Slaven Bilić will almost certainly give his fringe players an opportunity in the FA Cup once again as Albion welcome Premier League opposition in the Fifth Round.
However, having defeated top flight opposition away from home in Round Four after making eight changes, there will be no shortage of confidence amongst the Baggies squad that they are capable of progressing to the quarter final.
United are playing in the Fifth Round for the first time since 2006 and needed replays to get past both Rochdale and Oxford United despite strong sides in all games. Steve Bruce may well play a strong line-up once again despite the fact that the Magpies’ league form has seen them drop from a relatively comfortable ninth place before Christmas to a precarious 14th today just five points above an improving bottom three.
In fact, Newcastle have won just one league game since Christmas drawing four and losing five, the worst record of any side in the Premier League over that period, and the only goals they have scored since the 2-2 draw with Everton on 21st January were in the Fourth Round Replay at the Kassam Stadium.
Albion, of course, had a fantastic February until that disappointing defeat to Wigan on Saturday, a performance that reinforced the need to rest the bulk of the first team for this match.
Two of Saturday’s starting line up, Conor Townsend and Dara O’Shea, played themselves into the first eleven in the last two FA Cup matches.
Townsend has missed just one game in all competitions since he replaced Kieran Gibbs in the first half of the game against Leeds United on New Year’s Day, and that was the defeat at Cardiff when Nathan Ferguson played. Bilić has suggested that Gibbs will start, which gives him a decision to make at right back. Furlong is probably due a start, although Slav has generally avoided playing both Furlong and Gibbs together, preferring one full back to be more defensive, and Peltier is yet to be involved since his move from Cardiff.
O’Shea, meanwhile, has played every minute of the last nine games in all competitions so is likely to be given a rest and, with Hegazi ruled out through injury, it looks as if Kyle Bartley will start, possibly alongside Jack Fitzwater who played 90 minutes in the Third Round at Charlton, still his only first team appearance for the club. Peltier can play anywhere along the back line, however, so it could be that it will be the former Liverpool trainee who will partner Bartley.
Romaine Sawyers will serve the final game of his suspension, while both Callum Robinson and Kamil Grosicki are cup-tied. Chris Brunt will almost certainly start while I expect to see Gareth Barry, Kyle Edwards, Matt Phillips, Kenneth Zohore and Charlie Austin play some, if not all, of the match. Rayhaan Tulloch is also likely to be involved while it will be interesting to see if any of the other younger players make the bench in midfield, or if Harper and/or Livermore will be on the bench.
As for the visitors, we may well see Dwight Gayle return to the Hawthorns pitch, although he hasn’t made the squad in any of United’s FA Cup ties so far this season having been injured for much of January. He made just his third Premier League start this season in the 0-0 draw with Burnley at the weekend and his last goal was for Albion, his opener in the first leg of last season’s play-off semi-final against Aston Villa.
Allan Saint-Maximin is an injury doubt for Steve Bruce’s side, while six others are on a crowded injury table at St James’s Park. Andy Carroll, who scored twice in the last FA Cup tie between the sides, Emil Krafth, Ciaran Clark, Jack Colback, Paul Dummett and Jetro Willems are all ruled out so, even if Bruce did want to make use of his squad, he has limited options.
I’d love to see the Baggies reach the last eight for the fifth time this century and I actually think it is a useful game to have to give the fringe players some football given that the first eleven has barely changed for the past month. There is no danger of a replay with the tie being decided on the night – it could be an interesting evening.
The Baggies have been drawn against Newcastle United on four separate occasions, and every time the game has been at the Hawthorns.
The first was way back in 1938 when the Magpies travelled to the Midlands for a third round tie. The hosts were victorious over their second division opponents thanks to a goal by the then veteran legendary striker, Ginger Richardson. It was a rare moment of joy in an otherwise disappointing season – the Baggies embarrassingly lost Third Division (North) side, York City, in round four and ultimately finished bottom of Division One.
Things were somewhat better for Albion the next time the two sides met in the FA Cup, a fifth round tie in February 1954. Newcastle were also back in the top flight, but they were second favourites for the tie with the Baggies sitting top of the table and having won 7-3 at St James’s Park earlier in the season. It was a closer affair, ultimately, although when a brace from Ronnie Allen put the hosts 2-0 up midway through the first half, the visitors may have been fearing a repeat scoreline. Bobby Mitchell reduced the arrears just after the hour mark only for Allen to complete his hat trick less than ten minutes later. Jackie Milburn got another goal back for United with four minutes left, but the Baggies held on and, of course, would go on to lift the trophy.
Twenty years later, Albion were back in the second tier when the Toon were back in town for another fifth round tie. The visitors were in the top half of the table while Don Howe’s Baggies were a shadow of the side he had played for two decades earlier. It turned out to be an easy 3-0 win for the Geordies with goals from Malcolm Macdonald, Stewart Barrowclough and John Tudor and it was they who would play at Wembley that year, although they lost 3-0 to Liverpool in the final.
The last time the two sides met in the FA Cup was in the fourth round a decade ago when both sides were battling out for promotion to the Premier League. United led the way in the Championship while the Baggies were in third place some six points behind. Albion took the lead with a goal from Jonas Olsson inside 20 minutes and two quick penalties, both converted by Graham Dorrans a minute apart, gave the hosts a 3-0 lead at the break. Andy Carroll got one back on 62 minutes before Ryan Taylor was sent off for the visitors. Jerome Thomas put paid to any hopes of a comeback when he made it 4-1 with 14 minutes left while Carroll grabbed another consolation goal in the last minute.
Both sides were promoted automatically that season, of course, while Albion went out of the cup in a replay to Reading in the next round.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
28 Apr 2018 – League Championship
Newcastle United 0
West Brom 1 (Phillips)
Last meeting at the Hawthorns
28 Nov 2017 – Premier League
West Brom 2 (Robson-Kanu, Field)
Newcastle United 2 (Clark, Evans (o.g.))
Last win at the Hawthorns
28 Dec 2015 – Premier League
West Brom 1 (Fletcher)
Newcastle United 0
Albion’s Record against Newcastle United