The weekend’s first televised FA Cup third round tie between Birmingham and Wolves failed to captivate, but Peterborough and Sunderland’s Sunday afternoon showdown could be the game of the round…
Peterborough’s latest stab at the Championship has gone far more smoothly than the last and with 33 points, Posh sit closer to the play-offs than the relegation zone, helped hugely by a current run in which they have lost just two in ten.
At the time of the draw, it was easy to see why ITV anticipated an upset, given Sunderland’s lack of recent success in the FA Cup – last year’s home exit to Notts County a low point – and struggle at the bottom of the Premier League table.
Things have picked up drastically for the Black Cats under Martin O’Neill though, with four wins in six, including consecutive away victories, changing the complexion of this fixture and the outlook of the Wearsiders’ campaign.
O’Neill also has a bit of a reputation as a domestic cup master, guiding Aston Villa to the Carling Cup Final and FA Cup semis in his last season there and winning eight knockout competitions in his time with Wycombe, Leicester and Celtic.
Factor in that Peterborough are unremarkable at London Road, triumphing in only four of their last 11 there, and there is a strong enough case for trusting Sunderland at 10/11.
Darren Ferguson’s dad Sir Alex is the only manager in the country who gives his club’s season-ticket holders more excitement for their money in terms of goals per game, with Posh averaging a quite spectacular 3.92, his side scoring 2.25 of them.
And as Sunderland’s last two away outings have ended 4-1 and 3-2, there is every reason to believe that the net will ripple with a similar degree of regularity in the FA Cup.
Both teams to score looks highly probable at 4/6 – Peterborough haven’t fired a blank in 17 matches – while over 3.5 goals is also worthy of consideration at 2/1.