South Shields v Forest Green Rovers
South Shields host Forest Green Rovers live on BBC One on Saturday afternoon in aiming to cause a huge upset.
The visitors are four divisions higher than the Mariners, but the occasion will likely shrink that gap considerably come kick-off. Former prolific striker Kevin Phillips is the manager of South Shields, a tier seven club in England with significant off-pitch backing for the level that they play at.
Forest Green have not won an away league game since the opening day of the season and are trending very badly in League One. The Green are four points adrift inside the relegation zone sat 23rd in the third tier, and Ian Burchnall does not boast the strength in depth to rotate, there would be a silver lining to an early FA Cup exit.
South Shields do have EFL experience in their ranks and throughout the side with former Swindon Town centre back Tom Broadbent on their books along with Mitch Rose and Lewis Alessandra. The trio should be able to step up and inspire their lesser known team-mates to match the level of the fairly possession-heavy visitors.
FGR’s style of play may take a hit from the quality of the playing surface at the First Cloud Arena.
Bradford City v Harrogate Town
Bradford City should have too much for Yorkshire rivals Harrogate Town this weekend as they eye an FA Cup run this season.
The Bantams have had a decent first few months of the 2022/23 campaign and find themselves in 6thplace, five points off the top three. This Saturday will be a nice break from league action and may be an opportunity to give some of their fringe players a chance to show what they can do. Bradford drew 1-1 at home to Crawley Town last time out, with attacking midfielder Dion Pereira scoring their goal, and boss Mark Hughes said his side ‘deserved’ the win so will be looking for a reaction from his players. Regarding injury news, summer signing Jamie Walker, who is yet to feature, is closing in on his return which would be a boost. It is unknown whether he will play against Harrogate but he is not needed desperately right now with the likes of Tyreik Wright, Pereira and Harry Chapman doing well in his position at the moment. The Yorkshire club are in a strong form and are unbeaten in their last four outings. They have also lost just once in their last 12 league clashes which shows what a tough outfit they are to play against under Hughes.
Harrogate lost 2-1 to Bradford at home in League Two on 1st October so won’t be holding out much hope of beating them at Valley Parade. They were beaten 3-2 away at AFC Wimbledon last time out which won’t do their confidence any good. Speaking after that result, their manager Simon Weaver was downbeat but vowed to ‘work’ with his young players. Injuries have not been kind to the Sulphurites over recent times and they remain without defender Will Smith, striker Stephen Dooley and winger Max Wright which isn’t ideal, especially since their squad is one of the smallest in the division. Harrogate are in a relegation battle this season and are currently 21st in the league. They are only outside the drop zone on goal difference so staying in the Football League is way more important than a run in the FA Cup which may be reflected by their performance against the Bantams. Weaver’s men have won just three times in their opening 16 outings and have leaked 24 goals in the process, with only Crawley Town and Hartlepool United letting in more.
Charlton Athletic v Coalville Town
Fifth placed in the Southern League Central Division arrive at ninth place in League One and ex-Premier League outfit Charlton Athletic, as tier seven equivalent side Coalville Town arrive at The Valley.
Ben Garner’s Addicks will be competing in the third round of the Carabao Cup next week, demonstrating a positive attitude towards cup competitions this season and they also progressed into the knockout stages of the Papa John’s Trophy on Wednesday evening.
Charlton will be without Eoghan O’Connell, Miles Leaburn, Diallang Jaiyesimi and probably Mandela Egbo who was substituted early on in their last league outing.
The Addicks beat Havant and Waterlooville 4-0 in the first round last season and against a lower ranked could do so again. They are much stronger in offense than attack under Garner, and that could be bad news for Coalville.
The visitors will be organised and competitive at times, but it is very unlikely that they are going to be able to live with Charlton for 90 minutes, who have some very exciting youngsters coming through who will be wanting to impress in the final third.
Weymouth v AFC Wimbledon
AFC Wimbledon will fancy their chances of progressing to the next round of the FA Cup as they make the trip to non-league Weymouth.
The Terras play in the National League South these days after their relegation from the National League last season. They have struggled massively this term and risk back-to-back relegations if they don’t sort themselves out. The Dorset club are bottom of the table and have won just once in their opening 14 games of this term. They were thumped 3-0 away at Dartford last time out and manager Bobby Wilkinson admitted last week that they were looking to bring in ‘one or two’ players which suggests he isn’t confident with the options that he has at his disposal at the moment.
On the selection front, they welcomed back defender Nathan Carlyle last weekend after his suspension and his availability gives his manager something to think about. Although playing a Football League team in the cup is exciting for fans, Weymouth can be forgiven for secretly dreading this Saturday. They have let in a whopping 32 goals already this term and Wimbledon’s attack will be rubbing their hands together. In addition, they are seriously lacking goals and have only found the net 10 times which is the second worst return in their division behind Chippenham Town and Hungerford Town.
Wimbledon have hit some much-needed form under Johnnie Jackson in the league and will be eager to keep their momentum going. They beat Harrogate Town 3-2 last Saturday courtesy of goals from defender Paul Kalambayi, winger Courtney Senior and striker Josh Davison. They had 59% possession and took 13 shots in that one, with Jackson saying afterwards that the performance was ‘magnificent’. On the injury front, young defender Luke Jenkins made his return to the side on Tuesday in the Papa John’s Trophy against Portsmouth after a spell in the treatment room and could get some more minutes this weekend.
The Dons ended up losing on penalties to Pompey after a 1-1 draw after 90 minutes but held their own against a side in the division above. The London club will be looking up the league table and not down it and are unbeaten in their last three league games now against Rochdale, Crewe Alexandra and Harrogate. Their trip to struggling Weymouth is obviously a cup clash but it is a great opportunity for Jackson’s men to put on a show and express themselves before focusing back on their recent push for the top half.
Sutton United v Farnborough
Sutton United will have their sights set on an FA Cup run as they prepare to welcome non-league Farnborough to Gander Green Lane in the first round.
The U’s home form has been strong over the past couple of seasons in League Two and they are a tough team to play on their own patch. They lost 3-0 away at Stockport County last time out in the league and their boss Matt Gray said afterwards that he was ‘disappointed’ with the result so he will be eager to see a reaction. The London club have received a boost on the selection front following the return of defender Louis John and midfielder Craig Eastmond from their respective injuries. They are two key players and inject useful experience into their ranks.
Sutton’s home form has been impressive this term and they have lost just twice in their opening eight league clashes at their place against Salford City and Tranmere Rovers so know how to pick up results there. The U’s should have too much quality for their opponents on Saturday and it is a great opportunity to get into the next round as big money could be made if they reach the third round after that when the Premier League and Championship teams come in.
Farnborough play their football in the National League South and will be in for a tough afternoon against a side two leagues higher. They were promoted from the Southern League Premier Division in the last campaign after winning the play-offs and are currently 17th in the table in their new division after five wins from their opening 14 games. Boro beat Oxford City 2-1 last time out and their boss Spencer Day said his side started ‘poorly’ in that one and gave away ‘sloppy’ set pieces. If they play in the same vein against a Football League team, they will no doubt struggle to contain them.
19-year-old winger Selim Saied, who has scored six goals in his last five matches, picked up a knock in the last game and will have to be assessed. Farnborough have a few former Football League players in their ranks such as Ricky Holmes, Kevin Lokko and Sam Deering so have that some experience to pick from. However, the majority of their players will be playing in one of the most important games of their career to date and the pressure could show.
Stockport County v Swindon Town
Stockport County are on a roll and will be looking to keep it going in an all-League Two clash in the FA Cup first round against Swindon Town.
The Hatters drew 0-0 away at Tranmere Rovers on Tuesday night and boss Dave Challinor, who joined the club exactly 12 months ago, said his side had some ‘gilt-edge’ opportunities to win it in the end. They have received a boost with the return of Callum Camps from suspension and he will offer more competition and depth in the middle of the park alongside the likes of Will Collar, Antoni Sarcevic and Akil Wright. Stockport had a famous FA Cup night last season when they beat League One outfit Bolton Wanderers in the same round last year so be hoping for more of the same this year.
Their form over recent times has been impressive and they have lost just once in their last seven outings which shows they have turned a corner now. In addition, they have only lost twice in their first eight matches at Edgeley Park this term so are a tough side to beat on their own patch. Doing well in the cup will still be seen as a priority for County’s ambitious owner Mark Stott and he will be hoping for a good run in the tournament in this campaign.
Swindon played Stockport away in late August and were disappointed as they returned back to Wiltshire with just a point after Antoni Sarcevic’s 84th minute equaliser after defender Fraser Blake-Tracey opened the scoring in the first-half. The Robins beat Mansfield Town 5-2 away last time out and could view this FA Cup clash as a game that will disrupt their momentum now. Their manager Scott Lindsay has said that he wants his side to be ‘confident’ and some of their confidence may have been shot after they lost in the play-offs last term to play-offs and then sold key man Harry McKirdy over the summer.
Swindon have been dealt a blow with defender Tom Clayton going off injured in the last game. He has been a key player for them over recent times and his most likely replacement is Mathieu Baudry, who is 34-years-old now and may be targeted by the Hatters’ dangerous front pair Paddy Madden and Kyle Wootton. Lindsay’s men have let in 17 goals in as many games this season which suggests they are vulnerable in defence and may succumb to a loss this weekend against an in-form team.
Bristol Rovers v Rochdale
Bristol Rovers have adapted well to the step up to League One as they prepare to face struggling Rochdale in the FA Cup first round.
The Pirates won promotion on the final day of last season from League Two and did the double on the Dale last term, scoring a combined eight times past them. Joey Barton’s side are 16th in the league and should have too much in their ranks for Jim Bentley’s men, even if they do make some changes to freshen things up. They lost 4-2 away at Derby County last term with defender Bobby Thomas and midfielder Anthony Evans scoring their goals. However, that was their first loss in six league matches and Barton said his side ‘suffered’ against the Rams and he will be seeking a response.
On the injury front, Bristol Rovers remain without striker John Marquis but don’t miss him at all with Middlesbrough loanee Josh Coburn proving to be a real handful. He has chipped in with three goals in eight so far since his temporary switch and scored in the cup last year against Premier League giants Tottenham Hotspur for parent club Boro. The Gas are unbeaten in their last three home outings in all competitions and will be desperate to bounce back from their loss to Derby.
Rochdale have made a poor start to this campaign and their priority will be avoiding relegation to non-league. They saw fellow North West outfit Oldham Athletic slip into the National League earlier this year and won’t want to follow suit, hence why they may not be too bothered about their tricky trip to the Memorial Ground. The Dale lost 1-0 away at Walsall last Saturday in a disappointing result and Bentley said he was ‘frustrated’ afterwards.
Rochdale don’t have any fresh injury concerns to deal with but may consider changing their starting XI as it is a cup clash and could give some younger individuals the chance to get some minutes under their belts. Form doesn’t bode well as they prepare to face a team in the league above and they are winless in their last three and have picked up only three wins from a possible 16 this term. To make matters worse, the team are seriously lacking that cutting edge up front and have the second lowest goal return in the fourth tier behind Gillingham which is a big worry.
AFC Fylde v Gillingham
At their AGM back in July 2007, Kirkham and Wesham FC set out a 15-year plan to reach the top of the non-league pyramid by 2017, and to reach the Football League by 2022. Becoming known as AFC Fylde in 2008, the Coasters began a monumental climb up the pyramid over the next decade, reaching their first target in 2017 and all whilst having 2022 printed on their shirt sleeves, a reminder of their overall objective. Had they been on the other side of their play-off final defeat to Salford City in 2019, that dream would have been realised, but the club have instead dropped back into the sixth tier and are pursuing a return to the National League once again in 2022-23.
Andy Taylor’s side feature some notable EFL names, including Danny Rowe. The 33-year-old striker scored 155 goals in 241 games for AFC Fylde in the late 2010s, going on to feature for Oldham Athletic, Bradford City and Chesterfield. He is currently on a loan deal from the latter until January. Midfielder Nick Haughton, who scored 26 goals in 41 league games last season, is another player to watch from the Mill Farm outfit. Chris Neal, Luke Conlan, Harry Davis, Danny Whitehead and Luke Charman are among others who have experience at a much higher level than the National League North.
League Two Gillingham face the lengthy trip up to Wesham this weekend and are not in good shape. 20th in the fourth tier with just six league goals to their name, uncertainty remains around Neil Harris’ position as manager. The high-calibre boss could walk if he deems things too difficult, plunging the Kent outfit into even deeper trouble than they already face. Crawley loanee Glenn Morris has been key in goal, as has giant Indonesian defender Elkan Baggott who is on loan from Ipswich Town. A third loanee, Lincoln City’s Hakeeb Adelakun, who shown his importance in an underwhelming frontline. French striker Mikael Mandron should be the key focal point in the team but has just two goals to his name this season, with Scott Kashket and the inexperienced Lewis Walker not faring much better. A midfield trio of Shaun Williams, Stuart O’Keefe and Olly Lee should be effective against lower-level opposition, but all three have had fitness struggles across the campaign. Robbie McKenzie’s versatility is an asset, but Harris will feel that he has had to feature in midfield far too often so far.
This could be one of the places to go if you are looking for a First Round upset. There may be two divisions between these two sides, but Gillingham are among the weakest and worst performing in League Two, whilst AFC Fylde possess notable firepower in Danny Rowe and Nick Haughton, alongside the familiarity of Mill Farm. Gillingham fans face a long challenge to get to Wesham for this game, the journey back could feel even longer…
Doncaster Rovers v King’s Lynn Town
Danny Schofield may have only had three games at the helm of Doncaster Rovers, but it has got fans at the Eco-Power Stadium excited for the future. The football played in Schofield’s 3-4-3 is seen as a far better fit for the players than what was being offered previously under Gary McSheffrey, and there has been internal praise for the positive environment created in training as well. Midfielder Harrison Biggins is an influential star at the centre of Doncaster Rovers’ team, often the target from crosses after making late runs into the box. James Maxwell and Kyle Knoyle provide the width as wing-backs on the left and right respectively, with Kyle Hurst and Luke Molyneux operating as inverted wingers who come centrally to support lone striker George Miller. The 24-year-old has seven goals to his name already in League Two and nine in all competitions. Even if backups like Kieran Agard, Charlie Seman and Jon Taylor feature instead, Schofield’s 3-4-3 feels a good fit for their skillsets. If this weekend presents a return to fitness for versatile star Tommy Rowe as well, that will be an added boost of confidence for the South Yorkshire outfit.
For Doncaster Rovers to progress to the Second Round, they will have to overcome a potential banana skin of an opponent. King’s Lynn Town have previous in the First Round, winning 1-0 away at Port Vale during the 2020-21 season. Tommy Widdrington’s side were relegated from the National League last season, but are currently in a good position to bounce back at the first attempt. The Linnets are top of the National League North, separated from Brackley Town by just goal difference but currently having two games in hand on them.
With Gold Omotayo, Jordan Ponticelli and Josh Barrett among the players to watch, King’s Lynn Town are the joint top-scorers in the division, averaging two goals a game, and possess the joint-best defence. All the ingredients are there for a team that tastes promotion come the end of the season.
If Doncaster Rovers go strong this weekend, they should have the quality and the setup to comfortably see off their opponent from two divisions below. A weakened eleven however could present an opportunity for King’s Lynn Town to seize the initiative, with substitutes perhaps being required to change the game back in the host’s favour. Two sides with good attacking qualities, this could prove a high-scoring affair at the Eco-Power Stadium.
Solihull Moors v Hartlepool United
Beaten play-off finalists in 2021-22, Solihull Moors’ dreams of the Football League do not feel far away at all.
Once again in 2022-23, Neal Ardley’s side sit inside the National League play-offs and are considered the ‘best of the rest’ as it is only the heavyweights of Notts County, Wrexham and Chesterfield sat above them. The Damson Park outfit possess plenty of dangerous goalscorers. Scottish striker Andrew Dallas is currently on eight in the National League, Stockport County loanee Alex Reid is on seven, summer signing Josh Kelly is on five, and lively attacking midfielder Joe Sbarra continues to impress alongside his current tally of four. The quartet combined have scored 73% of Moors’ 33 league goals so far, with Callum Maycock, Kyle Storer, Fiacre Kelleher and Ben Coker other notable players in the Solihull team.
The FA Cup First Round draws Solihull Moors at home to a struggling Hartlepool United. Last weekend’s 2-1 home win over Grimsby Town has brought Pools off the bottom of the fourth tier table, but they remain inside the relegation zone. Keith Curle continues to face the challenge of working with a weak squad and an inconvenient injury list. Striker Josh Umerah is an undoubted star with his goal output, the return of captain Nicky Featherstone to midfield may be rushed, but his solidity is badly needed. Dynamic right-back Jamie Sterry remains out of action however, with left-back David Ferguson being deployed on the left side of a back three as Curle tries Clarke Odour further ahead of him. There is a substantial weakness to Hartlepool when any of these players are absent from the eleven.
There may be a division between Solihull Moors and Hartlepool United, but there only a handful of places in the overall pyramid between them. In the midst of a relegation battle, a cup tie away at high-flying Solihull Moors could be seen as a real inconvenience to Keith Curle and Hartlepool. Even if the strongest-possible eleven is sent to the West Midlands to try and progress, Solihull Moors look and feel a stronger and more confident unit than their fourth-tier opponents. The hosts are deservedly favourites here.
Written by an Andy verified content writer
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