Preview: FA Cup games take centre stage as domestic leagues take international break

By Steven Oldham, Sports Correspondent

The FA Cup First Round gets underway this weekend as the Premier League takes a break for international matches for the Home Nations.

Bury host big spending Crawley Town, Oldham welcome Burton Albion and Rochdale travel across the Pennines to Bradford City in the First Round proper.

Stockport County travel to Ebbsfleet United in the only Blue Square Premier game this weekend after being dumped out of qualifying two weeks ago against Southport.

Internationally, the Republic of Ireland play the first leg of their crucial playoff against Estonia in Tallinn tonight, whilst England are in friendly action against World Champions Spain tomorrow.

In the same week Gary Speed told his Wales squad he doesn’t want them to play for Team GB at 2012 – they host Norway in a friendly tomorrow.

Bury v Crawley Town

Bury manager Richie Barker is expecting a tough test ahead of tomorrow’s game with Crawley Town at Gigg Lane.

Crawley sit second in League Two in their first season in the Football League and will stiff competition for the Shakers.

Barker said: “We couldn’t have got a tougher draw – apart from Crawley Town away.”

He will be boosted by the derby victory over Oldham last week, where his team secured a vital three points away from home.

Striker Lennel John-Lewis, sent off in last weekend’s game, misses out following his red card but Barker welcomes back David Worrall from illness and David Amoo returns to contention following his outing for the reserves midweek.

Promotion chasing Crawley have drawn their last two league games 1-1.   

Oldham Athletic vs Burton Albion

Paul Dickov is aiming to exorcise last season’s first round exit in the FA Cup this weekend against League Two Burton.

Oldham were knocked out by lower league Accrington last season, a result that still rankles with the manager.

He said: “It was bitterly disappointing last season to lose at Accrington Stanley in the first round.”

“We will be doing everything we can to progress to the second round.”

Yesterday, Barker gave the green light for several of his younger players – including James Tarkowski – to leave the club on loan due to a low number of reserve fixtures.

Bradford City vs Rochdale

Steve Eyre is looking to the Cup for inspiration to kickstart their faltering League campaign this weekend.

Dale sit in the relegation places of League One, but will take heart from the fact that Bradford City – a Premier League side only 11 years ago – are struggling in League Two.

He said: “I don’t see the FA Cup as a distraction, I see it as an interesting challenge.”

Dale have fell to successive defeats in the League while Bradford are winless in three, although they did beat local rivals Sheffield United in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy this week.

Eyre saw his team knocked out of the JPT by Preston in a penalty shoot out.

Ebbsfleet United vs Stockport County

Stockport County travel to Kent without a manager following Dietmar Hamann’s resignation on Monday.

Assistant boss Willie McStay has been put in temporary charge ahead of tomorrow’s game with the board inviting applications for the full time role.

McStay welcomes loan goalkeeper Mark Halstead to the squad after he joined on loan from Blackpool.

Danny Rowe and Ryan Fraughan could feature following injuries, whilst Sean McConneville has returned to full training.

The first game between the two sides earlier this season ended 1-1 but with season rapidly approcahcing half distance, County to start getting points on the board and fast – they lie 17th, just two points clear of the relegation zone.


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