Chesterfield v West Bromwich Albion; Technique Stadium, Saturday 7th January 2023, 3pm
The Baggies take a break from league action this weekend to travel to Derbyshire to take on Chesterfield in the third round of the FA Cup. The Spireites are now a non-league team having been relegated from League Two in 2018, but they are flying high in the National League in third place.
Regular readers will know that I am a fan of the FA Cup and would love to see Corberán play a strong side, but I also understand that it represents an opportunity to give players on the fringe of the squad some game time. When at Huddersfield last season, the Spaniard made seven changes for their third round tie at Premier League Burnley, but still ran out 2-1 winners. The previous season, he opted to change the entire starting line up for the visit of Plymouth Argyle in round three and the Terriers were beaten 3-2.
In his press conference on Friday, Carlos effectively confirmed that Button, Thomas-Asante, Diangana, Rogić, Reach, Ajayi, Grant, Kelly and Livermore would all start with Zac Ashworth the only member of the U21 squad to be added to the first team squad to join the travelling party. It could mean as many as ten changes, but more than half of those will have played plenty of Championship football this season.
Chesterfield have become perennial promotion challengers since dropping out of the EFL in 2018 and are now under the stewardship of former Wigan and Ipswich boss, Paul Cook, who was appointed in February 2022. He replaced James Rowe who was suspended by the club in January following allegations of misconduct which led to him being charged with sexual assault for which he will be tried later this year. Under Rowe, the Spireites reached the play-offs in 2021 when they were beaten by Notts County and were top of the league when he was suspended in January. Six defeats in the last ten matches of regular season under Cook saw them finish seventh, still earning them a play-off quarter final spot in the National League – they beat Halifax Town but lost to Solihull Moors in the semi-final.
This campaign has seen them consistently in the top three and they have reached the third round of the cup beating two league opponents in Northampton Town and AFC Wimbledon, with the latter an impressive 2-0 win at the new Plough Lane. Cook’s team have lost just once since early October, a 1-0 defeat to the Shaymen last month, winning ten of their last twelve matches, so they are bound to be full of confidence. Unusually, right back Jeff King is the Sprireites top scorer this season with eight goals, although he is a dead ball specialist, while strikers Joe Quigley and Kabongo Tshimanga have seven apiece. Chesterfield also have their own Asante, Akwasi Asante, also a forward who has netted four times this campaign including in the club’s last match, a 4-1 win over bottom-of-the-table Scunthorpe United. There are goals throughout the team, however, with nine players having scored three or more this campaign.
Albion should have too much quality for Chesterfield but they are an opposition team that should not be taken lightly. They are on form and are a league club in setup if not status. Chris Sutton in his BBC predictions says that he smells an upset at Saltergate, but given that Chesterfield haven’t played there for twelve years, perhaps we shouldn’t take his views too seriously, but it is a game that Albion should treat like any other.
Backed by a third sold-out away following in succession, there will be an expectation of another win for the Baggies, but the fringe players who will be given an opportunity at the Technique Stadium will need to perform well if Albion are to progress to the next round.
It should be an interesting encounter at a stadium that the Baggies haven’t played at before, and whatever anyone says, FA Cup Third Round day is still special to me!
Albion against non-league opposition
This is the first time that Albion have been drawn against non-league opposition in the FA Cup since Tony Pulis’s first game in charge when Saido Berahino scored four goals as Gateshead were dispatched 7-0 at the Hawthorns in January 2015, but those of us of a certain age will find it difficult to forget the name of Tim Buzaglo whose hat trick for Woking in 1991 helped them to a 4-2 win at the Hawthorns that saw the end of Brian Talbot’s time at the club, along with his assistant Sam Allardyce.
This season is the first time that the Baggies have been drawn away to a non-league side in the FA Cup since Keith Burkinshaw’s side played Halifax Town in the first round in November 1993 – Albion had been promoted back to the second tier but the vagaries of the league structure at the time meant that they still competed in the first two rounds of the competition. On that occasion, the Shaymen ran out 2-1 winners to make it two defeats to non-league opposition in four seasons for the Baggies.
Albion also faced non-league opposition in the previous two seasons beating Aylesbury United 8-0 in November 1992 and Marlow 6-0 in November 1991, both at the Hawthorns, but the third round game with Woking was the first time that Albion had drawn a non-league side in the FA Cup since they beat Corinthians 5-0 in February 1924, and the first time they had been knocked out by a non-league side since losing to Tottenham Hotspur in a replay in February 1903 – Spurs had already become the only team to win the FA Cup as a non-league side in 1901 (beating Albion in the semi-final) and didn’t join the league until 1908.
In fact, the last time that the Baggies won away to a non-league side in the FA Cup was way back in January 1896 when Albert Flewitt’s goal earned them a 1-0 win at Dallow Lane, the then home of Luton Town who joined Division Two in 1897.
Albion against Chesterfield
Saturday’s match will be the first between the clubs for more than 70 years and the first in a cup competition. All of the clubs’ previous 20 meetings have come in Division Two with the first coming in the Baggies’ first ever campaign at that level in 1901/02. The initial meeting of the season was at the Hawthorns, then barely a year old, with the hosts coming out 4-0 winners against the then named Chesterfield Town. Albion completed a league double at the Recreation Ground, more commonly known as Saltergate, with a 3-0 win with goals from Tommy Worton, Harry Hadley and an own goal from Frank Thacker
That remains the Baggies’ biggest win in Chesterfield although it was matched in 1906 when Fred Shinton, Jack Manners and Adam Haywood were the scorers. Albion’s only other win away to the Spireites was in October 1947 and Davy Walsh and Billy Elliott both found the net in a 2-0 victory.
Chesterfield have also won three of the meetings on their own patch, two by a single goal and the latest, in February 1939, by 3-1. Dudley Milligan (2) and George Milburn, cousin of “Wor Jackie”, scored the hosts’ goals with Sammy Heaselgrave scoring the consolation for Albion.
Chesterfield were relegated from Division Two in 1952 and spent the following 66 years in the third and fourth tiers before back-to-back relegations in 2017 and 2018 saw them drop out of the league for the first time. They are currently playing their fifth consecutive season in the National League.
The Spireites left Saltergate in 2010 and moved to an all-seater stadium in the north of the town, initially named the b2net Stadium, but now called the Technique Stadium.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
1 Sep 1948 – League Division 2
West Brom 0
6 Mar 1948 – League Division 2
West Brom 1
Last win at Chesterfield
18 Oct 1947 – League Division 2
West Brom 2 (Walsh, Elliott)
Albion’s Record against Chesterfield
If you cannot see the tables, click here.