Seven English Football League teams suffered the indignity of losing to a side from outside England’s top four levels in last term’s English FA Cup first round and one thinks that Crewe is vulnerable to an upset result this weekend.
For starters, Crewe has one of the worst recent English FA Cup records of the English Football League teams. It has been three years since Crewe won an English FA Cup tie – the Alex beat Wycombe 4-1 at home – and before that one has to go back to 2008 for the Cheshire side’s next cup victory.
The English FA Cup has lost a lot of its lustre in recent years, with the competition not recovering from the blow of Manchester United skipping it in the 1999-2000 campaign to take part in the FIFA Club World Championship in Brazil. Many of England’s major teams do not treat the English FA Cup with the respect that they afforded it before the turn of the century and, therefore, the worth to a lower-league side such as Crewe of reaching the third round has been diminished considerably. One would argue that the English FA Cup means more to England’s non-league teams than sides that are on the third or fourth level of the English pyramid.
Sixteen matches into the English League One season and Crewe has more pressing issues than trying to qualifying for the English FA Cup second round. Crewe is anchored to the foot of the English League One ladder, desperately trying to hold on to the status that it earned by taking out the English League Two play-off final in 2012. Crewe bowed out of both the English Capital One Cup and the English Johnstone’s Paint Trophy at the first hurdle so one is questioning the commitment of the Alex to the various knockout events.
Incredibly, prior to shocking pre-season English League One title favourite Sheffield United 1-0 on Saturday, Crewe had gone 14 home matches without a win in any competition so to say the Alex would be apprehensive about playing in front of their own supporters would be a fair comment to make.
Crewe’s guest in the English FA Cup first round on Saturday will be Eastleigh, the seventh-placed side in the English National League, which is two levels below English League One. Eastleigh is one of the English National League’s most ambitious teams and it speaks volumes for the targets of the Spitfires that Richard Hill resigned as their manager near the end of September even though they were travelling okay. Hill felt that he had run his race and that someone else – Chris Todd got the job after being Eastleigh’s interim leader – would be better suited to flying the Spitfires higher up the English pyramid in the coming years.
Eastleigh has gone on an impressive run since Todd took charge, winning four and drawing one of its last five games across all competitions despite encountering three of the English National League top four in that time, plus fallen giant Tranmere. Eastleigh is close to being the form side of the English National League and the Spitfires made it to the English FA Cup second round last term. One is willing to bet that progress in the English FA Cup means more to Eastleigh, which has not reached the third round ever, than Crewe.
Thirty-one places separate Crewe and Eastleigh on England’s pyramid going to the English FA Cup first round but, with the Alex looking set to fall back into English League Two and the Spitfires among the serious English National League promotion contenders, that raw number probably overstates the gap between the two teams. Marathonbet is offering odds of +305 about Eastleigh eliminating Crewe at the first time of asking, whereas Coral is much closer to one’s train of thought – pardon the pun since the Alex also go by the nickname of the Railwaymen – with its odds of +225 .
Eastleigh to beat Crewe
7th November 15:00 GMT
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