FA Cup focus: Fourth round replays offer shock potential
The FA Cup has an illustrious history of providing David and Goliath-esque shocks — and the fourth round replays could deliver more.
Surprisingly, the fourth round did not provide any mind-blowing upsets, but a handful of lower-league sides managed to secure a replay.
Non-league Wrexham almost secured their Hollywood ending, but Sheffield United’s dramatic, late equaliser earned the Championship side a second chance at Bramall Lane.
Luton Town — who are also gunning for promotion to the Premier League — were similarly held to a 2-2 draw by League Two Grimsby Town.
We dipped into the Twenty3 Toolbox to see whether any shocks are on the cards in this round of rematches.
Burnley vs Ipswich Town (Tuesday, 7:45pm)
League One promotion hopefuls Ipswich Town have proven their worth as an attacking force so far in the FA Cup.
They have scored seven goals in their first three games from an accumulated xG of 4.72, which suggests they are overperforming — the Tractor Boys will be hoping this trend continues instead of balancing back out.
In the 0-0 draw which forced this replay, Vincent Kompany’s possession-based side dominated the ball, completing 385 passes compared to Ipswich’s 285.
The two sides created chances of almost equal quality, however, with Burnley recording 0.71 xG to Ipswich’s 0.69.
Kieran McKenna’s side have proved they have enough in the tank to cause an upset, but sustaining this productivity will be difficult at Turf Moor.
Fleetwood Town vs Sheffield Wednesday (Tuesday, 7:45pm)
Scott Brown’s first senior role in management has seen him lead his League One side on an impressive FA Cup run.
In the second round, they did well to skip past the potential banana skin of travelling to runaway leaders of the National League South, Ebbsfleet United. Despite only creating 0.34 xG compared to the Kent side’s 0.56, they managed to squeeze through 1-0.
Interestingly, it appears that Fleetwood upped their performance when faced with higher-quality opposition, attempting 13 shots and accumulating an impressive 1.9 xG against Queens Park Rangers in the third round.
They also recorded 122 successful defensive actions, keeping a clean sheet against the Championship outfit.
In the previous encounter, Wednesday completed 444 passes to Fleetwood’s 145, but the third-tier side once again displayed their defensive solidity, completing 67 interceptions and 147 successful defensive actions.
Brown’s side have proved they can get through these knockout games in a variety of ways — do not write them off against Darren Moore’s high-flying Owls.
Grimsby Town vs Luton Town (Tuesday, 7:45pm)
League Two Grimsby have been punching above their weight in the FA Cup.
Before the matchup against Luton, they faced three League One sides in Plymouth Argyle (5-1), Cambridge United (2-1) and Burton Albion (1-0).
However, travelling away to the Hatters was always going to be a tough task, but the Mariners managed to scrape through, scoring twice despite accumulating just 0.6 xG.
The same pattern was evident in the previous round against Burton. Grimsby still conceded territory and possession, only completing 167 passes to Burton’s 207, but progressed regardless.
The Mariners will be hoping to come out of their shell at Blundell Park and produce another upset.
Sheffield United vs Wrexham (Tuesday, 7:45pm)
The first go at this fixture was a truly memorable FA Cup clash.
Non-league Wrexham, owned by Hollywood stars Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney, hosted the Blades at the Racecourse Ground — and had the better chances.
The Red Dragons created 3.52 xG, while their Championship opponents only mustered 1.37.
Wrexham even completed more passes (277) than Sheffield United (239) — though they were very direct in their approach, attempting 60 long balls.
However, when Paul Heckingbottom’s side had the ball, they moved up the pitch more effectively — recording 23 progressive runs compared to Wrexham’s 10.
Phil Parkinson’s fifth-tier side seem undaunted by illustrious opposition, having already beaten one Championship side — Coventry City — 4-3 in the previous round.
With a glamour tie against Premier League Tottenham on the line, Wrexham will certainly not lack motivation as they look to produce more FA Cup magic.
Sunderland vs Fulham (Wednesday, 8pm)
Sunderland executed their game plan superbly at Craven Cottage — a difficult place to visit, with Marco Silva’s side flying high in the Premier League.
Fulham controlled the ball, completing an impressive 553 passes, but Sunderland were willing to concede possession, having opened the scoring after just six minutes through Jack Clarke.
Their resistance was eventually broken when Tom Cairney scored shortly after the hour mark — a goal that had been coming, with the Cottagers attempting 40 dribbles, completing 23, while also firing off 21 shots.
Sunderland did well to survive until full-time and earn a replay at the Stadium of Light, holding off the Fulham onslaught by completing 119 successful defensive actions.
They will have to show similar defensive steel — as well as attacking bravery — if they are to dump their top-flight opponents out. Roared on by the atmosphere of the Mackems, they may well have a chance of doing just that.
All graphics in this article were produced with the Twenty3 Toolbox. For more information, please get in touch below.