After two good results and two encouraging performances, Albion take a break from the Premier League this weekend as Steve Cotterill’s Bristol City visit the Hawthorns for a third round FA Cup tie backed by a sell-out 5,300 away following.
Encouragingly, Pulis has stated that he will be fielding an attacking line up on Saturday, although it will be interesting to see what his version of an attacking line up looks like. While he may look to rotate the squad with a trip to Chelsea in midweek to come, Rondón and McClean are available once again after serving their suspensions so he will have plenty of options.
The Robins were promote from League 1 as champions back in May, but they have found life back in the Championship tough and currently sit in the relegation zone with only Charlton Athletic and Bolton Wanderers below them in the table.
City have won just four games this season, although it will please Baggies fans that one of those was over Wolves at Ashton Gate in November, and they exited the Capital One Cup in round one at thanks of League 2 Luton Town. They are currently on a run of one win in ten since that win over our neighbours, that coming on the road at Huddersfield in December. Since then, the Robins have conceded 9 in three away games without finding the net themselves.
Those facts all point to a home victory, and Albion fans will be hoping for a repeat of the goal fest we saw 12 months ago when Saido Berahino got four of the seven that Albion put past non-league Gateshead in Tony Pulis’s first game in charge, although it’s easy to forget that it took more than 40 minutes to break the deadlock in that game.
For the third time in five matches, Pulis will be facing one of his former clubs having taken the reins at Ashton Gate in 1999. He only stayed until January 2000 when he moved to Portsmouth, but it was a spell which included an FA Cup victory over another former club, Bournemouth.
The holiday season proved to be a mixed bag for Albion. After the depression of the defeats either side of Christmas, back-to-back victories have brought some much-needed optimism and, perhaps, small signs of a change of approach from Mr Pulis. While the Welshman’s team selections have not really changed too much, the attacking approach adopted from the off against both Newcastle and Stoke has been very encouraging.
Goals are still lacking, however, and it is concerning that both games were only one by the odd goal despite long periods of dominance. Albion should have been 2 or 3 up by half time against Newcastle and it took the controversial sending off of Geoff Cameron to swing the Stoke game back in the Baggies’ favour.
Nonetheless, the performances suggest Albion may be turning the corner and Pulis’s attacking line-up supports that assertion.
As well as the FA Cup, this month brings the chance of some new faces at the Hawthorns. It has been suggested that players will need to leave before new players can be brought in, with Pocognoli and Gamboa the most likely to leave. Speculation surrounds the future of Saido Berahino and this weekend could even be his last game in an Albion shirt. Berahino’s form this season has dampened the anxiety that Albion fans might have otherwise felt about his possible departure with many actively hoping that he leaves – a repeat of his double brace from the third round last season would probably change a few minds, however.
This weekend will be the 47th meeting between the sides and the fourth in the FA Cup. The clubs first met at the Hawthorns in October 1901 – the match finished 2-2 with one of Albion’s scorers being a certain Jimmy McClean, a namesake of our controversial Ulsterman, although the early 20th century version was born in Stoke. Albion got their first victory later that season when they won the return fixture at City’s St John’s Lane ground.
Albion have progressed on both occasions that the teams have been drawn in the FA Cup although on the first occasion, in the second round in 1910, Albion needed a replay winning 4-2 at the Hawthorns after a 1-1 draw at Ashton Gate. Sixteen years later, Tommy Glidden grabbed a brace as Albion won a third round tie 4-1.
Albion have won the last two meetings in West Bromwich by that same 4-1 scoreline, the latest coming in November 2009. Chris Brunt (pictured in that match) was on the scoresheet that day, and he and Jonas Olsson are the only two players to play in that fixture that remain at the club. Not one of the Bristol City team that day are still with the Robins.
Bristol City were the visitors on Boxing Day 1994 when the new all-seater Birmingham Road End was opened – it was forgettable game, not least because much of the play was difficult to follow through the fog, although I do remember it was decided by a comedy own goal by City defender Scott Munro.
The Robins have only won at the Hawthorns on three occasions, the latest being a year before that foggy Boxing Day when City legend Brian Tinnion scored the only goal of the game.
Albion goalkeeper, Ben Foster, played 45 minutes in the U21 game on Tuesday evening and Pulis has indicated that he would like to give him some game time this weekend. Myhill has performed well in his absence, but it would be great to see Foster back between the posts. Olsson and Anichebe are still struggling with hamstring injuries, but McClean and Rondón are available again after suspension.
Forward Kieran Agard is Bristol City’s main doubt for the weekend although manager, Steve Cotterill, has suggested that he is waiting to see how a couple of players respond to treatment.
Anything other than a comfortable victory would be a massive disappointment for the Baggies; last season’s cup run was a welcome slice of excitement and another season progressing to the later rounds would be a boost on what has been a less than exciting season to date. Albion to go through with something to spare.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
21 Feb 2010 – League Championship
Bristol City 2 (Iwelumo, Johnson)
West Brom 1 (Dorrans)
Last meeting at the Hawthorns
21 Nov 2009 – League Championship
West Brom 4 (Thomas, Brunt, Carey (o.g.), Cox)
Bristol City 1 (Hartley)
Albion’s Record against Bristol City