Although chances were at a premium, Albion were ultimately unfortunate to lose at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium last weekend, but is is a defeat that means that they have won just two of the last ten league games. That is a run of form that cannot be allowed to continue if the Baggies hope to challenge for the play-offs, let alone the top two, and the next two fixtures represent a perfect opportunity to pick up six points and start to turn things around.
While these are “must win” games in those terms, I do not think that Valérien Ismaël’s position is under threat yet despite what some fans, and pundits, believe. He needs to get the results not only to turn the form around, but to win back some of the supporters he has lost, but I still think that the club hierarchy will give him more time having just backed him with a £7m striker.
Eleven points from the last ten games puts Albion 16th in that particular form table and, while Fulham have picked up 19 points from their last ten, Bournemouth have endured a difficult time themselves and have only picked up one more point than the Baggies. It means that Albion are still only seven points off the top two despite what has been a dreadful set of results.
Defensively, Ismaël’s team have remained strong conceding just six goals in that time, only Blackburn have conceded fewer, but it is the goals scored column that has been the problem as we all know. Albion have found the net just five times in their last ten matches although their xG in that time of 15.07 suggests that the opportunities have been there.
That is where Daryl Dike comes in. He was impressive from the bench in west London last weekend, although more as a creative force as he didn’t end up have any chances himself. Although Val has stated that he is not yet 100% fit, there is an expectation that he will start Saturday’s match given Albion’s need for goals, although I suspect he won’t get more than about an hour.
Ismaël will still be without Sam Johnstone and Alex Mowatt as they will serve the last of their three game suspension for red cards against Cardiff on 2nd January, but Cédric Kipré will be available again and it is hoped that Kyle Bartley will also be fit enough to start. That should mean their return to the back three alongside Matt Clarke giving the option of returning Furlong and Townsend to their familiar wing back berths.
Taylor Gardner-Hickman has been preferred to Furlong on the right recently, but I wonder if the youngster will be utilised in central midfield given the continued absence of Alex Mowatt. He offers more of a creative spark than either Jake Livermore or Jayson Molumby and creativity is something that has been lacking in recent weeks.
It will be particularly important in attempting to break down what will undoubtedly be a stubborn and defensive Peterborough side. Posh were the first side to try to counter Val-ball this season by surrendering possession, a tactic that almost worked as Albion only claimed the points thanks to a stoppage time winner from Semi Ajayi. That sparked into a rush down the line by Big Val as he sought to celebrate with his players, something that angered Borough boss, Darren Ferguson. While the Scot does tend to be easily riled, I’m sure the memory will give him extra motivation to inflict further frustration on Albion.
It should be a tough task, however. Peterborough are bottom of the ten match form table and are the only other side to have scored as few goals as Albion in that time period. At the other end, however, United have conceded 21 goals in their last ten picking up just five points, all of those at London Road. They have the worst away record in the league with one win, at Hull City in October, and eleven defeats from their twelve matches on the road conceding an average of 2.75 goals in each one. Overall, only Barnsley have scored fewer goals while no team has conceded more than Posh’s tally of 48 from 24 games.
It is, perhaps, as good a fixture as you could wish for given the Baggies’ current plight and they should wipe the floor with Peterborough with even a decent performance. Three points would be enough, but Val really needs a good performance and a convincing victory. If Dike does start, I expect him to make a significant difference, and boy does he need to!
This season is just the fourth in which Albion and Posh have shared a division but, while Saturday will only be the visitors’ fourth league visit to the Hawthorns, they have played five cup matches at the Shrine since their first trip in December 1965.
In that first meeting between the clubs, Peterborough, then of Division Three, were beaten 2-1, thanks to goals from Tony Brown and Jeff Astle, in what was the first leg of a League Cup Semi-Final. The Cambridgeshire side, managed by former Albion boss Gordon Clark, were beaten 4-2 at London Road as the Baggies progressed to the final defeating West Ham United, also over two legs, to win the trophy at their first attempt.
The second time the teams met in the League Cup, 23 years later, was a very different match. The Baggies were struggling in Division Two having picked up just one point from their first two games when they met by now Fourth Division Peterborough in the first round first leg at the Hawthorns. In front of a mere 4,264 fans, including yours truly, Ron Atkinson’s Albion were beaten 3-0, a deficit they were unable to overturn in the second leg. Atkinson left for Atlético Madrid six weeks later before Brian Talbot’s appointment sparked an ultimately unsuccessful promotion challenge.
All the league meetings at the Hawthorns have finished in home victories with Posh yet to score a league goal away to the Baggies. In the most recent league meeting at the Shrine, a goal from Luke Moore and a Ryan Bennett own goal secured a 2-0 victory and a league double over Peterborough on Boxing Day 2009.
That was the fourth meeting between the sides in the calendar year with the clubs having been drawn in the FA Cup the previous season with Albion progressing in the replay after a 1-1 draw at the Hawthorns in the first match.
The Baggies’ biggest win in the fixture was in September 1991 when Bobby Gould’s team were still threatening to challenge for automatic promotion from Division Three. A brace from Gary Robson sandwiched goals from Paul Williams and Stewart Bowen earned Albion a 4-0 win to move them into third place in the early season table just three points behind leaders Birmingham City.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
28 Aug 2021 – League Championship
Peterborough United 0
West Brom 1 (Ajayi)
Last meeting at the Hawthorns
30 Jan 2016 – FA Cup 4th Round
West Brom 2 (Berahino (2))
Peterborough United 2 (Coulthirst, Taylor)
Last win at the Hawthorns
26 Dec 2009 – League Championship
West Brom 2 (Moore, Bennett (o.g.))
Peterborough United 0
Albion’s Record against Peterborough United
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