MK Dons v Northampton
The Dons boosted their Championship survival hopes with a morale-boosting 1-0 win against Reading at the weekend, erasing the nightmare of a 5-0 home defeat to Burnley a few days earlier, and Robinson made no secret in the build-up to the original game that the FA Cup was a poor second on his priority list - but that was before Ian Wright pulled out ball number 25, promising them a £600,000 windfall if they win the replay.
The Buckinghamshire club were fortunate to escape from Sixfields with a 2-2 draw and Robinson has presumably changed his tune about the importance of this competition, particularly in light of his crying about playing budgets. Trouble is, he’s already intimated that some of his biggest players will be moved out if he can afford the right replacements, so victory here might not be the best act of self-preservation for some.
Either way, Northampton will make the short 20-mile journey south believing their chances have barely diminished from the first game. Roared on by 6,216 travelling fans, their support will probably account for over 50 per cent of the gate and confidence is sky high on the back of 16 wins from 21 matches in all competitions, which includes an incredible haul of 48 points from the last 20 league outings.
The Cobblers were below par when coming from behind to beat Dagenham & Redbridge on Saturday but it was a fine demonstration of the winning habit that Chris Wilder has cultivated under testing conditions this season, and it was a reassuring dip in standards implying that their minds were already on this game. In short, the two teams might be separated by two divisions, but the mental balance is evidently with Northampton.
Bradford v Bury
David Flitcroft’s men have lost their way in League One, tasting defeat in nine of their last 12 matches, but they’ve shown an remarkable appetite for big matches, beating six of the top seven in their division, and they’ve yet to concede a goal in the FA Cup having dumped out Lancashire rivals Wigan and Rochdale in the previous two rounds.
Bradford have become synonymous with cup success in recent seasons but it’s hard to imagine how Phil Parkinson’s men eclipse last season’s incredible victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and the extra desire might well reside with the visitors. Bury had a rare taste of glamour when hosting Leicester in the Capital One Cup last August, the first Premier League visitors to Gigg Lane since 1992, so a game against the Tigers has big appeal.
Aston Villa v Wycombe
The Chairboys are expected to take travelling contingent of around 4,000 fans to Villa Park and their team are well-drilled in keeping things tight and feeding on scraps away from home. Since the start of last season, they’ve picked up a staggering 68 points from 35 away games, and won four out of five cup matches on opposition soil, keeping 16 clean sheets in the process.
Villa have picked up two good results in the Premier League since the original game but Gareth Ainsworth’s men will sit deep and work tenaciously to close down space here, posing serious questions of the Villans as a creative force, and we’ve not see much evidence to suggest they will find the answers easy to come by. A home game against Manchester City awaits the victors.