Think September and you conjure up images of the early weeks of the Premier League season, Champions League and perhaps even the long Europa League treks across Europe. One competition that doesn’t feature in the thinking of fans at this time of year is the FA Cup.
English football’s favourite knockout tournament starts much earlier than many realise however. On Saturday afternoon there’s a busy schedule market out as the game’s lesser-known teams battle it out in the qualifying stage.
We’re at the qualifying second round and the likes of AFC Hornchurch, Whitley Bay, Binfield, Peterborough Sports and Hemel Hempstead Town are all in action. You’d be forgiven for bypassing the fixtures in favour of higher ranked games. However, there’s money to be made with a range of betting markets available on each tie.
It really does pay to know this level of football too; if you are aware of the Bristol Manor Farms of this world then you have a jump on traders. Pitting your wits against the bookmakers is not a battle most punters win too often. However, with things like the early round of the FA Cup, doing your homework will place you at a serious advantage.
Our resident team of football tipsters have studied the list and return with their views on how you can swell your betting balance this weekend.
Kettering Town– AFC Mansfield
Two of the more recognisable teams in the FA Cup fixture list this weekend and we take great comfort in that. Kettering has an impressive history and has won a number of lower league medals; these include the Conference North 2007, Conference League Cup 1987 and Southern League 2002.
The furthest the team have gone in this competition so far is a fourth-round appearance back in 2008/09. The club’s money men would certainly welcome a repeat performance this season, but it’s a big ask. The Poppies are involved in the Southern League Premier Division Central and lead the charge after seven games, putting together a run of six wins and one defeat.
Manager Marcus Law – vastly experienced at this level – saw his side drop their first points of the season. They lost at home to Leiston on Saturday, a Solkhon goal bettered by Docherty and Brothers. It was a bit of an upset for the form, but the locals must dust themselves down. They now view this as a chance to get back to winning ways.
Another Tight Match Forecast
Opponents AFC Mansfield ply their trade in the Northern Premier League Division One East. They have also enjoyed their glory days, although there’s much fewer for the club formed in 2012, as you would expect. They won the North Division in 2014 and added the League Challenge Cup the same season. The best they’ve managed in the FA Cup is a third qualifying round appearance in each of the last two years. They’re certainly heading in the right direction.
The Bulls, managed by Rudy Funk, were also beaten 2-1 last weekend when travelling to Stockbridge Park Steels. McFadyen swooped to match an earlier goal from Swinburn. However, Coleman had the last laugh when knocking in a 71st minute winner to delight the majority of the 138 people who got themselves along to the East Division match.
This will be Mansfield’s second outing of the week having travelled to Wisbech Town in the first round of The Integro League Cup on Tuesday. Two road trips so close together will do nothing to help their chances of securing the desired result here. Followers of the stats will be interested to know Mansfield was involved in three games on the bounce that ended 2-1. This is sure to be another tight affair.
Dulwich Hamlet – Tonbridge Angels
Dulwich enjoys home advantage at Imperial Fields; they’ll be desperate to give the paying locals something to cheer here. The early rounds are tough for teams at this level. However, the rewards are well worth chasing and an appearance in the FA Cup proper could change the fortunes of a small outfit like The Hamlet.
They play their football in the sixth tier of the English pyramid, the National League South. The club will take heart from a useful 2-1 win recorded over Woking last week. That was their first positive of the month, following defeat to Hampton & Richmond Borough and a draw vs the mighty Wealdstone. Both teams scored in the two most recent legs of that trio. We’re sure to see plenty of goalmouth action again here.
Angels Have Momentum Onside
Tonbridge Angels don’t have a long journey from their Kent base. On their way, there will be confidence in the away dressing room before kick-off. Steve McKimm’s men can be found contesting points in the Isthmian League Premier Division, finishing in midtable last term. They’re expected to go much closer to the prize places in the coming months following an impressive start.
The Angels currently lead the way after seven games, boasting a record of 6-1-0. Despite starting the season with back-to-back defeats in friendly matches they went on to win 13 of their next 16 in all competitions. They boosted that form with a simple 2-0 over Brightlingsea Regent in the league last weekend. That followed an identical result over Hythe Town in the cup the week before. There’s real momentum in the squad as the games continue to come thick and fast heading into Autumn.
As well as match betting in the early rounds you can also have your say on the eventual winner of the FA Cup. Bookmakers have a number of special offers and promotions available to punters looking to get in early to secure the value.
The ante-post betting makes Manchester City 4/1 favourites and they have Liverpool as their nearest rivals at 11/2, a price also available to backers of Manchester United. Looking for bigger odds? Arsenal is the tournament’s most successful side on 13 titles and 14 catches the eye at 8/1. Outright prices available at Coral.
For more top betting tips and predictions, click here.