On the face of it, Champions League-challenging Everton’s visit to League Two side Cheltenham Town looks an away banker, but the final game of FA Cup third-round weekend could potentially provide its biggest shock.
For while they may have been finalists as recently as 2009, David Moyes’ men have also suffered FA Cup shocks at the hands of Oldham Athletic, Shrewsbury Town and Tranmere Rovers in recent years – something which should give Mark Yates’ team the optimism to go for it at Whaddon Road.
The Premier League side do still start as big odds-on favourites at 3/10 but there is value to be found in backing Cheltenham or Draw in the double chance market at 13/4.
Cheltenham, who are a 29/4 chance to win in 90 minutes, have built up an impressive record at home this season, going unbeaten on their own patch since September 15th to reach the League Two play-off spots.
At the heart of that run has been a defensive record including eight clean sheets and Yates will want them to keep it tight early on, with a goalless first half priced at 13/5.
As with many cup upsets, a late smash-and-grab is likely to be the home side’s best opportunity (just ask Stale Solbakken and Wolves) and so for those going with the romantic approach, a Cheltenham win and under 2.5 total goals looks the best play at 29/2.
Should the ‘magic of the cup’ help Cheltenham to a narrow win, new customers using the free £20 bet they receive when registering with bwin would claim an equally majestic £310.
Even if he heavily rotates his pack, Moyes will still be able to call on internationals such as Victor Anichebe, Thomas Hitzlsperger and Seamus Coleman, so it’s going to be hard for the Robins to keep them under control and it’s 2/1 for both teams to score.
As the underdogs, Yates will want his team to get stuck in but even if this leads to Cheltenham receiving the first yellow card at 83/100 or the most bookings at 2/1, he won’t mind if it helps them to the biggest victory in the club’s history.
And while I don’t think they quite have it in them to pull off the win, on a weekend where the cup’s spirit has already seen two Conferences sides through, I fancy there will be one more surprise as Cheltenham force a replay at 19/4.