Johnny Cantor: Albion will need to be patient and determined to avoid a cup shock

Jose Izquierdo lets fly with a shot during Albions third round win against Crystal Palace. Picture by Phil Westlake (PW Sporting Photography)
Jose Izquierdo lets fly with a shot during Albions third round win against Crystal Palace. Picture by Phil Westlake (PW Sporting Photography)

I've already written a few times about the FA Cup this season and with good reason.

There always seems to be plenty of debate around the competition. Has it lost special qualities? Is it the best club competition in the world?

However, I feel it deserves more column inches as Brighton and Hove Albion are on the verge of reaching the quarter-finals for the first time since 1986.

The Seagulls are the favourites to go through against their League Two opposition Coventry City but as Stoke found out this season against them, nothing can be guaranteed in the FA Cup.

We all have our own special memories from over the years in different eras but many will remember the Sky Blues’ victory at Wembley against Spurs (yes, Albion manager Chris Hughton was playing that day) in 1987.

However two years later Coventry themselves were beaten by non-league Sutton United (yes, ex Albion midfielder Paul Rogers played for the U’s that day).

No-one gets away with a free ride in the FA Cup, whatever the stage of the competition.

Stirring Henry V style speeches are commonplace in the dressing rooms from the qualifying rounds in August but now the Albion must ‘stiffen the sinews’ in readiness for a Coventry side who have a talented team, a wily manager in Mark Robins and vociferous support.

Such is the depth of Chris Hughton’s talent, he can make huge changes and still put out a decent team. They will all be keen to excel if they are to remain in contention in the Premier League.

It’s tempting to get ahead of yourself and debate what he would do if the Seagulls reached the quarter-finals or even the semi-finals at Wembley. Would he stick with the players who have got them there or bring in the big guns?

It may depend again on the opposition.

However, one thing I have learnt from covering this competition, whether it is Basingstoke Town against Tiverton Town, Bognor Regis against Swansea or Portsmouth against Cardiff in the FA Cup final, just when teams think they are in control things can go awry. Not always but sometimes.

It should be a great atmosphere with 4,500 travelling supporters hoping for an upset.

Albion will need to do a professional job to progress.

The Seagulls have already been to the arch in North London this season in the Premier League but they will need to be patient and determined before fans will start to think of 1986, or even head into the loft for memorabilia from 1983.

Johnny Cantor covers Brighton & Hove Albion as a commentator and reporter for BBC Sussex Sport.

Follow all the action, home or away, on BBC Sussex Sport or Twitter: @BBCSussexSport or @johnnycburger

To read more by Johnny Cantor, visit www.johnnycantor.com

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