Albion travel to London for the third time in three weeks on Saturday, looking for their second victory of the new decade as they take on West Ham United in the Fourth Round of the FA Cup.
Slaven Bilić seems likely to rest the bulk of his first team once again, with the Championship trip to Cardiff coming just three days after Saturday’s game, and I would expect to see a similar team to the one that beat Charlton Athletic in round three.
There will be one or two differences, however. Conor Townsend has played the bulk of every game in 2020 and may get a rest if Bilić feels there is a viable alternative – Nathan Ferguson was expected to be fit for Monday’s game, but didn’t make the squad, and he could feature in what would be his first appearance since being substituted at half time in the defeat to Middlesbrough. Chris Brunt is also an option at left back, having played there extensively under Tony Pulis and finished Monday’s game in that position. However, if Brunt doesn’t make the starting line up in any position, it could be an indication that Slav is considering him as a starter for Tuesday evening.
Kenneth Zohore has also played the bulk of both league matches since his return to the starting line up in Round Three, while Charlie Austin has been used sparingly and may get the nod at the London Stadium.
I certainly expect to see Barry in side, but Rekeem Harper’s involvement will depend on whether he has recovered from the injury he picked up in training. O’Shea and Fitzwater are likely to start, but it’s anybody’s guess as to who else may start in defence. Hegazi started in Round Three but also played on Monday evening, while Semi Ajayi is the latest player to get a rest. I think the other choices at the back could be a sign as to who is being rested ahead of the league trip to Cardiff.
Kyle Edwards is also a fairly certain starter, but with attacking options limited, we may well see Tulloch or even the lesser-spotted Chris Willock at some point.
David Moyes took a very different approach to Bilić in the last round as he made just three changes for the trip to Gillingham. It was just his second game in charge, however, and I’m sure he was keen to avoid an early exit to lower league opposition.
Since then, the Hammers have drawn one and lost two, including the 4-1 defeat at Leicester City on Wednesday. With a Premier League match at home to Liverpool to come next Wednesday, the Scot may feel that resting some of his squad would be prudent, particularly given their current injury issues.
Jack Wilshere, Andriy Yarmolenko, Filipe Anderson, Ryan Fredericks and Lukasz Fabianski are all ruled out, while Robert Snodgrass is also a doubt. If Moyes does choose to rest some of his first team, the back up players are likely to be from the U23 side, although if Grady Diangana is illustrative of their quality, they might not be too bad.
In fact, the Hammers are top of their PL2 division, two places and eleven points ahead of Albion, having earned 39 points from the 45 available, although their top scorer, Nathan Holland, has gone on loan to Oxford United this month so won’t be available.
While I would love a cup run, I’m not expecting or even hoping Bilić picks anything like his first team for this match. If Moyes takes a similar approach, it could still be a game that Albion could win, however. The mid-season break in the Premier League means that the fifth round has moved to a midweek slot in March, so only a replay would add to Albion’s already scheduled seven games in February!
The cup represents a welcome distraction from the league, and I’ll certainly be hoping for a Baggies win along with the rest of the 4,900 travelling support.
Saturday will see the tenth meeting between Albion and West Ham in the FA Cup, although it is only the sixth time that the clubs have been drawn together in the competition.
The sides first ever meeting was in the oldest cup competition at the Hawthorns in the First Round in January 1913. The Baggies were a top flight club and had reached the FA Cup Final the previous season, losing 1-0 to Barnsley in a replay that had been controversially held at Bramall Lane. The Hammers meanwhile, were playing in the Southern League and had yet to taste the Football League. Nonetheless, they battled to a 1-1 draw at the Hawthorns before holding their top flight opponents to a 2-2 draw in the replay at Upton Park. The second replay was held at Stamford Bridge and the east Londoners ran out deserved 3-0 winners.
By the time of their next FA Cup meeting, in the fourth round in 1933, West Ham were a well-established league club albeit playing in the second tier. Once again they proved too strong for Albion as they won at the first attempt with a 2-0 victory at Upton Park.
Two decades later, things were very different. Jesse Carver was in charge at the Hawthorns, although he would hand over the reins to the great Vic Buckingham just a few weeks later. The Baggies were second in Division One when they met second division West Ham at Upton Park, and their superiority was clear to see as goals from George Lee, Ronnie Allen, Reg Ryan and Johnny Nicholls helped them to a 4-1 victory.
Before this year, that was the last time that Albion were drawn away to West Ham in the FA Cup having been drawn at home on the three occasions since then.
In 1980, John Lyall’s Hammers earned a replay in a third round tie at the Hawthorns, winning 2-1 at Upton Park on their way to lifting the trophy, the last second tier side to do so.
The only previous occasion that West Ham were in a higher division when playing the Baggies in the FA Cup was in 1993 when the Baggies were in the third tier and the Hammers a division above. Goals from Clive Allen and Mark Robson helped Billy Bonds’s side to a 2-0 win at the Hawthorns.
The most recent FA Cup meeting was a fifth round tie in Tony Pulis’s first season at Albion. In a rare goalscoring frenzy under the Welshman, the Baggies ran out 4-0 winners with a brace from Brown Ideye and further goals from James Morrison and Saido Berahino.
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All competitions; most recent game on the right
2 Jan 2018 – Premier League
West Ham United 2 (Carroll (2))
West Brom 1 (McClean)
17 Sep 2016 – Premier League
West Brom 4 (Chadli (2, 1 pen), Rondón, McClean)
West Ham United 2 (Antonio, Lazini (pen))
Last win at West Ham United
8 Nov 2003 – League Division 1
West Ham United 3 (Defoe, Deane (2))
West Brom 4 (Hulse (2), Deane (o.g.), Hughes)
Albion’s Record against West Ham United