Saturday was packed full of FA Cup fourth-round action, and as was the case in the third round, things didn’t come easy – and for some, at all – for several Premier League sides.
I’ll leave the full Liverpool-Havant & Waterlooville recap to Kyle, but I can’t go far without commending the Hawks for not only hanging with Liverpool for more than a half, but taking the lead twice, before the Reds’ class eventually showed.
Who knows – had Yossi Benayoun not equalized right before halftime, things may have gone a little differently at Anfield.
Elsewhere, things went somewhat according to form.
After their 5-1 Carling Cup debacle at Tottenham on Tuesday, Arsenal got off to a slow start against Newcastle, and could have very well been in for an uphill battle if the Magpies had taken full advantage of a couple of early chances.
In the other all-Premiership tie, Nicolas Anelka opened his Chelsea account, and Shaun Wright-Phillips scored again to help lead the cup holders to a 2-1 win at Wigan.
After one goal in his first 28 appearances this season, Wright-Phillips has three goals in his last five matches, and validating a regular place in Chelsea’s starting XI.
As for Wigan’s fellow relegation strugglers Derby, a home tie against Preston, who’s in much the same position in the Championship, seemed like a golden opportunity to get a win, which has been a rarity for the Rams in any competition this season.
However, Karl Hawley and the Lilywhites had other ideas, piling onto Paul Jewell’s misery with a 4-1 thumping, with Hawley netting two of the four strikes.
Mansfield, who find themselves 23rd out of 24 in League Two, should have provided little resistance to visiting Middlesbrough, but victory came a little harder than expected for Gareth Southgate’s side. In the end though, the outcome and not the scoreline isn’t what’s important, and Boro advanced to the fifth round with a 2-0 win. Korean striker Lee Dong-Gook likely bought everyone drinks last night, after scoring only his second goal in 11 months for Boro to put them on their way to the win.
In the other tie involving a top-flight side, Portsmouth fell behind to Plymouth inside five minutes at Fratton Park, but Lassana Diarra (34) and Niko Crank-car (45) put Pompey in the lead going into the dressing room, and the tie would finish 2-1 to send Harry Redknapp’s side through to the fifth round.
They’ll be joined there by south coast rivals Southampton, who dispatched of Bury 2-0, at their stadium that has a name that I used to know when they were still in the Premier League. Oh, St. Mary’s, that’s right. My memory’s not what it used to be, sadly.
Watford had Al Bangura in the starting lineup for the first time since August for their home tie against Wolves, but Andrew Keogh’s brace propelled Wolves to a 4-1 win, which means the Hornets will fall a few rounds short of matching their semifinal run of last term. On top of their cup defeat, Watford were bumped out of second place in the Championship by Bristol City, who beat Blackpool 1-0 in league action.
While one promotion hopeful was getting thrashed, the Championship leaders were handing out one, as West Brom dismissed Peterborough 3-0, with the final tally being struck home by Kevin Phillips, who is going strong at 34 and finding the net as regularly as he did with Sunderland.
Coventry’s Michael Mifsud has been pouring in the goals this season, and added another to his total on Saturday, producing the winner as Coventry knocked off Millwall 2-1 to move on.
Bristol Rovers didn’t have much time to celebrate Tuesday’s penalty shootout win over Fulham, as they had a trip to Barnet, but maybe they can take some time to celebrate having made it to the fifth round, after a 1-0 win. Rovers keeper Steve Phillips came up big against the Cottagers, and he came up big once again, saving a late first-half penalty by Jason Puncheon to keep the tie goalless. Shortly after the restart, Richard Lambert produced the only goal of the match to lift the League One strugglers into the final 16.
League One foes Oldham and Huddersfield, who both knocked off Premier League opposition in the third round, tangled at Boundary Park, and a 10th minute goal by Luke Beckett was enough to send Huddersfield into the fifth round.
With Derby and two other top-flight sides getting shown the exit door on Saturday, that means only seven Premier League sides, at most, will be in the round of 16.
Today, Manchester United welcomes Tottenham into Old Trafford, so one of those teams will see their cup run end, may it be today or in a replay, and Sheffield United looks to keep spreading the upset bug when they host Manchester City.
So, the chances of a side outside of the top flight making the final are looking pretty good as of now, with the Premier League sides knocking each other out and getting knocked out. We’ll see what today holds, and then what Monday’s draw holds, but if you’re a fan of the little guys, then you’ve got plenty of reason to cheer right now.