Monday, October 16, 2006

Cup Fever

It was, relatively speaking, an interesting weekend. Things at the top and bottom of all of the divisions are starting to settle now, and this pleases me. What is there to read about and pore over when anybody in any position in the league can jump seven or eight places with a single win? We're heading towards the end of October now, and we're starting to get a sense of who's genuinely rubbish and who isn't. In the Premier League, the procession continues. Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal all won again - it's British sport's biggest self-fulfilling prophecy, but at least they were all made to sweat for their wins. United turned on the style a bit in the second half at Wigan, but only after they'd gone a goal down first. Arsenal walked away with it against Watford eventually, but not before The Hornets had given them a couple of almighty scares first, and Chelsea's win at Reading came at the cost of both first team goalkeepers. Fair play to John Terry, though, who looked the part in the stricken Cudicini's shirt. They might be best advised to stick him in goal on Wednesday night against Barcelona - the alternative is their magnificently-name third choice goalkeeper, Hilario, who some of you may remember gifting an easy three points to Manchester United a few years back, when he played for Porto. Elsewhere, what to make of Juan Pablo Angel's performance for Aston Villa against Spurs? A penalty miss and an own goal in the space of four minutes? Impressive stuff.

In the Football League and the Scottish League, there was some interest to be had. In the League, Cardiff continued to to pull away at the top, beating Crystal Palace (w
hose reunion with Peter Taylor is starting to turn somewhat sour already) at Selhurst Park, whilst Birmingham underlined all the reasons why they went down last season in losing 3-2 at Luton. If you heard a slight earthquake at about 5.00 on Saturday afternoon, it was probably Roy Keane's post-match team-talk for his Sunderland players after they were stuffed 4-1 at Preston, and as for poor old Leeds... well... every time you think they can't sink any lower, they somehow manage it. 4-0 at home to Stoke. To be fair, the result was flattering on Stoke. They were two up with ten minutes to go when Leeds were given a penalty and missed it, but two goals in the last three minutes must have just rubbed salt into an already pustulent, festering wound.

In Scotland, Celtic strolled to yet another win, this wime at Dundee United, but the real excitment was elsewhere, as Hearts were held to a 2-2 draw at Hibs and Rangers, well, they were beaten 1-0 at home by Inverness Caledonian Thistle, a result which keeps them in third place, but closer to the relegation places than they are to Celtic, who are just two places above them. The SPL is always cursed by the vast majority of teams all beating each other, and the same thing has happened again this season but with Rangers joining the middling throng. They've won just four of their ten SPL matches this season. Normal service will probably be resumed in a week or two, so we should probably just enjoy it while it lasts.

After long and careful consideration, I've decided to not bore you all rigid with a round-up from the FA Cup Third Qualifying round. The Fourth Qualifying Round of the FA Cup will get a substantial preview on here - for those of you that don't know already, it's the big one for the non-league clubs. The last round before the league clubs come in at the first round stage. There are a couple of matches that really stand out: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Oxford United pits the top two teams in the Nationwide Conference against each other, whilst AFC Wimbledon, the supporters-run side that broke away when Pete Winkleman disgracefully whored his club's Football League place out to the highest bidders, take on Conference opposition for (I think) the first time with a trip to Exeter City. After all the fine things I had to say about Farnborough Town last week, they will remain in administration until the end of the season rather than being wound up and, should they win their replay against Yeading tomorrow night, they will play at home to St Albans City. God. I might have guessed.


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