think this is a draw.
Pick: 1-1 Draw.
Torquay vs. Crawley Town
Time: 3:00 PM GMT (10:00 AM EST)
Creepy-Crawleys from the Conference against the Gulls? Gulls eat crickets. Simple.
Pick: 2-0 Torquay.
Watford vs. Brighton
Time: 3:00 PM GMT (10:00 AM EST)
I have seen Watford play Premier League matches a number of times and they were thoroughly outclassed and really quite bad. I have never seen Brighton play. Therefore, Bayesian probability says that Brighton are better than Watford. Don’t argue with it, it’s maths.
Pick: 1-0 Brighton.
Southampton vs. Manchester United
Time: 5:15 PM GMT (12:15 PM EST)
Playing against Southampton has been difficult for Manchester United in recent years, who’ve only won nine of their last ten games against the Saints - a record that will severely embarrass United fans. Look for some of that frustration to be taken out here.
Pick: 3-1 Manchester United.
Arsenal vs. Huddersfield Town
Time: 12:00 PM GMT (7:00 AM EST)
It would be easy to say that high-flying Arsenal will crush Huddersfield Town. High-flying Arsenal will crush Huddersfield Town.
Pick: 3-0 Arsenal.
Time: 1:00 PM GMT (8:00 AM EST)
It’s another all-Premier League matchup with Wolves vs. Stoke. Stoke are working hard to overcome their reputation as no-nonsense/no-skill types, which is a bit of a shame because to be honest the only reason for anyone to have watched Stoke ever is Rory Delap. Wolves might be awful, but at least they stick to their principles.
Pick: 2-1 Stoke.
Nottingham County vs. Manchester City
Time: 2:00 PM GMT (9:00 AM EST)
I think this one is pretty easy to call. A vastly superior team with infinitely more resources against a League One side? You might think I’m going for the underdog angle, but I’m not. Unless someone invades City looking for oil they’ll annihilate Notts County here.
Pick: 4-0 Manchester City.
West Ham vs. Nottingham Forest
Time: 2:00 PM GMT (9:00 AM EST)
Back when West Ham were a Premier League team they’d have considered getting a Championship side at home in the fourth round a pretty favourable draw. Now that they’re in League One, it’s less clear cut. NB: This preview is from three years in the future.
Pick: 1-1 Draw.
Time: 4:30 PM GMT (11:30 AM EST)
Fulham are the side most likely to be participating in the derbies that nobody cares about, so what a surprise to find them here in a derby that nobody cares about. I’d imagine that Spurs will be trying to focus on the league and will field a weakened squad against the Cottagers. However, Fulham will insist on drawing this one just to be annoying.
Pick: 0-0 Draw.
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