Hot and Cold – FA Cup Special
The magic of the FA Cup was back in abundance this weekend with an impressive number of giant-killings giving several smaller clubs a taste of true Cup glory.
Here’s our round-up of some of the best stories from Third Round weekend as we look at who’s Hot and Cold after a memorable weekend for the minnows.
FA CUP MINNOWS
While it’s true that many Premier League and Championship clubs took too much of a risk in fielding weakened teams, that shouldn’t take away from some heroic efforts throughout FA Cup weekend.
Barnet and Oldham surely deserve top billing after pulling off their stunning results on the road against Sheffield Utd and Fulham, while Newport showed great character to put the disappointment of a late equaliser behind them to see off former Premier League champions Leicester City.
Speaking of Oldham, what a weekend for Latics’ supporter-turned-manager Pete Wild. The 33-year-old achieved every lifelong fan’s dream in masterminding a massive FA Cup upset after surprisingly being installed as caretaker manager of the club last month.
Wild called the win ‘Roy of the Rovers stuff’, but after three wins from three in his temporary stint, his dream of managing his boyhood club on a more permanent basis could well become reality.
While Padraig Amond’s ice-cold late penalty will steal all the headlines following Newport’s famous 2-1 win over Leicester, it’s the Exiles’ other goalscoring hero who is fast becoming the story of this year’s FA Cup. Matt has now scored in five of his six starts in the FA Cup since opening his tournament account in November 2016. Will the 29-year-old get the chance to add to his tally against another Premier League big-hitter in the Fourth Round?
MAN CITY AND SPURS
The elite sides often get accused of not taking domestic cup competitions seriously enough – despite Wigan and Portsmouth being the only two sides in over twenty years to win the competition from outside the top bracket of clubs.
Both Pep Guardiola and Mauricio Pochettino deserve credit for showing their opponents plenty of respect in fielding some of their biggest names in their respective 7-0 routs of lower league clubs – giving fans of those clubs the chance to see the likes of Alli, Kane, Son, De Bruyne, Sterling and Sané in the flesh.
Leicester City are surely the first team in any league now officially on the beach for the rest of the season after a weakened Foxes side without Jamie Vardy in the squad limped out against Newport.
Puel is hardly a fan’s favourite at the club and will need a strong Premier League finish to avoid the natives openly questioning some of his decision-making in relation to Leicester’s ambitions this season.
He’s hardly under the same pressure as Puel given his decade of heroics on the South Coast, but are just a few question marks starting to stack up around Howe?
An FA Cup run could have been the ideal way for Howe to help his Cherries side banish memories of their recent Premier League slump, but they crashed out the competition with a meek 3-1 defeat to a Brighton side that are hardly great shakes on the road. The Bournemouth boss needs a win soon to avoid a nervy spring.
The Terriers’ German boss just can’t catch a break as he desperately tries to salvage something from a season that looks in danger of collapsing completely around him.
Try as they might, Wagner’s side simply cannot score goals, with the 1-0 defeat away at Championship side Bristol City the latest low in what has become a difficult second season for Huddersfield. Will they be able to attract any striker of Premier League quality in the transfer window with a return to the second tier currently looking a dead cert?
The introduction of video technology into the English game is unquestionably overdue given it is now commonplace in other European leagues.
However, some erratic decisions during this weekend’s trial games will hardly reassure fans set against the biggest disruptor to English football in decades. V.A.R will ultimately be an asset for the game in the long run but to win fans round, any change of decision needs to be pulled up far more quickly – not as a player is running up to take a penalty.
The perfect ending just wasn’t quite in the script for a bona fide Premier League legend. With an imminent move to Monaco in the pipeline, Fabregas fluffed his lines in failing to convert a penalty against Nottingham Forest that would likely have given him one final goal in English football. Still, the Chelsea fans gave the 31-year-old the fitting send-off he deserves for his exploits in England as he departs for a new challenge in France with old teammate Thierry Henry.
All image sources from PA Images
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