The Hawthorns welcomes League One side Port Vale this evening for the first time since January 2000. Rob Page’s side are unbeaten so far this season. They defeated one of last season’s relegated Premier League teams, Burnley, in the first round of this competition and, having started their league campaign with three draws, they picked up their first league win of the season against Doncaster Rovers at Vale Park at the weekend.
Tony Pulis’s men will be looking to pick up their first win of the season, although it will be interesting to see who lines up for the Baggies as the Welshman will certainly be looking to use his squad.
Burslem Port Vale, as they were originally known, were a founder member of Division Two in 1892 and first met Albion in that division in September 1901 at the Hawthorns. A brace from Tommy Worton and another goal from Andrew Smith gave the home side a 3-1 win and they completed the double with 3-2 win at the Cobridge Athletic Ground the following January.
As Vale have never graced the top flight of English football, this will be just the 40th meeting between the sides and two of those stand out. Back in 1954, the clubs met in the Semi-Final of the FA Cup at Villa Park. Then playing in Division Three (North), Port Vale ran the Division One title challengers close with a penalty from Ronnie Allen and a goal from Jimmy Dudley helping Albion to a 2-1 win. Vale’s Albert Leake scored their goal and had another controversially disallowed for offside. Albion, of course, went on to beat Preston North End in the final.
The second stand-out game was almost 40 years later when Albion were back at Wembley for the first time in 23 years in the Division Two Play Off Final. Port Vale had finished 3rd, one place above Ossie Ardiles’s Albion side, in the league table, but as Albion beat Swansea City and Vale beat Stockport County in the two-legged semi-finals, the two sides met in the final to decide who would play in the new Division One (that being the first season of the Premier League). The Valiants had been to Wembley the week before in the Autoglass Trophy final, also against Stockport County, which they had won 2-1. After a goalless first half, the game’s key moment was when Vale’s Peter Swan was dismissed for a professional foul on Bob Taylor shortly after half time. Albion went on to win 3-0 thanks to goals from Andy Hunt, Kevin Donovan and Nicky Reid cheered on by more than 40,000 Baggies fans in a crowd of just over 53,000. Taylor, who needed only one goal to equal the club record of 40 goals in a season, had failed to score in any of the three play-off games.
The Baggies have only lost to Vale at the Hawthorns on three occasions, the most recent being earlier in that 1992-93 season when Ian Taylor scored the only goal for the visitors in October 1992.
Port Vale have not beaten Albion since the second leg of the final of the Anglo-Italian Cup at Vale Park in 1996 when, after Bob Taylor had cancelled out Jon McCarthy’s early opener, Lee Glover and Martin Foyle both scored for the hosts in the last five minutes to make the final score 3-1 on the night, 4-2 on aggregate.
Albion’s biggest win over Vale is 4-1, achieved on three occasions in 1906, 1927 and 1931, whereas Vale’s record win was an impressive 8-1 at the Old Recreation Ground in 1929 although all their wins at the Hawthorns have been by a single goal.
Ben Foster remains the only man on Albion’s injury list although it’s likely that Saido Berahino will be an absentee at least until next Tuesday! The Burundi-born striker announced himself to the Albion fans with a hat-trick in the same round of this competition two years ago against Newport County, and it will be interesting to see if Pulis starts any of the other up-and-coming youngsters at Albion with, perhaps, Adil Nabi or his brother Samir the most likely to get an appearance. The U21 side are top of the league having won their three opening games and the Nabi brothers scoring three goals between them.
Port Vale may well name an unchanged side – Michael O’Connor and Chris Neal are both injury doubts.
Irrespective of the starting line-up, this should be a comfortable evening for the Baggies providing they don’t underestimate their opponents. Vale apparently scored with their only shot on target against Burnley, so Albion should surely have too much for them.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
15 Jan 2000 – League Division 1
West Brom 0
Port Vale 0
14 Aug 1999 – League Division 1
Port Vale 1 (Minton (pen))
West Brom 2 (Hughes, Kilbane)
Last win at the Hawthorns
26 Dec 1998 – League Division 1
West Brom 3 (Murphy, Bortolazzi, Hughes (pen))
Port Vale 2 (Naylor (2))
Albion’s Record against Port Vale