Bristol City v West Bromwich Albion; Ashton Gate, Saturday 28th January 2023, 3pm
Carlos Corberán takes his side back to Ashton Gate on Saturday looking for a repeat of the comfortable victory they enjoyed on their last visit just a few weeks ago on Boxing Day. The chances of success may well depend on how many changes the Spaniard opts to make to his starting line up.
Bristol City boss, Nigel Pearson, played full strength sides in both of their FA Cup Third Round games against Swansea City and was rewarded with victory in a replay in south Wales in a match where his opposite number chose to make seven changes from the previous league game. Having said that, it was academy graduate, Sam Bell, who came off the bench to net the Robins’ winner in extra time.
The Baggies’ victory at Ashton Gate is actually the Robins’ last defeat. As well as their cup win over Swansea City, they have also drawn three of their league games since Boxing Day and also beat Birmingham City 4-2 earlier this month to record their first home win since October.
One would expect Pearson to go strong from the start again, although one of their top goalscorers, Antoine Semenyo, will not be in the squad having completed a move to Bournemouth on Friday. The Baggies boss, however, may well opt to make use of his squad as he did in the third round. Brandon Thomas-Asante is almost certain to start have sat out the last three matches through suspension but will we see a return to the defensive setup that started the two games against Chesterfield and were less-than-convincing in both games?
With no midweek fixtures either side of this game, there would be no reason to rest players, so any decision to make changes is only about giving game time to the fringe players. Corberán’s argument that these players could be needed at any moment, so need time on the pitch, has merit, but I feel that wholesale changes create too much instability in the line up. Conversely, changing the odd player here or there, as would happen in the event of injuries, is far less disruptive to the overall team performance. The Albion head coach may go stronger than he did in round three given the relative strength of the opposition, but with a full week to work with the squad, he may feel that he can adequately prepare an alternative eleven.
The team has responded with a victory immediately after each of the defeats in Corberán’s reign so far and they will hopefully do that for the third time on Saturday. The win at Ashton Gate on Boxing Day was the first match after the reverse at Coventry City, so the omens are good.
The Baggies have made round five on four of the last eight seasons and only once, in 2003/04, have they been promoted this century without reaching round five of the FA Cup. Cup runs have generally helped the Baggies in recent years – let’s hope they get another one going at Ashton Gate on Saturday.
Albion and Bristol City have met on five previous occasions in the FA Cup, although this year is only the fourth time that they have been drawn against each other.
The first FA Cup meeting was in the Second Round in February 1910. The Baggies were in the Second Division at the time while the Robins were in the top flight having won promotion for the first time in 1906. The first match was at Ashton Gate and the visitors took the lead through Bob Pailor but City equalised just before half time through Sammy Gilligan. There were no further goals and the clubs met for the replay at the Hawthorns four days later. George Simpson gave Albion the lead this time, but Gilligan was on hand to square things up for the Robins once again. Pailor scored his second goal of the tie to put Albion ahead just before the break and Charlie Hewitt made it 3-1 just before the hour mark. Fred Staniforth put the result in doubt with twenty minutes to go when he made it 3-2 but Hewitt bagged a second to send Albion through 4-2.
The two clubs swapped divisions in the summer of 1911 such that the next meeting between the sides was also in the FA Cup. This time, it was Albion who were the top flight club for the Third Round meeting at the Hawthorns in January 1926. Once again the two sides exchanged the first two goals, Joe Carter putting the Baggies ahead before Billy Pocock equalised for the visitors. Jack Byers put the hosts back in front before half time and Tommy Glidden bagged a brace in the second half, one of which was from the spot, to send Albion through 4-1.
It would be another ninety years before the FA Cup draw brought the two clubs together again in the Third Round in 2016 at the Hawthorns. Championship City came very close to knocking their Premier League opponents out with a 95th minute equaliser from James Morrison forcing a replay at Ashton Gate. Saido Berahino had given Albion the lead before second half goals from Jonathan Kodija and Kieran Agard put Steve Cotterill’s side in charge ahead of Mozza’s late leveller. In a very dull replay in Bristol, Salomón Rondón scored the only goal to send the Baggies through against a Robins’ side by then under the caretaker stewardship of Wade Elliott and John Pemberton with Cotterill having been sacked following a 2-1 home defeat by Preston North End a few days earlier. Albion needed penalties to get past League One Peterborough United in round four and then lost to Championship Reading in Round five.
So Albion are yet to lose to Bristol City in the FA Cup but the Robins have won in two other cup competitions against the Baggies. They won 1-0 in the preliminary round of the Anglo-Scottish Cup in August 1976 and also won 3-2 on aggregate in the first round of the League Cup in 1990.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
26 Dec 2022 – League Championship
Bristol City 0
West Bromwich Albion 2 (Phillips, Thomas-Asante)
Albion’s Record against Bristol City
If you cannot see the tables, click here.