FA Cup first round preview: Colchester and Salford to fall victim to cup magic

With the qualifying rounds now over, we can look forward to the first round of the FA Cup, and across the six televised matches this weekend, we're on the lookout for a giantkilling.

The first round of the FA Cup, the world's oldest knockout cup competition, arrives on the scene this weekend, and with it, some tasty ties.

The grand old competition is famed for the opportunities it offers unfancied minnows to see off bigger, richer teams.

There will be 40 ties across the weekend as the teams from League One and Two join the non-league contenders who have battled their way through to this stage.

Planet Sport takes a look at the six most mouthwatering match-ups which will take pride of place across ITV4 and the BBC.

AFC Sudbury vs Colchester United

Colchester United, Tommy Smith, League Two

The weekend begins on Friday night, when eighth-tier AFC Sudbury welcome neighbours Colchester United to the MEL Group Stadium. The two clubs may only be 16 miles apart, but with 76 league spaces between them, this is very much a David and Goliath clash.

As we've seen countless times before, however, trips like these for EFL sides can often prove banana skins. Hayden Mullins' U's haven't scored a goal away from home since the September 10 and you can back Sudbury to keep them quiet again at 8/1.

What's more, the hosts currently sit fourth in the Isthmian League North Division. With Colchester 17th in League Two, the gulf in league placings may be offset somewhat by their contrasting form.

The U's have won just twice in their last nine, while the Yellows are on a six-match unbeaten run at home. A Sudbury win is 6/1, with a 1-0 scoreline available at an enticing 22/1.

Banbury United vs Barrow

Barrow, Scott Quigley, League Two

Saturday evening sees another non-league side face further EFL opposition, as Banbury United of the Southern League Premier Central Division entertain League Two Barrow.

Unlike Colchester's visit to Sudbury, this tie is quite the trek for the visitors, who will rack up 446 miles in their round-trip from Cumbria to Oxfordshire.

With that in mind, could another giantkilling be on the cards? The last time the visiting Bluebirds tasted victory was seven games, and one month, ago, while Banbury are still unbeaten in all competitions this season, a run that stretches a remarkable 19 games. They look very tempting to reach the second round at 19/4.

That said, Barrow will present a hefty challenge for the Puritans defence, having netted 20 times in the league this season, the joint-sixth most in League Two.

However, they also have trouble keeping them out, having conceded exactly the same number. Both teams to score is an option at 8/15, while Banbury to win 2-1 could make for a wise investment at 16/1.

Sheffield Wednesday vs Plymouth Argyle

Sheffield Wednesday, Lewis Gibson, League One

Another giant away day awaits Plymouth at lunchtime on Sunday, as they travel the 590 miles to get to and from Hillsborough in South Yorkshire. This is an all-League One clash, and a high-powered one to boot, with both sides firmly in the third-tier promotion race.

The Pilgrims ran out 3-0 winners over Wednesday in the equivalent league fixture at Home Park in September, and if you see lightning striking twice, you can back that same scoreline at 40/1.

Given that the roles are reversed this time around, you can put your money on the Owls striking back with a 3-0 win of their own at 16/1.

If either side are to take victory on the day and avoid a replay, a fast start will be imperative and that is bad news for the visitors. They have conceded inside the first 15 minutes in three out of their last four league games, so back Wednesday to win the first half at 6/4.

If you think they will extend that lead after half-time, you can also stake on them winning both halves at 19/4.

Stratford Town vs Shrewsbury Town

Donald Love, Shrewsbury Town, FA Cup preview

After two mammoth away trips, we head to the West Midlands, where Shrewsbury Town will be undertaking more of a manageable journey as they head to Warwickshire and seventh-tier Stratford Town.

It may not be midsummer, nor the night-time, but it could still be a dream result for the side based in Shakespeare's birthplace, with a very real possibility that they can perform a modern-day taming of the Shrews.

The League One visitors have netted just 15 times in 16 league games this season, which is the third-lowest in the division, and are currently in the relegation zone, so this could be a low-scoring affair. Take Stratford to win 1-0 at 22/1, or go for under 1.5 total goals in the match at 4/1.

While a giantkilling is on the cards, this clash may turn out to be much ado about nothing. And if you do see it being a regulation win for the visitors, take advantage of their recent tendency to score far more often in the second half - all but two of their October goals came after half-time - by going for a draw at half-time and a Shrewsbury win at full-time, at 16/5.

St Albans City vs Forest Green Rovers

Forest Green Rovers, Jake Young, League Two

Whereas Sudbury, Banbury and Stratford all had the benefit of their respective EFL opponents not quite setting the world alight this season, that is not a boost that St Albans can count upon.

The National League South side host League Two leaders Forest Green, who have scored the most goals in the league, conceded the third-fewest, and lost just twice in 15 games on their way to the top.

Although Rovers have to make a not-inconsiderable trip of 115 miles to Hertfordshire, this one still has the feeling of a blowout win about it, and you can take Forest Green to win 4-0 at 14/1, or 4-1 at 18/1.

In spite of the visitors' sparkling season, there is always room for a little bit of magic in the FA Cup, however, so if you do like the look of St Albans, who are on a similarly-impressive run of six consecutive victories, you can back them for an upset victory at 7/1.

Something else that it's interesting to note, too, is that all three of the Saints' FA Cup ties this season, in the second, third, and fourth qualifying rounds, have gone to replays. If three in a row is enough to convince you that it might just happen again, you can back the draw at 4/1.

Dagenham & Redbridge vs Salford City

Salford City, Jordan Turnbull, League Two

Monday night sees the final tie of the first round take place, and it's another non-league side welcoming visitors from the EFL as National League Dagenham & Redbridge face League Two Salford City. There may be a division separating them, but this is by far the closest of the non-league vs EFL ties that the first round has in store.

The Ammies, famously part-owned by Manchester United's 'Class of 92', are struggling to avoid being sucked into the relegation dogfight, and have just one win in their last six league matches.

Their problems predominantly surround their attacking output, with just 16 goals scored, so backing the Daggers to keep a clean sheet at 15/4 looks sensible.

If you're looking to push the boat out a little further, take the path of investigating Dagenham's exploits in front of goal. Their 29 strikes this season make them the highest scorers in the National League, so a simple 2-0 Daggers win looks good at 18/1.

However, there is also an interesting trend that has emerged where they love to spin games on their head - they have won four games in which they conceded the first goal. You can back Salford to be winning at half-time and Dag & Red to come through and win the tie after the break at a very attractive 28/1.

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