William Maxwell's best bets for Saturday's FA Cup games include wins for Ipswich and Sheffield United.
AFC Wimbledon v Ipswich (12:30)
AFC Wimbledon will be happy enough with their season to date as they are in the League Two playoff positions and have reached the third round of the FA Cup, but a tough draw looks likely to bring an end to their run in the knockout competition.
The Dons face Championship promotion challengers Ipswich at Plough Lane and the visitors have an ideal opportunity to break out of a stodgy run of form in the league which has seen them drawing four of their last five games.
The Tractor Boys have lost only once in their last nine Championship outings and have the strength in depth to outclass the home team even if they give an opportunity to some fringe players.
Wimbledon have gone goal crazy in the FA Cup this year with a 5-1 win over League One strugglers Cheltenham in the first round and a 5-0 success against non-league Ramsgate in the second round, but they have failed to beat the EFL’s bottom two teams – Sutton United and Forest Green Rovers – in two of their last three games and this is a far tougher challenge.
Maidstone United v Stevenage (12:30)
National League South side Maidstone upset League Two Barrow in the previous round, but will find it much harder to cause another shock when League One Stevenage visit on Saturday.
The Stones have lost their form since that impressive result and their 2-0 win over Tonbridge Angels on New Year’s Day was their only victory in their last five games, which include a 4-0 FA Trophy defeat to National League Barnet and a 5-1 league loss at Worthing.
Stevenage have had plenty of success in the FA Cup in recent years and beat Aston Villa 2-1 at Villa Park in this round last season. They needed a penalty shootout to get past fellow League One team Port Vale in the second round, but should be hard to beat now they face opponents from three steps further down the English football pyramid.
Some league teams might be disconcerted by going on the road to a smaller club, but Stevenage’s no-nonsense style is perfectly suited to dealing with anything the home team may throw at them.
Gillingham v Sheffield United (15:00)
Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder’s main priority is clearly to lift his team out of the Premier League relegation zone, but with more than two weeks until the Blades’ next league game against West Ham on January 21st, there’s no need for him to take it easy in Saturday’s FA Cup third-round game against League Two Gillingham.
The Gills have had an all-or-nothing approach this season with only two draws in 32 games in all competitions and a fairly even split of 16 wins and 14 defeats.
They are 10th in League Two but have struggled for goals, scoring only 21 times in 25 league games, and Crawley, Bradford, Newport and Colchester have all won by multiple goals at Priestfield while keeping clean sheets.
Wilder won his first game back in charge of Sheffield United with a 1-0 Premier League victory over Brentford and also picked up an excellent point on the road at Aston Villa, while losing to Chelsea, Luton and Manchester City.
This FA Cup test against a goal-shy League Two team who have scored only two goals in their last five games is an ideal opportunity for United to collect a morale-boosting win.
Newport County v Eastleigh (15:00)
This clash between League Two Newport and National League Eastleigh looks a prime candidate to provide one of this year’s FA Cup third-round shocks.
The non-league team have featured in some wild games since their 2-1 home win over League One Reading in the second round. They won 5-3 at Aldershot, beat Dorking 2-1 and then lost 4-1 at Dagenham on Boxing Day before sharing a 4-4 home draw with the same team on New Year’s Day.
That suggests they know where the goal is and Newport, 18th in League Two, could be vulnerable to a National League outfit with plenty of firepower up front.
The Welsh side’s only win in their last five games was against struggling Forest Green Rovers and they have won only five of their 13 home league games.
Eastleigh’s Paul McCallum is five clear at the top of the National League top scorer list with 22 goals in 21 games and while the Spitfires have been inconsistent, this big occasion could see them at their best.
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