The FA Cup Third Round weekend unfurls an enthralling tapestry of football drama, and I'm here to guide you through the intricate dance of upsets, glories, and tactical nuances with expert betting tips for three captivating matchups. First, we witness AFC Wimbledon's spirited endeavour against Ipswich in a clash brimming with potential surprises. Then, we shift our gaze to the National League's intriguing Rochdale versus Kidderminster face-off, a duel with its own set of compelling narratives. Finally, we'll explore the explosive encounter between Peterborough and Leeds, promising a goal-laden spectacle. Each game carries its unique blend of anticipation and strategy, inviting us to dissect the odds and opportunities that lie within.
AFC Wimbledon v Ipswich
FA Cup Third Round weekend is always one of the highlights of the footballing calendar and my first of two visits to the competition this weekend comes when AFC Wimbledon welcomes Ipswich to Cherry Red Records Stadium, and a cup shock is certainly not ruled out. The hosts have won seven of their last eight in front of their own supporters, whilst the Tractor Boys are winless in five, although four of those were draws and they still remain more than healthy sitting second in the Championship table.
As if often the case in cup football, team selection is always key, but we already have some pretty strong clues heading into this one. AFC Wimbledon has made headlines this season because of the exploits of star striker Ali Al-Hamadi, who has 17 goals to his name in all competitions. He won’t be adding to that for a little while potentially as he is off to represent Iraq in the Asian Cup this month, whilst strike partner Omar Bugiel will also be playing in the competition for Lebanon. The fact is AFCW are weaker without them and they’re not easily replaced. It just removes the X Factor from them.
Ipswich are expected to make some alterations to their usual starting eleven for this cup tie against lower-league opposition. Thankfully for boss Kieran McKenna, he does have a strong amount of depth available to him, and that was put to good effect earlier in the season during their EFL Cup run to Round Four earlier in the season, which saw heavily changed XI’s knock out Bristol Rovers, Reading (on penalties) and Premier League Wolves, before giving Fulham a test despite losing 3-1. Bringing the likes of new signing Jeremy Sarmiento, Marcus Harness, Freddie Ladapo, Omari Hutchinson and others into the team hardly weakens them significantly. They’ll feel as though they have a point to prove anyway given the regular starters are on a little bit of a blip, so this is a big game for Ipswich in that regard.
AFC Wimbledon missing their star forwards just tempers any strong enthusiasm I have on any cup upset materialising here, even if I suspect they’ll give it a right good go. Ipswich will be able to name a fresher team and rotate following a hectic Christmas period and I can only see an away win here. A -1.00 Asian Handicap on the visitors pays 1.96 with Matchbook, and having the luxury of getting our stake back if Ipswich only win by a one-goal margin makes this a little bit of a free hit in my mind. It is a banana skin tie for them but I am backing their class to shine through in the end.
Rochdale v Kidderminster
We briefly step away from FA Cup duties to focus on an interesting encounter taking place in the National League Rochdale and Kidderminster go head-to-head. Two leagues separated these two last season, but Dales’ relegation out of the EFL and Kiddy winning the National League North play-offs allows them to square off on a level playing field. Both teams are 27 games into the campaign, Rochdale sitting two points off the play-off places and Kidderminster bottom of the standings with only four victories to their name.
A look at the raw data does however point to Kidderminster being somewhat unfortunate to be in the position they currently find themselves in. Their Expected Goals Against (xGA) results is actually the fourth strongest in the division, with only three teams, including runaway league leaders Chesterfield, possessing a better number. They’ve shipped five goals more than they should have done on that basis. They are however badly under-performing with Expected Goals (xG), which is a big reason for their struggles. Russell Penn’s men have netted 20 goals so far, which is by far the lowest of any side in the division, and yet their xG rates at 35, meaning they’re 15 goals short based on the quality of chances they’ve created. 27 games is a big enough of a sample size to make some conclusions about Kidderminster and the harsh reality is that they don’t take their chances, for all that defensively they aren’t as leaky as being the bottom side would suggest.
They make the trip to Rochdale this weekend looking to get their season up and running, which is easier said than done. To their credit they’ve become harder to beat on the road of late, avoiding defeat in four of their past seven away contests. Rochdale are the definition of being inconsistent at home, winning five, drawing four and losing four at Spotland across the season, however they are unbeaten in their last five league contests here. Top scorer Kairo Mitchell remains out of action but they at least welcome back eight-goal Tyrese Sinclair from a ban, who will compliment in-form club legend Ian Henderson just nicely. Rochdale have scored 44 goals across the campaign, and that ability to take their chances unlike Kidderminster do rates them as big favourites in my eyes.
Therefore it comes as quite a shock to me to see Rochdale quoting at odds-against to get the win on Saturday afternoon, especially at home. 2.10 is an excellent price on offer from Bet365 for Jimmy McNulty’s men to bounce back after suffering defeat to AFC Fylde on New Years’ Day. Furthermore, they lost Jesurun Uchegbulam to serious injury in that game, but he has since been discharged from hospital. The team will want to get the win for him, adding further motivation.
Peterborough v Leeds
Finally, we make no apologies for returning to the FA Cup for our third and final play of the weekend. A highly attractive cup tie between two in-form teams in the form of League One’s Peterborough United and Leeds United of the Championship immediately catches the eye. For all that we often look towards matches involving Premier League teams at this point in the competition, this would be one of the game I’d love a ticket for out of all the ties this weekend. It instantly screams goals.
Posh are one of only five teams across the Premier League and EFL to have netted 50+ goals this season. They have managed to score at least two goals in 20 of their previous 27 matches in all competitions, so they are more than used to finding the back of the net, albeit not necessarily against opponents at the same level as Leeds. Even so, scoring goals is a habit, and they won’t change their approach for this game, especially being at home. They’ve suffered only one defeat across their past 20 played at home in league and cup, so don’t expect them to try and park the bus here. 16 of their last 19 overall have also featured Over 2.5 Goals, with 11 of those also containing Over 3.5 Goals. United also unsurprisingly top the xG League One tally.
Speaking of topping the xG league, Leeds can say they do the same in the Championship. They are slightly under-performing in that regard by five goals compared to what they have scored, and they too have figures that can roughly match that of Peterborough. Two wins in six may resemble a bit of a blip, but strange things happen over the rapid Christmas period with so many games, but the reality is they’ve won 12 of their last 19, so they’re still going pretty well! They are more prolific at Elland Road compared to on their travels, but Daniel Farke should still name a strong team here, and both teams will play to win, which should make for an open and end-to-end contest.
I just cannot overlook the Over 3.00 Asian Goals priced at 2.10 with VBet. I firmly expect a minimum of three goals in this one, so at the very, very least I’d like to think we will get our stakes back. Neither of these teams knows how to play any other way besides front foot and full throttle, so there is no reason for that to change here. They’ll play to their strengths, which means both goalkeepers should be kept busy. Collectively, ten players across both squads have netted five or more goals this season, so there is plenty of goal threat on show.
- Ipswich -1.00 Asian Handicap (1.96 Matchbook)
- Rochdale (2.10 Bet365)
- Peterborough v Leeds Over 3.00 Asian Goals (2.10 VBet)