Northampton will be hoping to avoid an upset as they travel to National League South outfit Oxford City in the first round of the FA Cup on Monday night. Keith Curle’s side have had a mixed start to life in the third tier after their promotion via the playoffs last season and sit in 17th, but they will be hoping a cup run can spark better fortunes in the league.
Understandably, the full-time Cobblers are big favourites over their semi-pro opponents from step six of the English football pyramid, though not as big as you might expect. It seems like their outright odds to win in the 90 are a bit too long – despite still being odds on.
Monday 7.45pm: Oxford City v Northampton
BT Sport 1
We normally see a fair few upsets in the first round of the FA Cup but this is no normal year and a number of factors should work in the EFL clubs’ favour even more than usual. As everyone knows, paying fans are still absent from football grounds and with the prize money on offer for winning here – which is close to £20,000 – you should expect to see near full-strength teams being fielded across the weekend.
Fans backing the lower league teams at home can have a big impact. With supporters normally allowed within spitting distance of the players at non-league grounds, the capacity to really get in the faces of the EFL opponents can make a big difference in levelling in the playing field as the bigger boys are not used to such close contact with the great unwashed in the more ‘civilised’ surroundings of the EFL.
Another leveller that’s been removed is the old classic of muddy pitches, long grass and bobbly surfaces. Obviously, Northampton still have to play on City’s pitch, but there’s only been three league games played on the Court Place Farm surface this season because the National League divisions didn’t kick off until October.
And that might be the big key in this contest. Going into this game Northampton have played a staggering seven more league games than Oxford City and a whopping nine games more in total, with the Cobblers taking to the field 15 times this term when the various cup competitions are added in. Oxford’s total, including cup games is just six. So, with all that in mind, let’s take a look at the three best bets for Monday night’s game.
All things considered, Northampton should be winning this game at a canter. There’s so much going in their favour that the only potential negatives you can see affecting them are the ongoing fixture pile up and the fact it’s an away day.
Make no mistake, Oxford City will be well up for this one, but the EFL club has much-greater quality at their disposal and superior match fitness to boot. This should be comfortable and Northampton (-1) on the handicap looks really good value.
Northampton are not going to exert more energy than have they to here, and the League One side will be more than happy with a comfortable, if narrow, win. The Cobblers earned promotion from League Two with an old-school style which was based on a rock-solid base and it’s hard to see City scoring. The only worry here is if the away side decide to really go to town on their hosts, but we’re expecting them to be sensible and Under 2.5 Goals is a nice play.
Make no mistake about it, this is a big game for Oxford City. They’ll give it their all and if everything goes to plan for them it’s perfectly feasible that they’ll enjoy their big day on the TV, up their game and take it to the break goalless.
However, Northampton will just be so much fitter than their opponents and should turn the screw in the second half. Half Time Draw/Full Time Northampton feels like a smart play at a really appealing price.
Three bests bets for Monday night
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