Football romantics love the third round of the English FA Cup when some of the big boys have to get out of their comfort zone but football punters love the first round because it is more likely to throw up value match bets.
Bookmakers find it more difficult to price up games between, say, English League Two and non-league teams than they do when faced with, say, Manchester United visiting Barnet.
The best bet on the English FA Cup first round card is Fylde to beat Accrington at odds of around 9-2. Fylde, which was known as Kirkham & Wesham until the end of the 2007-2008 season, is a club on the rise, just like its neighbours Blackpool and Fleetwood. The Coasters won the Northern Premier League Division One North title last term and they have made a sound start to life in the next division up, occupying ninth place but with a points average superior to all bar two of the sides above them on the league ladder.
Fylde has lost only twice this season and one of its losses was in its second match. The Coasters have won nine and drawn three of their last 13 games in all competitions, whereas their English FA Cup opponents from the other side of Lancashire have lost four of their last five English League Two matches, including big losses at Oxford and Torquay. Accrington is a very poor odds-on favourite.
And the story about Fylde gets bigger the deeper that one digs. The Coasters played Stanley in a pre-season friendly at Kellamergh Park and beat their more illustrious visitors 6-0. Now, admittedly the Accrington team was youthful and experimental but Fylde romped to victory, racing to a 4-0 lead inside the first quarter of the game and being a bit unlucky not to end up with a double-digit score. Stanley goalkeeper Andrew Dawber had a blinder versus the Coasters.
Three levels of the English football pyramid separate Fylde and Accrington but the gap in quality between them is not as wide as it is between Manchester United and Barnet, sides that are three levels apart as well. Stanley’s status as an English League Two club entitles them to favouritism but one would go broke backing away teams like it at 8-11 and worse in such circumstances. Back the Coasters at 9-2 or lay their opponents, either on a betting exchange or by backing the home win and the draw. One will get an odds-against bet.
English Conference National title contender Forest Green is overpriced to beat English League Two high flier Port Vale at The New Lawn, with odds of around 5-2 too dismissive of the Gloucestershire side known as Rovers or, much more humorously, the Lawnmowers. Now that is a nickname.
Forest Green was among the pre-season English Conference National favourites and, although its form has dropped off following its stellar start, there is no doubt that Dave Hockaday’s side is one of the best non-league teams. And most football fans acknowledge that, these days, there is very little difference between decent English Conference National sides and those teams in English League Two.
The Valiants are on track for promotion to England’s third tier and, like Accrington, warrant favouritism but the Lawnmowers are far too big. The English FA Cup first round match market should be something akin to 7-4 home, 5-4 away and 9-4 the draw so back the Nailsworth-based side.
Gloucester catches the eye at odds of around 5-1 for its English FA Cup first round home game against Leyton Orient at Whaddon Road, which doubles as the home of English League Two side Cheltenham. The Tigers are no great shakes and are in the bottom half of the English Conference North table but they have won five home matches on the spin and they are getting the Os at the best possible time. The English League One struggler has lost four of its last five games, scoring only one goal over that dismal period and it came at home to the worst team in England’s third tier, Hartlepool.
Finally, some European sportsbooks have erred in chalking up Guiseley as the underdog for its English FA Cup first round home match against Barrow. There is very little difference between the English Conference North’s second-ranked side and the English Conference National’s 17th-placed team and that is not even allowing for the Lions winning eight of their nine home games this term, including their last five.
Guiseley is at odds of around 8-5 with some bookmakers and that is just plain wrong. The Lions should be the favourites and trading at around the 5-4 mark so get on them to win.