Blue Square\'s best bets

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Blue Square\'s Alan Alger gives his rundown of the weekend\'s best bets in the FA Cup first round:

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32 Non League teams take part in the first round proper of the FA Cup this weekend. 26 of those teams are from the three Blue Square leagues and those sides remain in our exclusive market asking which one of them will progress the furthest in the famous competition.

AFC Wimbledon are our new 4/1 favourites to win this particular market after their draw to host Ebbsfleet United. Luton Town are the second favourites at 11/2 to progress furthest as they negotiate a trip to Corby Town. Completing this season’s ‘usual suspects’ trio – Crawley Town are the 7/1 third favourites, but with a difficult trip to Guiseley who are having a fantastic season in the Blue Square Bet North. Southport will have been glad to have plucked sleeping giants Sheffield Wednesday from the hat but it’s caused their odds to drift to 50/1 to cause an upset and last longer than their fellow Conference teams.

AFC Wimbledon are 4/11 favourites to beat Ebbsfleet on Saturday but arguably it’s the Blue Square Bet South side that enter this game in better form. Liam Daish has worked magic on a shoestring budget to get the Kent side competitive after last season’s relegation. A run of ten unbeaten matches has put them sixth in the table and lined up this trip to Kingsmeadow. They are 16/5 to earn a replay with a draw and 13/2 to shock Terry Brown’s side.

 Luton Town are in free scoring form in the past few weeks and their trip to Corby Town sees them quoted at 8/13 to earn a place in Sunday’s Second Round draw. Corby’s form has been inconsistent during the same period and they haven’t won two games back-to-back since the first week of the season. A home win is priced at 4/1.

Blue Square Bet Premier leaders Crawley Town travel to Yorkshire to take on in-form Guiseley. The Lions are taking the Blue Square Bet North by storm and are unbeaten since an opening day defeat at home to Nuneaton Town. Steve Kittrick’s team have only conceded three goals in their last eight league games, form that has won him back-to-back manager of the month awards for September and October. Crawley’s abundance of attacking talent will have to break down that resolute defence to pull off odds of 8/11.

This round will no doubt have its fair share of shocks but pinpointing them before they take place is the difficult task for punters. Dover Athletic have set up a Kent derby against League 2 strugglers Gillingham and their old boss Andy Hessenthaler. The Gills have only won one of their last seven matches and Hessenthaler has come under fire from the club’s fans. Dover will smell blood and are well worth a look at odds of 11/2. A money-spinning draw to set up a replay is also a realistic prospect at 13/5.

 Walsall, with only one win in their last 12 matches will not relish the trip to Fleetwood Town who are enjoying their first season in Non League’s top flight. The Midland’s side are propping up League 1 and are a stand-out price of Evens to win away at the side 30 places below them in the English league system. Micky Mellon’s Lancashire outfit have only lost once at their Highbury home all season and are 9/4 to shock the Saddlers.

 Those who argue over the relative strengths of the North and South divisions of the Conference will be looking out for the result from Havant & Waterlooville’s Westleigh Park on Saturday. The Blue Square Bet South side host Droylsden who are sixth in the Blue Square Bet North. I have a strong feeling that improving Havant will put their home advantage to good use and prevail at odds of 11/10.

 Two Blue Square Bet Premier sides will enjoy national TV exposure as they host teams from League 1. On Saturday evening Cambridge United face high-flying Huddersfield Town at the Abbey Stadium. The U’s come into the game off the back of three unbeaten matches including two straight wins as they look to get back into the top half of the division. The TV money and a cup distraction will be a welcome boost for Martin Ling’s team, who will be hopeful that their season has finally turned the corner. A home win is 7/2 with the away side favoured by the market at 4/6.

Sunday’s live ITV game sees three-time winners Sheffield Wednesday travel to Haig Avenue to take on last season’s Blue Square North champions Southport. The hosts were dealt a blow when first choice goalkeeper Tony McMillan failed in his appeal to get a recent red-card chalked off. Stand in Steve Dickinson brings a wealth of experience to the line-up and will hopefully be an able replacement. He is 11/4 to keep a clean-sheet.

Southport are the 16/5 outsiders for the game and have been beaten three times at home in the league already this season. Wednesday are tenth in League 1 after last season’s final day relegation from the Championship. At this point last season the sides were separated by over 60 places in the league pyramid, but the away side are no shorter than 8/11 to win in 90 minutes here.

Alan’s Best FA Cup first round tips:

Best Treble:

  • HAVANT (to beat Droylsden), TORQUAY (to beat Mansfield) and CHARLTON (to beat Barnet) – 7.98/1

Best Potential Shocks:

  • DOVER (to beat Gillingham) 11/2
  • FLEETWOOD (to beat Walsall) 9/4
  • RUSHDEN (to beat Yeovil) 2/1

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