After last weekend’s games in the oldest knockout competition in the world, only six teams from the Championship are definitely through to the fourth round, with four clubs facing replays next week. If that sounds familiar, take a look at this post from almost exactly a year ago; to put this season’s competition into perspective, four teams from League 1 are already through to the fourth round, three of them beating Championship sides.
The fourth round will in all likelihood weed out even more Championship sides, with three clubs (Middlesbrough, Derby and Watford) facing Premier League opposition, leaving only Hull and Blackpool looking reasonable chances for progress to the fifth round.
Of the four sides facing replays, only Birmingham City emerged with any real credit having held Wolves to a draw in the Saturday lunchtime kick off. Millwall failed to score away from home again (this time at Dagenham & Redbridge) and despite taking the lead Brighton were held at home by Wrexham. None of the clubs with unresolved third round games have easy looking ties in the next round if they win their replays – neither Nottingham Forest or Leicester will fancy a visit from Paolo Di Canio’s Swindon, who knocked out Wigan at the Country Ground on Saturday.
Four clubs were knocked out by opposition from Leagues 1 and 2, although they can all make the excuse that they’ll be concentrating on the league. Reading – who’ve reached the quarter finals in the last two seasons – lost to Stevenage, who the Royals beat last year. West Ham lost to a late goal at Hillsborough: Sheffield Wednesday have now knocked out Championship teams out of the cup in the third round in consecutive seasons without conceding a goal. Wednesday’s victims last season – Bristol City – lost at Crawley and Doncaster lost at home to Notts County: both of those last two games could be League 1 matches next season.
At least the Championship is guaranteed a place at the Carling Cup final at Wembley at the end of February, so hopefully Crystal Palace and Cardiff can provide two games to remember. It’s only really over the last few seasons that Cardiff have reversed a long term trend of performing badly at Selhurst Park: even though the Bluebirds lost their last visit in the league (to a single goal from South African international Kagiko Dikgacoi last March), they’ve won three of their last six meetings in South London. The only other time these sides have met in this competition was in September 1969, when Palace won 3-1: the hosts went on to win seven of the next ten meetings between them.
Looking at more recent form, a couple of things stand out: Palace will have to score at least two goals to win. The Eagles haven’t done that since mid October in the league, but they’ve managed it in every round of this season’s Carling Cup including the brace that beat Manchester United in the last round. The other stat that is worth remembering is that there’s not been a draw between these two in South London since December 1984 and both Palace (at home) and Cardiff (away) have been involved in a lot of undecided games recently: Cardiff’s only other away game in the Carling Cup was a draw at Oxford United back in August and the Bluebirds only won on penalties at the Kassam Stadium.
There hasn’t really been much to report in the transfer market, although the rumour mill is grinding out the usual stories (most of which involve anyone that’s ever scored a goal in the Championship being linked with Leicester), so the only piece of news worth mentioning is that despite overseeing three consecutive league defeats, Nick Barmby has been appointed as permanent manager of Hull City.
I’ll be back on Friday afternoon with a recap of tonight’s game plus a look forward to the action at the weekend.