Tuesday 13 January ~
Including replays and rearranged matches there are nine FA Cup ties tonight. The game receiving most media attention is the match controversially postponed only three-and-a-half hours before kick-off on January 3, between Histon and the club 64 league places above them, Swansea City. Following their defeats of Leeds and Swindon, voluble Histon chairman Gareth Baldwin has certainly done his best to keep his club in the spotlight. After the postponement, due to a frozen pitch which Histon countered was playable, Baldwin claimed the decision was only due to Swansea pressure on referee Phil Crossley and that tonight's game was going to have some “extra feeling” and “no doubt going to be spicy”.
Baldwin has since apologised and attempted a slightly more diplomatic approach: “I don’t hold any bad feelings, if they do, then I’m sorry for that, but let’s move on. Their directors were invited to dine with us before the game and they’ve accepted, emotions could run high either way.” Despite losing 4-2 in a replay to non-League Havant & Waterlooville at this stage in the FA Cup last year, Swansea, currently tenth in the Championship and having won 2-0 at Burnley at the weekend, are overwhelming favourites. The final world on tonight's tie must go to Histon coach John Beck who, despite having no reputation for the finer elements of football in previous employment, stated: “I have fantastic admiration for the way that Swansea play. It’s real continental stuff. I think they're going to be too much for us.”
Elsewhere, in another rearranged casualty of the cold start to 2009, Birmingham host Wolves at St Andrew’s. Having drawn 1-1 at the end of November in the Championship, Wolves are seven points clear of their local rivals at the top, and both teams could be forgiven for seeing the cup as a distraction. According to Birmingham first-team coach and former Aston Villa assistant manager Roy Aitken, however, this will not be the case: “We’ll give it the total respect it deserves and we will be putting out as strong a team as we can.” Unfortunately for Birmingham, this team will be weakened by the ineligibility of four of their January signings: Lee Bowyer (signed on loan at the second attempt after fan protests successfully derailed his transfer to the club in 2005), Scott Sinclair, Keith Fahey and Hameur Bouazza. Both Kevin Phillips and Sebastian Larsson are injured so expectations are that the team at the top will beat the team in third.
A match with potential for upset is the Bristol City v Portsmouth replay at Ashton Gate. While City have won two and drawn one of their last three games, Portsmouth have lost their last four league matches and have a number of off-field problems, not least the fact the owner seems to be desperate to sell up. History is on City's side with Portsmouth having lost both previous FA cup ties against them. For older City supporters a win may be a reminder of heady times in 1976 when a home 1-0 victory over Portsmouth secured their promotion to the top flight.