City’s bid to reach the FA Cup Fourth Round and the incomparable excitement of a home tie against Barnsley takes us to Leyton Orient tonight for the match that will settle the tie between the two clubs.
It had looked settled ten days ago when Orient led in injury time at the Circle, only for Nick Proschwitz to force a replay that, deep down, few can have relished. But those are the rules, and instead of settling it on the day we must convene this evening in London.
Uncertainty abounds for this one. What team will City play? We know that it’ll be quite different to the team that lost to Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday. Robert Koren and Sone Aluko are carrying knocks and won’t be risked, while neither Robbie Brady or David Meyler are eligible for selection under tournament rules. Those are four enforced changes, but Steve Bruce has once again openly stated that his “squad” players will form the bulk of the side that plays at Brisbane Road this evening. Eldin Jakupović is at least fit to play in goal.
We know one thing at least – tonight’s game (probably) won’t be as bad as the one ten days ago, as disappointing as the one that ended the 2000/1 season, or as thrilling as the one in 1984. That aside, it’s anyone’s guess. It’s likely that Orient will be selecting from their better players, though they’ll be without Kevin Lisbie through injury.
With only one win in the thirteen visits since that famous November afternoon just over 29 years ago, this is hardly a happy hunting ground. Nonetheless, the Championship side start as 6/5 favourites, Orient or the draw priced at 13/5 and 5/2 respectively. So, Barnsley on January 26th await the winners, and if you’re minded to take the Cup seriously, that offers both City and Orient an eminently navigable path into the last 16 of the competition. We’ll see.