The Baggies make just their second trip to the Amex Stadium on Saturday for their first ever meeting with the other Albion in the FA Cup. As I pointed out in my preview to the third round match, promotion from the second tier has often been accompanied with a decent run football’s oldest cup competition, so while continued involvement brings additional games, it can also bring momentum.
Having got all three points in a scrappy game at Bolton on Monday evening, Darren Moore’s side have now lost just one of their last thirteen games in all competitions, winning eight of them. It is also interesting to note that five of those victories have come away from home.
Of course, winning away in the Championship is one thing, but Brighton are, of course, a Premier League side and have only lost at home in the league to Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham, although they did lose at home to Southampton in the Carabao Cup back in August.
That was, of course, with a much changed side with Hughton having made ten changes to the side that had lost at Liverpool the weekend before. In the third round of the FA Cup, the Seagulls won 3-1 at Bournemouth with a team that saw eight players changed from the team that drew at West Ham three days earlier.
One of the players to come in on that occasion was a certain Gaëtan Bong who Baggies fans will remember from the incident at the Hawthorns a year ago. That match, which was Alan Pardew’s only league win as Albion manager, saw an exchange between Bong and Jay Rodriguez that resulted in a claim that J-Rod had racially abused the Cameroon defender. The Baggies striker stringently denied the claim and the case was ultimately found unproven, and while we all wish it hadn’t happened, the support that J-Rod received from the club following the event is believed to have influenced his decision to stay at the Hawthorns in the summer.
This will, of course, be the first time that the two players could face each other on the field, and it will be interesting to see whether either manager will decide to leave their player out of the squad. Given that Bong did play in the third round match having not started any of the previous nine games might suggest that he is in Hughton’s “cup team” and a decision to leave him out might be obvious – having said that, he has started both league games since then!
For Big Dave, Rodriguez was rested for the third round win over Wigan and, should he decide to shake things up again, omitting J-Rod would not be a surprise. If either player does take to the field, he is, unfortunately, likely to be subject to some sort of abuse from opposing fans.
The Bong-Rodriguez issue aside, both managers will need to decide how many players to rest. I’d like to see Moore field a strong side as the momentum that a cup run can bring would be a positive to the feeling around the club – the run to the semi-final in 2008 certainly didn’t hurt the promotion challenge.
However, resting players is a consideration, as is giving an opportunity to some of the fringe players to get some minutes on the pitch. Field and Harper certainly benefited from playing against Wigan and both have featured in the league games since. Livermore’s suspension, which will conclude with this weekend’s game, has meant that Harper has started both the league games since, while Field came on as an early substitute for Chris Brunt on Monday night. With Brunt, Phillips and Morrison all out injured, midfield is one area where Moore’s hand will be forced and I expect both Harper and Field to start, with Gareth Barry potentially given a rest. That could see Wes Hoolahan come into the team, as he did against Wigan, although probably not in the false nine position we saw in that match.
While I would be happy to see the first team run out at the Amex, I do expect Moore to make plenty of changes and it is, perhaps, the forward positions where he has some tough decisions to make. Having lost Barnes and Burke this month, there is a lack of options up front. Kyle Edwards and Jon Leko both played in the Wigan match, although Edwards only came off the bench, while Bakary Sako also started and, of course, opened his Baggies account. If Moore does decide to rest the front three from Monday, that trio will probably make up the front line at Brighton.
At the back, Townsend will probably come in, as will Bartley, and we could see Jack Fitzwater make his Baggies debut. The young centre back was recalled from a successful loan spell at Walsall, and may well go back out on loan for the remainder of the season, although if he does play for Albion in the meantime, he can only return to the Bescot as players are not allowed to represent more than two clubs in one season.
Tosin Adarabioyo is another player who is unsure where he will be for the rest of the season. Holgate’s arrival on loan has seen him frozen out of the first team, and there have been rumours that Manchester City may recall him as a result, but assuming that doesn’t happen before the weekend, I’d expect to see him line up along side Bartley in the centre of defence.
In goal, Boaz Myhill missed out against Wigan through illness and, while Jonathan Bond impressed in that game, I’d expect to see the Welshman between the sticks.
Brighton are in mid-table and could be tempted to go for it in the cup this year, but having lost their last two games, Hughton is likely to play it safe and rest much of his first team, particularly with an important league match away to Fulham on Tuesday evening.
Maybe that will be enough for Darren Moore to spring a surprise by fielding a strong side which, assuming it is a second-string Brighton side, would have a very good chance of progressing to the last sixteen.
For so long the only two Albions in the Football League (until Burton joined the ranks almost a decade ago), Brighton and West Brom have managed to largely avoid one another and this weekend’s meeting will be just the 23rd match between the sides and the first in the FA Cup.
When Albion travelled to the Amex Stadium in September 2017, it was the first meeting between the teams for nearly a quarter of a century – in that time, Brighton had almost gone out of business, left the Goldstone Ground, played at both Priestfield and the Withdean Stadium and had a new stadium built. The resurgence of the club in recent years has been remarkable and this season is only the second time in history that the south coast Albion have been in a higher division than the Black Country one.
After joining Division Three (South) in 1920, it took the Seagulls 28 years to get promoted which they did by winning the title in 1958, but it would be a further 21 years before they finally made it to the top flight for the first time in 1979. Up until that point, the Baggies had only played Brighton once, in the League Cup in 1976 – that was at the Hawthorns but the Seagulls, managed by Alan Mullery, won the match 2-0 thanks to a brace from Peter Ward.
Brighton spent four years in the top flight, famously reaching the FA Cup final in 1983, losing to Manchester United in a replay, and getting relegated in the same season. The Baggies soon followed them to the second tier and the two clubs remained in the same division until West Brom were relegated in 1991 – Brighton followed them down the following season and they were both in the third tier for one season while Ardiles was working his magic at the Hawthorns.
The Baggies’ biggest win at Brighton was their most recent, a 3-0 victory at the Goldstone Ground in April 1990 with Don Goodman, Tony Ford and Gary Bannister scoring the goals.
Brighton’s biggest win over West Brom is 3-1 which they have done on the last two meetings on the south coast – last season and also in March 1993 when Bob Taylor gave the visitors the lead from the spot before the hosts responded with a goal from Kurt Nogan and two from Andy Kennedy.
Apart from the League Cup match in ’76, there has been one other cup match between the Albions, a 1985 clash in the Full Members’ Cup at the Goldstone Ground. Garth Crooks scored twice for the Baggies in a 2-1 win with Danny Wilson scoring from the spot for the Seagulls.
I’ve always loved the FA Cup and I would love to see an extended run, but I think the Baggies’ involvement will end this weekend.
|Brighton & Hove Albion||D||W||D||W||L||L|
All competitions; most recent game on the right
13 Jan 2018 – Premier League
West Brom 2 (Evans, Dawson)
Brighton & Hove Albion 0
Last meeting at Brighton & Hove Albion
9 Sep 2017 – Premier League
Brighton & Hove Albion 3 (Groß (2), Hemed)
West Brom 1 (Morrison)
Last win at Brighton & Hove Albion
14 Apr 1990 – League Division 2
Brighton & Hove Albion 0
West Brom 3 (Goodman, Ford, Bannister)
Albion’s Record against Brighton & Hove Albion