The regular Long Shot column has taken the festive period off, but before a full-time comeback next week we are taking a look at this weekend’s FA Cup third-round fixtures, picking out the games where we feel there could be a well-priced upset and in the firing line are Aston Villa, Sheffield Wednesday and Wigan Athletic against their respective lower league opponents Ipswich Town, MK Dons and Bournemouth.
If you use the free £20 bet you receive from bwin upon registering, you can back any of the selections in a single, or you can back them all in a treble that will pay out a whopping £976.80 if all three come in.
Ipswich to beat Aston Villa @ 27/10
Both Aston Villa and Ipswich Town are threatened by the prospect of relegation from the Premier League and Championship respectively, but with the two sides going into their cup tie in contrasting form, the 27/10 about the Tractor Boys is well worthy of our interest.
Mick McCarthy has done a great job at Portman Road since taking over from Paul Jewell and his side look good to escape the drop. It is a situation that didn’t look likely when the former Wolves boss pitched up in East Anglia, with Ipswich bottom of the Championship.
Yet seven wins in 13 games now has Town five points clear of the bottom three and playing with a confidence that has been absent at the club for years.
Villa, on the other hand, are in desperate form. The Villans have won just two of the last 11 and have endured a woeful Christmas period, taking one point from 12, conceding 17 goals at the same time.
I wouldn’t be backing Villa at odds-on against anyone and Paul Lambert doesn’t need the complication of an FA Cup run with Premier League safety far from certain and a League Cup semi-final to come this month. It makes in-form Ipswich, who have won four of their eight away games under McCarthy, a good bet at 27/10.
MK Dons to beat Sheffield Wednesday @ 23/10
It may not be the biggest shock ever for a team towards the top of League One to beat a side in the Championship relegation zone, but at 23/10 MK Dons look like a decent bet to go to Hillsborough and knock out Sheffield Wednesday in this weekend’s third round.
Wednesday have actually been in good form of late, with Dave Jones surviving calls for his head earlier on in the season to take ten points from the last 15 after a defeat at home to Bristol City in early December seemed to have sealed his fate.
But the Owls remain in the bottom three and as is par for the course for clubs in that situation, Jones is sure to play a shadow side, especially with his job dependent on Championship survival.
As such, the Dons look like value. Manager Karl Robinson has always taken the cup competitions seriously, as wins for his side at Norwich City and against Blackburn Rovers and Blackpool over the past few years testify, and on their day MK are a match for any side in the Football league.
Having beaten rivals AFC Wimbledon to get here, Robinson will want to go even further and they can do that against a de-motivated Wednesday.
Bournemouth to beat Wigan @ 3/1
Given the precarious position of Wigan Athletic in the Premier League, Roberto Martinez needs a run in the FA Cup like he needs a hole in the head and so there has to be value in Eddie Howe’s in-form Bournemouth progressing to the next round when the two sides meet at the DW Stadium.
The Cherries have been on an incredible run since Howe left Burnley to return to the Seward Stadium and are yet to taste defeat in the 35-year-old’s second spell at the club.
Since taking over in mid-October, Howe has overseen a 16-match unbeaten run which has pushed the previously struggling team up to the fringes of the League One play-off picture and they will be confident of upsetting struggling Wigan.
The Latics, for their part, are in the bottom three and in desperate form. The win against Aston Villa over Christmas was only their second in 13 games, eight of which have been lost, and there is no way Martinez will have his full side out for this tie.
With wholesale changes expected, Wigan won’t care too much about the FA Cup and are prone to upsets at the best of times: under the Spaniard, Athletic have been knocked out the FA Cup by lower-league opposition in the form of Notts County and Swindon Town, as well as the League Cup by Crystal Palace and, this season, Bradford City.
At a tempting price of 3/1, it is worth getting on Bournemouth to add their name to that list.