In a welcome break to the Premier League, the struggling Baggies make just their third ever visit to the other St James’s Park as they visit Exeter City for a third round FA Cup tie.
Having not won in 21 games in all competitions, Alan Pardew’s men will not have a better chance to break that run, and while it wouldn’t help their league position directly, any win has got to be positive at this stage.
Paul Tidsdale’s team are having a decent season and are currently sitting in the final play-off place in League Two having lost in the play-off final to Blackpool last May. They have been partly assisted by the Baggies who have loaned two players, Kane Wilson and Kyle Edwards, to City but neither will feature this weekend.
Another name that will be familiar to Albion fans will be Reuben Reid who made seven appearances for the Baggies in the 2009/10 season. He joined the Grecians in September 2016 and has scored 22 goals in 67 appearances for the south coast club. Exeter’s principal threat this season, however, has been Jayden Stockley who joined from Aberdeen on transfer deadline day last August and has scored 14 goals in 17 starts including five in their three FA Cup ties to date.
City were drawn at home to 8th tier Heybridge Swifts in Round 1, which they won 3-1, but were taken to a replay by the Football League’s newest club, Forest Green Rovers, in Round 2. The first match in Nailsworth finished 3-3 with FGR equalising in the 88th minute, taking the lead in the 92nd only for Exeter to level in the 94th. The Devonians won the replay 2-1 thanks to an extra-time winner from Stockley.
Baggies boss, Alan Pardew, has suggested that he will be taking the FA Cup seriously which I applaud. I have never been a fan of resting players for cup competitions, particularly the FA Cup. The Premier League may be the most important competition from a monetary viewpoint, a factor that is even more in focus this season given Albion’s league position, but not only are cups the most realistic chance of a trophy, wins of any kind breed confidence.
The head coach has indicated that he will be resting Craig Dawson, however, after playing three games in seven days having just returned from injury, while Chadli and Morrison remain sidelined.
Albion simply must win this game. A defeat to a League Two side would be a disaster on the scale of the Woking defeat of 1991 in the season that ultimately led to the Baggies meeting Exeter in the league the following season. A win and a few goals could have a massive impact on the team as a whole, and let’s not forget that Bryan Robson recorded his first victory as Baggies manager in the FA Cup, a 2-0 over Preston, in the Great Escape season.
With Brighton facing a tricky tie against “local” rivals, Crystal Palace, on Monday evening, the Baggies could go into next weekend’s crucial battle of the Albions with the psychological advantage.
The clubs have met just six times previously, the first meeting being a League Cup tie at the Hawthorns in 1973 that was won by 3-1 the Grecians. In a slightly worrying trend, the Devonian club won the only other cup meeting between the sides, also at the Shrine, an Autoglass Trophy match 25 years ago decided by a goal from Mark Robson.
The first league meeting between the sides was Albion’s first ever game in the third tier of English football and the Baggies won it handsomely taking a 6-1 lead before conceding twice in the last seven minutes. It promised a quick return to the second flight, but it took another season and the only league meetings between the sides were in those two seasons. The Baggies won both games at the Hawthorns and earned a win and a draw in Devon, the most recent being a 3-2 win in January 1993 when the three H’s of Heggs, Hacket and Hamilton were on the scoresheet as the visitors recovered from a 2-0 half time deficit.
It just simply has to be a win for the Baggies.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
16 Jan 1993 – League Division 2
Exeter City 2
West Brom 3
Albion’s Record against Exeter City