THE BIG MATCH
AFC Wimbledon v West Ham
SATURDAY, 7.45PM, BT SPORT 2
WIMBLEDON will forever be synonymous with their memorable FA Cup triumph over Liverpool back in 1988.
While it is hard to see League One’s bottom side repeating that achievement any time soon, they make a bit of history tomorrow night with their first appearance in the fourth round since the club reformed as AFC Wimbledon in 2002. While the priority for Wally Downes — who replaced Neal Ardley as manager last month — must be staying up, the FA Cup has brought some much-needed cheer this season.
After avoiding non-league banana skins in winning at Haringey and Halifax, the Dons reached this stage with a thrilling 3-2 win at Fleetwood — Kwesi Appiah scoring at the death after Joey Barton’s side had battled back from 2-0 down.
Even with home advantage, they are huge underdogs going into the game with the Hammers, even if manager Manuel Pellegrini decides to ring the changes at Kingsmeadow.
The sides have already met once this season in the Carabao Cup, striker Joe Pigott giving Wimbledon a shock early lead.
However, Rod McDonald’s red card after 18 minutes made it an uphill struggle and the Hammers ran out 3-1 winners.
Pellegrini picked a strong side for the Hammers’ third-round win over Birmingham, although he withdrew Marko Arnautovic after just 19 minutes. Winger Grady Diangana, who featured against the Blues, may get another chance to impress, having netted twice in a Carabao Cup victory over Macclesfield earlier this season.
But as they look to end their long wait for a major honour, dating back to 1980 when Trevor Brooking’s header secured an FA Cup final triumph over Arsenal, Pellegrini won’t want to risk an embarrassing exit.
As a player Downes was credited with a key part in creating the Crazy Gang spirit. Wimbledon will need all of that to stand a chance tomorrow.
PICK OF THE FA CUP FOURTH-ROUND TIES
Arsenal v Man United
FRIDAY, 7.55PM, BBC ONE
The two most successful sides in FA Cup history go head-to-head at the Emirates and they can hardly have gone into a game more evenly matched, fifth and sixth in the Premier League, both on 44 points — three behind Chelsea in fourth. United are looking for an eighth straight win since Ole Gunnar Solksjaer took charge and, while things have not been plain sailing for Unai Emery recently, a similar kind of performance to last weekend’s 2-0 victory over Chelsea would make this the Norwegian’s biggest test so far.
Accrington v Derby
SATURDAY, 12.30PM, BT SPORT
Former England left-back Ashley Cole could make his first appearance in English football for almost five years at Accrington, having joined the Rams on a short-term deal this week. John Coleman’s Stanley are looking to reach the fifth round for the first time, having seen off Colchester, Cheltenham and Ipswich so far, all at home.
Brighton v West Brom
The Seagulls made eight changes for their third-round victory at Bournemouth and boss Chris Hughton will undoubtedly shuffle his pack again, despite the obvious threat posed by Darren Moore’s Championship high-flyers. However, the Baggies, who have lost just one of their last 13 games in all competitions, will again be missing James Morrison and Matt Phillips with ankle injuries.
Man City v Burnley
The Clarets do not have much luck with FA Cup draws, having also been sent to the Etihad Stadium in the third round last season, losing 4-1. However, Sean Dyche’s men have suddenly found some form and were denied a fifth straight win when Chris Wood’s injury-time strike was controversially ruled out at Watford. Tom Heaton has shone between the sticks since returning to the side but is likely to be a busy man on a ground where Burnley lost 5-0 in the league earlier this season.
Newcastle v Watford
Rafael Benitez has made it clear the FA Cup is not the Magpies’ top priority but their success-starved fans will not be happy if they don’t give their all in an attempt to reach the fifth round for the first time during Mike Ashley’s 12-year ownership of the club. Watford are unbeaten in five and boss Javi Gracia expects Abdoulaye Doucoure and Craig Cathcart to be fit for the trip to St James’ Park.
Shrewsbury v Wolves
This fourth-round clash is a sell-out, with Shrews boss Sam Ricketts coming up against one of the sides he has played for after a third-round replay win over Stoke. Dave Edwards, who spent nine years with Wolves, is facing a race against time to feature tomorrow, having injured his groin in the League One side’s 3-0 defeat to Charlton. Wolves beat Liverpool 2-1 in the third round and will be looking to reach the fifth round for only the third time in 15 years.
Millwall v Everton
SATURDAY, 5.30PM, BBC ONE
A potential banana skin for Marco Silva’s men as they head to a Millwall side who reached the quarter-finals two seasons ago. The FA Cup has taken on greater significance for the Toffees, given their sluggish efforts in the league, but Neil Harris’ in-form Lions are likely to provide stiff opposition, having only missed out on a fifth win in six games because of an injury-time penalty at Middlesbrough last weekend.
Crystal Palace v Tottenham
SUNDAY, 4PM, BT SPORT
They may have lost 4-3 at Liverpool last weekend but Palace once again raised their game against big six opponents. So, in the absence of the injured Harry Kane, this is a tough game for a Spurs side who only scraped past Fulham thanks to Harry Winks’ stoppage-time winner last Sunday.
Chelsea v Sheff Wed
SUNDAY, 6PM, BBC ONE
Having had little trouble against Nottingham Forest in the third round, FA Cup holders Chelsea face more Championship opposition in the Owls’ last game before Steve Bruce takes over as manager. ‘We will go down there and I want us to put a performance on for a big travelling support,’ said caretaker boss Steve Agnew.
Barnet v Brentford
MONDAY, 7.45PM, BT SPORT
The battle of the Bees is being shown live on television with Barnet, the last remaining non-league side in this season’s competition, hoping to emulate the achievement of Lincoln and Sutton two seasons ago in reaching the fifth round. Darren Currie’s side won 1-0 at Sheffield United in the last round but are struggling in the National League.
ONE TO WATCH
Jamille Matt/Newport County
Newport claimed a major scalp by seeing off Leicester in round three and if the fairytale is to continue at Championship Middlesbrough tomorrow, they could do with Matt extending his run of scoring in every round.
The Jamaican striker bagged the opener in the 2-1 win over the Foxes to add to goals in the first round against Met Police and his strike in the 4-0 win over Welsh rivals Wrexham in round two.
Matt, 29, something of a lower-league journeyman, is enjoying his most prolific season in the Football League, with 15 goals in all competitions since signing on a free transfer last summer.
Managed by hometown boy Mike Flynn, County are gunning to reach round five for the first time since 1949.