Berkshire will have four representatives in the first round of the Emirates FA Cup this weekend for the first time since 1983. Hopefully it will become a memorable day for the Royal County. Dave Wright takes a look at the ties.
Cambridge United v Bracknell Town (Saturday, 3pm)
Goalkeeper Michael Eacott is set to return to the Bracknell Town team at Cambridge, having missed the last month due to his wedding and honeymoon.
He and his defence will be facing a side that have managed to score just one goal in their last four games, which came last Saturday when they edged home 1-0 against Carlisle United, with George Thomas netting the winner in the 73rd minute. That was their first home victory since they defeated Reading by a solitary goal on September 4th.
Whilst they struggle to find the net, they also give very little away in defence. They have not conceded a goal in their last three games, drawing 0-0 with League 1 leaders Portsmouth and at Wycombe Wanderers, either side of that win over Carlisle.
They are second from the bottom of the division’s form guide covering the last six games, with only Northampton below them.
Bracknell have been a little inconsistent in recent weeks – as was emphasised by a 5-1 home defeat by Totton on either side of a 4-0 win over Basingstoke and a 4-1 victory at Harrow Borough.
But they have an outstanding record when they it comes to cup competitions, having got through four qualifying rounds to earn their trip to Cambridge.
More than 300 Robins fans are set to journey to Abbey Stadium.
If the tie ends in a draw, the replay is set for the Bottom Meadow next Tuesday (7th). If not, then the Robins will be home to Poole in the FA Trophy, the tie having twice been postponed due to a waterlogged pitch at Poole.
Cambridge – League 1: 12th in table. P16 W5 D5 L6 F13 A15 Pts 20
Last 6 league games (latest first): DWDLDL
Bracknell – Southern League Premier South: 10th in table. P13 W6 D1 L6 F29 A24 Pts 19
Last 6 league and cup games: WLWWWW
Oxford United v Maidenhead United (Saturday, 3pm)
The Magpies will travel to the Kassam Stadium boosted by last Saturday’s 3-2 win over Eastleigh, as that ended a long winless run in the National League stretching back to August 19 when they defeated Dagenham & Redbridge 1-0 at York Road. Their third win of the season also lifted them off the foot of the table.
By all accounts, they haven’t been playing that badly but their main problem appears in defence, with nine goals conceded in their last three games.
They look at their best going forward and, after beating mid-table Eastleigh, assistant manager Ryan Peters commented: “We’ve been threatening to do that for a few weeks and deserved three points today. Our attacking boys look terrific.”
United will need to be at their best as, on league positions, Oxford are the second highest-ranked team in the first round, with only unbeaten leaders Portsmouth above them. In the form guide, they are in sixth place despite their 2-0 win at Lincoln City last weekend when their 3-4-2-1 formation again paid dividends.
Around 500 fans are expected to be cheering on Alan Devonshire’s side, and they should get good value for money as Oxford have reduced admission prices (the most expensive is £15) for seats in those areas of the ground that will be open, including the whole of the South Stand Upper.
Oxford – EFL League 1: 2nd. P15 W10 D2 L3 F28 A14 Pts 32
Last 6 games: WDLDWW
Maidenhead – National League: 21st. P18 W3 D7 L8 F18 A29 Pts 16
Last 6 league and cup games: WLLWDD
Slough Town v Grimsby Town (Sunday, 2pm)
League Two strugglers Grimsby axed manager Paul Hurst this week following their 1-0 defeat by Doncaster Rovers last weekend. That was their fourth straight league defeat, and this season they have managed just three wins in 20 in all competitions.
That represents a huge comedown for the Mariners following their FA Cup heroics of last season when they defied the odds on several occasions to reach the quarter-finals before bowing out of the competition at Premier League club Brighton & Hove Albion in a 5-0 defeat.
Watch Scott Davies FA Cup Press Conference live
But their current form is more grim than good, as they are languishing in 21st place in the table with just 14 points from 16 games. They have yet to win away this season, managing just three draws from six trips.
This will give the Rebels a real boost going into the tie, which has been switched to Sunday.
Player-manager Scott Davies hopes his side can carry on from where they left off last Saturday when they came from 1-3 down to draw 3-3 with Eastbourne Borough.
Their second goal was scored by former Bracknell Town striker Mickel Platt who was making a belated debut following a long spell on the side-lines due to injury. He had, however, regained much of his match fitness by playing for Uxbridge in the Isthmian League South Central Division and scored three goals in two successive games.
Slough – National League South: 21st. P14 W3 D4 L7 F21 A26 Pts 13
Last 6 league and cup games: DLDWDD
Grimsby – EFL League 2: 21st. P16 W3 D5 L8 F20 A26 Pts 14
Last 6 league games: LLLLDW
Reading FC v Milton Keynes Dons (Saturday, 3pm)
The Royals find themselves playing in the first round of the FA Cup for more than two decades.
Club historian David Downs informs me that it was in the 2001/02 season when they played non-league Welling United and won 1-0 with a goal from Jamie Cureton just after the hour mark. The substitutes that day included Jamie Ashdown, now the goalkeeping coach at Ascot United, and James Harper, who in recent times, made the occasional appearance for the Yellas and Windsor.
The League 1 club are sadly in turmoil at the present time, with major issues including talks of a takeover as well as being served with another winding-up petition by His Majesty’s Revenue & Customs over unpaid taxes, the second time in four months.
They are rock bottom of the table and without a league win since September 16 when they defeated Bolton Wanderers 2-1.
However, they did manage to impressive wins in the EFL Trophy, thrashing Exeter 9-0 away and Swindon 5-0 at home.
Fans will be hoping Royals will give them something to cheer about on Saturday and give them a glimmer of light in the most depressing periods in the club’s long history.
But Reading have never beaten the Dons, the previous two home games ending in draws, the latter coming in the League Cup with Royals winning on penalties.
Royals have lost four of their last five FA Cup ties, with the exception coming last season when they beat Watford 2-0 in the third round.
MK will come to the Select Car Leasing Stadium in a confident mood following two decent home victories – 4-1 against Bradford City and 3-2 over Swindon. They have picked up since last month’s appointment of former Wycombe Wanderers defender Mike Williamson as their new manager following the departure of Graham Alexander after just five months.
Wycombe Wanderers are also in FA Cup action this Saturday, away to Bradford City. So that makes six Berks & Bucks FA clubs involved this weekend – and that must surely be history-making.
Reading – League 1: 24th. P14 W3 D1 L10 F12 A24 Pts 6 (deducted 4 pts)
Last six league games: LLLLLD
Milton Keynes – League 2: 12th. P16 W6 D4 L6 F26 A24 Pts 22.
Last 6 league games: WWLDLD