West Bromwich Albion v Chesterfield; The Hawthorns, Tuesday 17th January 2023, 8pm
Chesterfield visit the Hawthorns for the first time in nearly 75 years on Tuesday evening for an FA Cup replay following the entertaining draw at the Technique Stadium last week. It is, perhaps, a game that Carlos Corberán would have preferred not to have to play, but it is certainly preferable to the ignominious exit to a non-league club that was looking most likely as the match entered its closing stages.
As well as this replay, another fall out from the match in Derbyshire was the three-match ban handed to Brandon Thomas-Asante which further complicates his selection for this match as well as the league matches either side. BTA’s absence meant that Daryl Dike got to complete a first full ninety minutes in an Albion shirt at Luton on Saturday, and it would be a surprise to see his start the game against Chesterfield given the desire to protect him as much as possible. That, however, leaves no obvious option to lead the line on Tuesday.
Karlan Grant would perhaps be favourite despite Corberán’s view that he is a wide player, but he missed the game at Kenilworth Road with a thigh problem so must be a doubt for Tuesday. Matt Phillips is another player who has played as a number nine for both club and country in the past, while a left-field option might be 20-year-old Jovan Malcolm who travelled with the first team squad to Luton.
It would be a huge surprise for him to start the game – Malcolm is yet to make a senior appearance for the Baggies and his only experience of senior football has come in brief loan spells at Accrington Stanley and Solihull Moors last season, His one senior goal came in an EFL Trophy game for Stanley in a 5-0 win over Leicester City U21 in October 2021.
Reyes Cleary is another potential option, but he has been nowhere near the first team since Corberán joined, and Malcom’s presence at Kenilworth Road would suggest he is higher in the pecking order. The youngsters have a PL2 match with Leeds United on Monday evening, so any notable omissions from that squad could provide insight to potential involvements on Tuesday.
Josh Griffiths also travelled to Luton and was warming up with Alex Palmer before the game although Button retained his spot on the bench. The youngster is cup-tied having played for Portsmouth in all of their FA Cup ties this season and is, therefore, unable to face Chesterfield. Personally, I would prefer to see Palmer between the sticks on Tuesday, but I expect Corberán to stick with Button.
In fact, given the massive game with Burnley on Friday night, I would not be surprised to see many of those who were found wanting at the Technique Stadium to be given another opportunity. I commented after the match that Corberán would be unlikely to make the same mistake of making wholesale changes to the back line, but it may be that the Spaniard doesn’t view that as a mistake, only that his players didn’t perform to the required levels. He knows that he needs to give the fringe players minutes, but I still feel that there needs to be some continuity at the back. Perhaps O’Shea and Ajayi as a central pair would be the right choice – the two played well together early in the season – but one of the key issues from the game at Chesterfield was the inability of the team to stop crosses at source which means that defending in wide areas needs to be significantly better.
Standard thinking would state that Chesterfield are unlikely to be able to repeat such a strong performance in the replay, but it is a dangerous assumption. They will have the advantage of not having played since the first match with their National League fixture at Wealdstone at the weekend having been postponed, but they also have a massive game at the weekend as promotion rivals, Notts County, visit the Technique Stadium.
Looking ahead to Albion’s fixtures, there is currently just one midweek game scheduled in February, albeit the match with Wigan will need to be rearranged should the Baggies beat Chesterfield on Tuesday, so I think Corberán can afford to go relatively strong for this match should he wish. Other than the need, perhaps, to protect Dike, I think that changes will be more to give time to the incoming players rather than resting the first choice eleven.
While I understand the need to give fringe players game time, I hope Corberán goes fairly strong from the outset and try to win the game early before making changes. I’m sure he will have learned something from the first match, and he will have a plan that will get the job done. For me, a cup run can only be positive to keep the momentum high, and losing to a non-league side is never going to be a positive! Albion got away with one at Chesterfield, they cannot afford to risk it again.
Chesterfield have won at the Hawthorns just once in their history, a Division Two fixture in November 1904 when goals from Isaac Tomlinson and William Evans earned the Spireites a 2-0 victory. Their last visit to the Hawthorns was in August 1948 when they earned a 0-0 draw, also in Division Two.
The Baggies biggest win over Chesterfield is 4-0, something they have achieved twice at the Hawthorns. The first was in the very first meeting between the sides in September 1901. Having just celebrated a first year at their new home, Albion were starting to get a grip with their first ever season in Division Two. Having beaten old rivals Preston North End 3-1 in their first home game of the season, the Spireites were dispatched two days later. Chippy Simmonds netted twice, one of which was from the penalty spot, while the other goals were scored by Tommy Worton and Andrew Smith. The second 4-0 win was on Christmas Day 1907 thanks to a Dave Walker brace and further goals from Fred Buck and Harry Wilcox.
Albion have once scored five against the Spireites, again at the Hawthorns, in November 1906. Tommy Dilly scored a hat trick with Fred Shinton and Bruce Rankin completing the scoring for the hosts, but Chesterfield scored two of their own through Ted Gilberthorpe and Jimmy Logan making the final score 5-2.
The Baggies have lost their last three FA Cup replays at the Hawthorns, to Brighton and Hove Albion in 2019, to QPR in 2013 and to Reading in 2010. The last time they progressed in a home replay was in 2008 when they beat Charlton Athletic on penalties after a 2-2 draw – they went on to reach the semi-final that year.
The last time that Albion won an FA Cup replay at home without the need for penalties was way back in 1992 when Bob Taylor’s goal saw them past the then non-league Wycombe Wanderers, managed by Martin O’Neill, in a Second Round Replay.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
7 Jan 2023 – FA Cup 3rd Round
Chesterfield 3 (Williams, Dobra (2))
West Brom 3 (Thomas-Asante (2), Grant)
Last meeting at the Hawthorns
25 Aug 1948 – League Division 2
West Brom 0
6 Mar 1948 – League Division 2
West Brom 1 (Hodgetts)
Albion’s Record against Chesterfield
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