This round of fixtures ended a while ago; I should be more up-to-date by telling you about the struggles of Tottenham, the AFCON referee issues in the Tunisia vs Mali match, or the troubling signs behind Jose Mourinho’s project at Roma. The truth is, football moves insanely fast, and sometimes it’s nice to take a break. Here, we will reflect on football matches that happened as of late.
For United, they were the last team to book their place in the FA Cup fourth with a 1-0 win over Aston Villa that followed a weekend of jolting action in one of the most respected tournaments. Although, the FA Cup has been in a spot of bother the last few years, with several pundits and fans saying it’s lost its “magic” – a term used to describe the idea of smaller teams being able to knock out the bigger competitors of English football. This notion only has its impact on a match-to-match basis, and rarely does it cast a spell over a whole tournament. By the much-anticipated final at Wembley, normality mostly stamps back control.
The biggest underdog remaining in the tournament is sixth-tier side Kidderminster Harriers. They beat a Reading team who is already mired in misery, losing 7-0. The reward for Kidderminster for sending the nation into reactionary relapse is a home game against West Ham, who currently occupy a Champions League spot in the top-flight, while they are positioned fifth in the National League South, containing footballing behemoths such as Spennymoor Town, Blyth Spartans, and Brackley Town. Those three clubs have an accumulative stadium capacity of 13,935, fortifying a decently-sized League One ground. The run for Kidderminster has been impressive as of late, and West Ham should not be heading into this fourth round with a smug grin, as becoming complacent is what made Reading tumble out the tournament.
Another team who were pinching themselves during the fourth round draw are Cambridge United, whose FA Cup quest continues after defeating Newcastle, the richest club in world football since their Saudi-based takeover. Jeremy Ironside struck the decisive blow as Eddie Howe’s problems deepened. While the overall mood at St. James Park remains bleak, Cambridge have a winnable game against Luton Town in the fourth round, giving them a platform to go deep into a tournament where they’ve never gone past the Quarterfinals.
Newcastle are, contrastingly, in a small flux state of differing types of disaster. Against Cambridge, it was a basic blunder where they couldn’t get past goalkeeper Dimitar Mitov, who put in an inspired performance, making 10 saves, of which 80% were within the box. We needs answers on whether Newcastle are being timid against a third-tier side, or if Cambridge have the stars aligned in their favor to secure passage into the fourth round. Either way, it marks another upset in the FA Cup.
In Nottingham, Forest defeated Arsenal 1-0 with a flattering score line for the losing side, whose hopes of winning a record 15th FA Cup where stamped out when Lewis Grabban scored in the 83rd minute. It is clear Arsenal have an aversion to teams with European silverware in their cabinet, as Forest have now knocked Arsenal out of their beloved cup for the second time in four years. The result which also speaks volumes of Steve Cooper’s talent as a manager, whose helmed a renaissance at Nottingham since replacing Chris Houghton in September, taking them from the daunting prospect of relegation into a promotion-hunting squad.
After a frenetic third round, the fourth looks set to deliver some enticing matches, starting with a Friday clash between Man United and play-off chasing Middlesbrough. Some of Saturday’s standout fixtures include the aforementioned match between Kidderminster and West Ham, finalists Chelsea will host Plymouth, and holders Leicester will face Cardiff on Sunday afternoon.