Albion take a break from the Premier League this weekend as Derby County visit the Hawthorns for an FA Cup 3rd round tie. The Baggies good recent form is more than matched by that of the Rams, who sit in 7th place in the Championship having won ten of their fifteen league games since Steve McLaren returned to Pride Park.
However, having picked up 26 points from a possible 30 to finish off 2016, County went down to a surprise 3-0 defeat at Carrow Road on Monday when midfielder Jacob Butterfield was sent off. The club appealed against Butterfield’s suspension, but that field so the former Huddersfield man will not be available for the match at the Hawthorns. Young starlet, Will Hughes, is also unavailable after he completes a two game suspension having already collected ten yellow cards this season.
One player that will be available is County’s new loan signing, Julien de Sart. The 22-year-old Belgian has joined until the end of the season from Middlesbrough and could make his Rams debut at the Hawthorns. The former Standard Liège man is yet to make his Premier League debut for the Teesiders but did play twice for them in the Championship last season.
De Sart will be a welcome addition to McLaren’s squad which is not only two down in midfield through suspension, but also suffering a injury crisis at the back with Craig Forsyth (knee), Marcus Olsson (hamstring), Max Lowe (groin) and Ikechi Anya (hamstring) all out.
There are likely to be a few familiar faces on show with former Baggies Scott Carson in goal, Chris Baird at the back and Matěj Vydra up front for the Rams. Vydra has proved about as effective for Derby as he did for Albion, scoring just twice since he joined in the summer – he only seems to be at home at Vicarage Road in England! Former Villa striker, Andreas Weimann, is sure to get a warm reception should he feature.
Albion’s only doubt is Jonny Evans after he limped off against Hull with a calf strain. Pulis may look to rotate a little to give one or two a rest, although he does tend to take the FA Cup seriously so I’m not expecting wholesale changes. Could there even be a place in the squad for Saido Berahino, perhaps?
This will be the tenth FA Cup tie between the clubs with the visitors having claimed six wins to the Baggies three. At the Hawthorns, they have met three times in the competition with the latest being in 1951 when the Rams’ Jackie Stamps scored the only goal of the game in a third round replay. Albion’s only home FA Cup win against County came way back in 1907 when goals from Fred Buck and Willie Jordan gave the Baggies a 2-0 win, also in the third round.
Derby are, like Albion, founder members of the Football League so there have been many league meetings between the sides, with the latest being in the Baggies’ most recent Championship season in 2010 when a brace from Chris Brunt helped Albion to a 3-1 win at the Hawthorns. Most of us will, of course, remember a more painful meeting back in 2007 when County won the Championship Play-off final 1-0, a game that Albion dominated. Derby proved their unsuitability for the Premier League the following season when they were relegated with just 11 points winning just once (against Newcastle).
Overall, Derby and Albion have met 116 times in all competitions with County having won 50 to the Baggies 37 with the record in the cups being significantly in the Rams favour 11 wins to 3. Albion’s last win against Derby in a cup competition was at Pride Park in 2001 when a late goal from Richard Sneekes sealed a 2-1 win in a League Cup second round 1st leg, only for the Baggies to go down 4-2 at home the following week going out 5-4 on aggregate.
In fact, to find the last time that Albion knocked Derby out of a cup competition, you have to go back nearly 40 years to 1978 when Albion won 3-2 at the Baseball Ground thanks to a brace from Cyrille Regis and another from Willie Johnston – that was in the fifth round during the Baggies cup run that ended in that heartbreaking defeat to Ipswich Town at Highbury in the semi-final.
With the Baggies looking relatively comfortable in the league, many will be hoping for a cup run this season to add a bit of interest. Last season, a home draw against a Championship club in the 3rd round was not what it should’ve been for Albion, as they escaped an embarrassing defeat to Bristol City thanks to James Morrison’s 95th minute equaliser. They won the replay at Ashton Gate by a single goal in a dire game, before ultimately suffering an embarrassing exit at the hands of Reading in the fifth round.
The year before, Albion went goal-crazy in the cup notching seven against Gateshead in Tony Pulis’s first game in charge, and four against West Ham, before another painful exit, this time in the quarter final at Villa Park, slightly tempered by Villa’s hammering at the hands of Arsenal in the final.
Those two seasons remain the only times that Albion have made it beyond the fourth round while in the Premier League, which backs up the feeling that Pulis takes the cup more seriously than other managers have.
This will undoubtedly be a stiff test for the Baggies with Derby having recently gone ten games unbeaten, including seven straight wins, in their climb up the Championship table under McLaren. However, their absences in midfield and defence will not make it any easier for the Rams and, providing Pulis doesn’t make too many changes, I expect Albion to progress.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
27 Feb 2010 – League Championship
West Brom 3 (Brunt (2), Cox)
Derby County 1 (Porter)
Albion’s Record against Derby County