Sunday, February 20, 2011

It was looking like the romance of the FA Cup was going to be over for another year. With all respect to Burnley and Reading, either of those sides going through in the remaining 5th round games wouldn't have been a huge giantkilling shock or create that much of a nationwide buzz.

Left with a pretty much all Premiership quarter final, my interest in the Cup would have been starting to wane for another year, aside from cheering on my own West Ham to lift the trophy at Wembley in May of course.

Then up stepped Leyton Orient's Jonathan Tehoue to add some romance back into my cold heart.

The Orient-Arsenal game wasn't a particular Cup classic but it was good viewing and great to see a ground with character like Brisbane Road on the telly. It's hard to find a ground that stands out too much in these days of all seater plastic stadia but having flats on all four corners and people enoying the game and a beer on their balconies gives Orient that something a little bit different.

Tehoue's goal will be a huge moneyspinner for the O's and comes at a much needed time when they are worrying about their future with West Ham moving into their patch at the new Olympic Stadium in the foreseeable future. They're a great club, with a long history and hopefully their moment in the sun will help raise people's awareness to their current plight.

They may face little hope in the replay at the Emirates, but then that's what Cup football is all about and with Wenger likely to still not risk his top stars, I'm already looking forward to it. The O's will have nothing to lose and will be sure to just go for it.

Just look at Crawley Town. A defensive lapse of concentration at a set piece and the width of the crossbar. That was all that was between the non league side and a place in the FA Cup Shock Hall of Fame. When Fergie comes out and says they deserved a draw, then you know how close they came to that giantkilling feat.

Even with the side Man U had out they should have been way too strong for Crawley. Regular readers of this blog will know what I feel about them but I have to give them full credit for the way they went about their business at Old Trafford yesterday. They defended well, they took the game to the Premiership leaders at times and although they didn't really threaten too much in front of goal until those dramatic closing minutes, they did non league football proud.

Never thought I'd be saying that about Crawley! If only they conducted themselves on and off the pitch in that manner more often.

It was a shame that two fourth round replays had to be settled this weekend. It devalues the competition a little when they can't fit in the replays due to other commitments of the clubs. It also gives ammunition to those that want the FA to do away with replays and have a straight knockout competition. That works great for the League Cup but don't mess with the tradition of the FA Cup. The chance of replays is one of the things that adds to the magic.

The two replays this weekend were good games mind you.

Everton hadn't been at their best but that was one hell of a dramatic late, late show from them. Some of the Chelsea players just didn't look interested from the start. No idea what was going on in Drogba's head early on and Anelka's whole demeanour before, during and after his spot kick was mind boggling. Of course, the fact that Gashley Cole was the villain of the piece just makes the Toffees victory all that sweeter.

The other replay today saw Man City run out 5-0 victors at home to Notts County, in a scoreline that certainly doesn't portray the tale of the tape. If you didn't see the match, County went for it from the off and were unlucky not to take the lead in the opening minutes and then hit the post a little later on before the Premiership moneybags took over. Pity.

The game we were least looking forward to over the weekend was the all Premiership clash between Fulham and Bolton. As it turned out, it provided the WTF moment of the seven cup ties with the second half flare up between Fulham's Chris Baird and Bolton's Martin Petrov.

It was hilarious to watch the whole thing play out at the top of the screen with referee Stuart Atwell absolutely clueless as to what was going on directly behind his back. An elbow, some pushes and he missed it all. Luckily the lino saw it, or clearly didn't despite his long chat with the ref, since both players only got yellow when Baird at least should have been shown red. Kind of summed up the officials afternoon mind you as they could spot blatant shirt pulling throughout the first half either.

Let's just hope that if we end up with a FA Cup all Premiership quarter final line up, we'll still get all the drama and enjoyment. If it's like the Premier League week in and week out, then I'm not so sure we will.

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