With Vale’s next game in the FA Cup – our writer ponders whether it’s an important fixture or merely a game to get out of the way.
A Vale fan writes…
The second round of the FA Cup is, for a lot of teams lower down the pyramid, a tricky time. With 46 league games a season – compared to those lightweights at the top with their 38 games, and their squad rotation – the season is long enough as it is. Do we really need another cup competition, the disruption, and the potential replays that cup football offers? Should we just rotate the squad, let some players get rested up and go again when the League starts up once more?
On the other hand, you’re ninety minutes away from the third round, and teams from the top two divisions entering the draw. Get past your unglamorous opponents here, and you could be welcoming De Bruyne, Coutinho, or Pogba in early January – more importantly, you could be adding record gate receipts to a bottom line that dearly needs them. So with Vale preparing to face fellow League Two strugglers Yeovil in round two, is this a distraction we could do without– or a day to go all out against beatable opponents to secure a Golden Ticket?
More Than Winnable
In many ways, the draw for this round of the cup has been kind to the Valiants. It’s a home game – always welcome in the Cup – and it’s against a team just three places above us in the league. Yeovil have been defensively porous all season, with only Forest Green conceding more goals in League Two. It’s not a game against an unfamiliar, hyper-motivated non-League opponent with nothing to lose and everything to gain. This really can’t be time to “focus on the league”, can it?
Of course, Vale bounce straight from this game into an EFL Trophy fixture with League One leaders Shrewsbury Town. In hot form and backed heavily by Stratabet to continue that form going forward, Shrewsbury will come to Vale Park motivated and confident of a result.
Setting aside our proud history in the competition, it’s hard to see the Valiants going as far as we’re used to, so if we’re going to prioritise games at this stage of the season, it should definitely be the FA Cup that gets our attention. If players are to be rested, they can sit out against the Shrews (who will be facing their own rotation conundrum anyway, with a promotion bid now in full flow).
Dream Tie On The Horizon
At our lower position on the ladder, a spot in the third round of the FA Cup makes the day of the draw feel like Christmas. What does Santa have in his sack for us? Manchester City at home? A spicy Potteries derby against Premier League snobs Stoke? Or the third round equivalent of Christmas socks, an away tie with another League Two club?
That’s the problem with getting to the second round – putting out your best team and really going for it offers the promise of a big reward, but could end up just being more of the same. With all that said, when Saturday comes around, we’ll start to dream of the next round and a juicy fixture; and why can’t this be the time those dreams come true?