FA Cup underdogs seek their moment in the sun

HOLDERS Manchester City get their FA Cup campaign underway on Saturday with their third round home tie against fourth-tier Port Vale.
The eye-catching clash of the round, where all fixtures start a minute late to highlight a mental health campaign, is Sunday’s Merseyside derby as runaway Premier League leaders Liverpool host Everton, who have shown a noticeable improvement since Carlo Ancelotti took over.
However, the dreamers who hold onto the idea of the ‘romance of the cup’ will be hopeful of giantkilling exploits by the underdogs and here AFP Sport picks out three matches to justify the tag:
Sheffield United (Premier League) v Fylde (National League) — Sunday (1401GMT kick-off)
Third-tier Rochdale will be looking to reach the FA Cup fourth round for the fifth time in seven seasons by beating injury-hit Newcastle United[/caption]Rochdale may be a lowly 18th in the third tier but based on their recent FA Cup record compared to Newcastle’s they can entertain genuine hopes of claiming a major scalp. Rochdale have reached the fourth round of the competition in four of the last six seasons which is one more than Newcastle have. The Magpies travel to Rochdale with their morale at a low ebb following a 3-0 home hammering by Leicester which was their fourth defeat in five matches. Adding to manager Steve Bruce’s problems is an injury crisis. Four players including captain and most impressive performer this term Jonjo Shelvey went off during the Leicester defeat taking their total of injured personnel to 11. Rochdale’s young Irish manager Brian Barry-Murphy has been praised for his side’s style of play and victory over the old campaigner Bruce could attract more high profile clubs to the 41-year-old’s qualities. The pressure is on Bruce to secure a morale boosting and much-needed win. “We have had a bad week. We have to put it right and get ready for the FA Cup at the weekend,” he said.
Gillingham (League One) v West Ham United (Premier League) — Sunday (18:16GMT kick-off)

Third-tier Gillingham hope a recent home record of seven wins and a draw plus West Ham’s tendency to field a second string side in Cup competitions will give them a prestigious win in the FA Cup third round
The Gills are just three points off the play-off places and have an imposing recent home run under the experienced Steve Evans — seven wins and a draw in their last eight matches at Priestfield Stadium. Giving the hosts extra hope of an upset is that the Hammers have been beaten by lower league opposition in cup competitions both last season — AFC Wimbledon humbling them 4-2 in the FA Cup — and this term, losing 4-0 to Oxford United in the League Cup. However, the London side go into the tricky tie on the back of a 4-0 thrashing of fellow Premier League strugglers Bournemouth in David Moyes’s first match of his second spell. Who comes out on top may depend on whether Moyes picks a first choice team or keeps them fresh for their next league game on Friday week away at Sheffield United.