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FA Cup preview: Wrexham looks to continue ‘Hollywood story’ in fourth-round replay

Will Wrexham AFC’s “Hollywood story” continue on in the FA Cup and capture more worldwide headlines?

That’s the biggest question ahead of the tournament’s fourth-round replays, which includes Wrexham AFC, co-owned by Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds, taking on Sheffield United.

This week’s replays (Feb. 7-8) will decide which six clubs will complete the 16-team field for the fifth round, which runs from Feb. 28 to March 1.

Here’s what you need to know about the FA Cup’s fourth-round replays.

What’s the deal with replays in the FA Cup?

All 16 matches in the fourth round are single-elimination contests, and not two-legged, home-and-away affairs.

Last month, 10 teams advanced to the fifth round by winning their contests. But the other six games ended in draws, which forced the use of replays. If any fourth-round replay games this week are tied after 90 minutes, they will go to extra time and then penalty kicks (if necessary) to determine who moves on.

One fourth-round replay match is already in the books. Blackburn earned a 1-0 road win over Birmingham City 1-0 in extra time on Jan. 31 after playing to a 2-2 draw at home three days earlier.

Sheffield United vs. Wrexham AFC

Reynolds and fellow Hollywood star Rob McElhenney bought Wrexham in 2020 for a modest $2.5 million USD. Wrexham is a Welsh side that competes in England’s fifth division and is the lowest-ranked team still alive in this season’s FA Cup.

Last month, Reynolds was in attendance at Wrexham’s Racecourse Ground and went through a wide range of emotions as he watched his team battle Sheffield United to a wildly entertaining 3-3 draw in their fourth-round match.

There was dismay when Sheffield United, who play in the Championship (English second division), scored after only two minutes. Then pure joy when the Red Dragons battled back to take a 2-1 lead after 61 minutes. Then concern when Sheffield tied things up four minutes later. Then sheer ecstasy when Wrexham’s Paul Mullins appeared to score the winner in the 86th minute. And finally, heartbreak when Sheffield netted the equalizer deep into injury time to prevent a massive upset and force a replay at Bramall Lane on Tuesday (2:45 p.m. ET).

Should Wrexham beat Sheffield United this week, it’ll be the biggest upset for the team since it defeated Arsenal (at the time the defending English first division champions) in the third round of the 1991-92 FA Cup when it was competing in the third division. Wrexham also reached the quarterfinals in 1996-97 when it was in England’s third tier.

Wrexham will host Premier League outfit Tottenham in the FA Cup fifth round if they beat Sheffield Wednesday.

Burnley vs. Ipswich Town

It wasn’t exactly a shocker when Ipswich Town (who play in the third division) held second-division club Burnley to a 0-0 draw at home on Jan. 28. They’ll meet again at Burnley’s Turf Moor on Tuesday (2:45 p.m. ET).

Ipswich have been impenetrable during their run in this season’s FA Cup, having posted three clean sheets. It’s the first time the Tractor Boys have recorded a trio of shutouts in a single FA Cup season since 2006-07 when they made it to the fifth round.

Burnley have won just twice in 22 all-time meetings against Ipswich (eight draws, 12 losses), with their previous win coming in October 2013.

Grimsby Town vs. Luton Town

After battling to a 2-2 stalemate last month, these two teams will meet again Tuesday (2:45 p.m. ET) at Grimsby’s Blundell Park.

Last month’s draw against fourth-tier Grimsby marked the first time ever that Luton, who compete in the Championship, failed to win a home FA Cup match against a side from the fourth tier or lower while they were in one of the top two divisions.

It was also the first time Grimsby avoided a road loss in the FA Cup against a team within the top divisions since earning a 1-1 draw against West Ham United in February 1996.

Forward Aribim Pepple, who previously featured for Calgary-based club Cavalry FC in the Canadian Premier League, currently plays for Luton Town, although he has yet to make his debut since signing with the team last year. Pepple, 20, joined Grimsby Town on loan shortly after he arrived at Luton before his loan deal was terminated last month.

Fleetwood Town vs. Sheffield Wednesday

A 1-1 draw last month at Hillsborough Stadium sets the stage for the replay at Fleetwood’s Highbury Stadium on Tuesday (2:45 p.m. ET).

While Sheffield Wednesday tops the table in League One (England’s third division), Fleetwood Town sits in 17th place, just two points above the relegation zone.

Between the FA Cup and League One, Sheffield Wednesday is unbeaten in 20 consecutive matches (with 14 wins) dating back to October.

Sunderland vs. Fulham

These teams played to a 1-1 draw at Fulham on Jan. 28, and they will lock horns again Wednesday at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light (2:45 p.m. ET). Sunderland winger Jack Clarke opened the scoring in the first game at Craven Cottage in the sixth minute with his first goal in 16 appearances in all competitions before Tom Cairney tied things up for the Premier League side just after the hour mark.

With the draw, Sunderland (who competes in the second division) avoided defeat in a road FA Cup game against a Premier League side for the first time since earning a 1-1 draw vs Everton in March 2012. Fulham is now winless in each of its last four home FA Cup games against lower-division teams (with two losses).

Fulham will be without manager Marco Silva for Wednesday’s fourth-round replay. The Portuguese is suspended after receiving his fourth yellow card of the Premier League season in last week’s 0-0 draw against Chelsea. Since yellow card suspensions for managers are not specific to one competition, Silva will miss his club’s next game (against Sunderland) rather than a Premier League match.

John Molinaro is one of the leading soccer journalists in Canada, having covered the game for over 20 years for several media outlets, including Sportsnet, CBC Sports and Sun Media. He is currently the editor-in-chief of TFC Republic, a website dedicated to in-depth coverage of Toronto FC and Canadian soccer. TFC Republic can be found here.


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