After one of the worst games of football at the Hawthorns I can remember last weekend, it will be interesting to see whether the £10 ticket price is enough draw in another large FA Cup attendance this weekend against Peterborough United.
It certainly worked against Bristol City earlier this month, although the largest third round attendance for 23 years failed to bring an inspired performance from the Baggies. To be fair to the players, however, the experimental line-up with Rondón and Lambert up front did not make playing attractive football too easy.
Since then, other than a good performance at Stamford Bridge, Albion have looked toothless, constricted and, quite frankly, intensely boring. They have scored just one goal in the last three games against a struggling Championship side, a Southampton side who had been on a very poor run and, of course, last Saturday’s misery-fest against the Premier League’s bottom club.
For those loyal souls who do get to the Hawthorns this weekend, not only will they be expecting a victory, they will also looking to be entertained. Football, after all, is a branch of the entertainment business no matter what those who advocate “results at all cost” might believe, and there has been precious little entertainment at the Hawthorns this season. Pulis needs to send out his team to play attacking football on order to win back some of the increasing number of disgruntled and disillusioned Albion fans.
Tony Pulis’s comments after the Villa game were embarrassing and suggested to me that he does not yet understand this club despite being in charge for more than a year. That match was incredibly important to Albion fans and the way he approached it was criminal; if Albion had gone at Villa and scored two or three goals, as I feel the team are eminently capable of doing, much of the dissent against Pulis would have been forgotten for a period at least.
Most fans will accept poor football if the results are coming. For example, Gary Megson’s team was less than entertaining but he got the club back in the top flight and we got one over on a local rival in the process; no complaints there! Overall, the results obtained since Pulis arrived have been acceptable, but too often there has been a run of poor results that have left Albion fans nervously studying the league table, and absent-mindedly contemplating cloud formations during matches.
To date, Pulis has always managed to pull out a couple of results to bring the club round, and he is in need of that now. A comfortable win over the Posh and a win over Swansea on Tuesday night and some smiles will start to return. Many fans will never be happy with Pulis in charge of the club, unless he experiences some sort of football epiphany, but the vitriol will always be quietened by a series of good results.
Saturday will see just the 18th meeting between West Bromwich Albion and Peterborough United, with the first being in the first leg of the semi-final of the League Cup in December 1965. That was just the sixth season of that competition and the first season that Albion had entered. The first leg of the semi was held at the Hawthorns and Albion won 2-1 thanks to goals from Jeff Astle and Tony Brown. The Baggies won the second leg 4-2 (Bomber bagged a hat-trick) and went on to defeat West Ham United in the two-legged final to lift the League Cup for the first and only time to date.
Posh and Albion have only been in the same division for three seasons, the first of which was 1991-2, but they had met six times in cup competitions before then. After that League Cup semi-final victory, Albion lost the next three meetings with Peterborough, the third of which I remember very well. I was one of the meagre 4,264 sorry souls that attended the first round first leg League Cup tie at the Hawthorns in August 1988.
Albion still had serious designs on getting back into the first division with Ron Atkinson back at the helm and, despite a disappointing home defeat to Watford the previous Saturday, a home game against fourth division Peterborough seemed like a formality. It was anything but as the visitors ran out 3-0 winners and managed to progress through to the next round as Albion could only win the return leg at London Road 2-0. As it turned out, Ron Atkinson’s departure to Atlético Madrid later that autumn led to a change in fortunes as Albion challenged for the title all too briefly under Brian Talbot and went top of the league on New Years’ Day before fading badly.
The two sides first met in the league just three seasons later after Albion were relegated and Posh promoted. Albion won the home fixture 4-0 thanks to goals from Gary Robson (2) (pictured), Paul Williams and Stuart Bowden.
This is the third time that the two clubs have been drawn together in the FA Cup, the previous two occasions being in successive seasons in 2008 and 2009. London Road was the venue for the fourth round tie in 2008 as Albion, who squeezed past Chartlon Athletic on penalties in the third round, began their goal-filled cup run with a 3-0 win thanks to first half goals from Roman Bednar and Robert Koren added to with a penalty from Kevin Phillips. Albion scored another 10 goals in the next two rounds before losing to Portsmouth at Wembley in the semi-final.
The following season, Albion needed a replay to beat Posh drawing the first game at the Hawthorns 1-1 before winning 2-0 at London Road, a game in which Jay Simpson scored one of his two goals for the Baggies in his loan spell from Arsenal.
Peterborough climbed to the second tier of English football for the second time in 2009, and the most recent meeting was on Boxing Day 2009 when Luke Moore scored one of three he managed against the Posh that season in a 2-0 win, the second being an own goal by Ryan Bennett.
That league cup tie in 1988 is Peterborough’s only win at the Hawthorns, and Albion have won all other games at the Shrine bar the FA Cup draw in 2009.
Baggies suffered a blow today when Callum McManaman was ruled out for six weeks with a knee injury, joining fellow midfielder, James Morrison, on the treatment table. Pulis could also be without Darren Fletcher, and the shortage of central midfielders is one reason why he made QPR’s Brazilian midfielder Sandro his first signing of the window on Friday.
The Welshman resisted the perfect opportunity to re-introduce Pocognoli to the starting line-up last week, but perhaps he is willing to “risk” him for an FA Cup tie against a League One side. After his disappointing display against Bristol City, I’d be surprised if we see James Chester back at right back, but with Pulis, you never know. Personally I’d like to see a front four of Berahino, Rondón, Brunt and Sessègnon, but I suspect that is too much to ask for!
Peterborough manager, Graham Westley, will be without young midfielder, Jermaine Anderson, who has a knee injury, and there is adoubt over defender Harry Toffolo who suffered a head injury in midweek.
The Posh will be backed by a large following at the Hawthorns, although it’s unlikely to match Bristol City’s sell-out backing from round three, but they will be optimistic having not conceded a goal in their three FA Cup ties so far this season. However, despite their current travails, I can only see a Baggies victory even though it may not be that comfortable.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
26 Dec 2009 – League Championship
West Brom 2 (Moore, Bennett (o.g.))
Peterborough United 0
Albion’s Record against Peterborough United