West Bromwich Albion v Wolverhampton Wanderers; The Hawthorns, Sunday 28th January 2024, 11.45am
After an absence of twelve years, fans will be able to watch a Black Country Derby in person when the two sides meet in the FA Cup Fourth Round at the Hawthorns, kicking off on Sunday morning. While the Baggies may be defending a 27 year unbeaten home record against their fierce rivals, the pressure will all be on the visitors as an in-form Premier League club that should really beat their Championship opponents.
Of course, we all know that derby games often produce an unexpected outcome as was seen with the results of the two behind-closed-games when Wolves failed to beat a poor Albion side, even losing at Molineux, although the absence of supporters for those games made them less representative of a true Black Country Derby.
As well as the home record, the omens also favour the Baggies in terms of FA Cup history with Wolves having lost eight of the previous nine FA Cup ties between the sides, although their one win, in 1949, is the only time they have met when Albion have been in a lower division. The Baggies won promotion that season and I think most of the Albion faithful would take defeat on Sunday if it guaranteed promotion come the end of the season. Unfortunately, football doesn’t work that way!
After a less than impressive start when they won just one of their first six league games, Wolves are enjoying a decent campaign under Gary O’Neil and are currently on a six match unbeaten run in all competitions, obviously including their two matches against Brentford in Round Three. However, their only win on the road since October was the 4-1 Premier League win at the Gtech Community Stadium late last year that preceded the two cup games against the Bees. The goalless draw at Brighton on Monday leaves Wolves in 11th place in the Premier League table with 29 points from 21 games, much closer to European places than the bottom three.
Given the importance of this game to the fans, it seems likely that both bosses will field strong sides on Sunday. Boubacar Traoré and Hee Chan Hwang are both sidelined by injury for the visitors while João Gomes will serve the final game of his suspension following a red card in the Third Round game at Brentford.
One Wolves player that has been the subject of interest this week is, of course, Craig Dawson. The Rochdale-born defender spent nine years at the Hawthorns and now finds himself at Molineux via spells with Watford and West Ham United. He did face the Baggies in a Hammers shirt in the 2020/21 season including in Albion’s 3-1 defeat at the Hawthorns in the first game to admit fans following the pandemic, but it will obviously the first time he will have won the Old Gold at the Shrine and it will be his first experience of a Black Country Derby having not played in either match for the Baggies in the 2011/12 campaign. He has performed well in his time at Wolves, and there are many Baggies fans fearing he will find the net against his old club.
Carlos Corberán has been dealt further injury blows this week with the news that Adam Reach and Daryl Dike will be unavailable for this game. Reach will miss the next few weeks having injured his ankle at Norwich while Dike has a minor calf issue – the medical staff are being understandably cautious but it is not expected to keep him out for long. A bigger potential miss would be Okay Yokuşlu who suffered a back spasm at Carrow Road, but Corberán is optimistic that he will be fit enough to play on Sunday.
This is a match that neutral observers would expect Wolves to win, and I am certainly expecting the visitors to have more of the ball. O’Neil’s team have proved very dangerous on the break this season, but they may find that more difficult if Albion take the approach they did against Leicester City earlier this season, and defend relatively deep. That may not have worked on that occasion with the Championship leaders scoring a late winner on the break, but it is surely a blueprint for containing a side with better quality attacking players.
If Wolves play well, they should win, but if Albion raise their game and get the Hawthorns rocking, it could be an uncomfortable afternoon for the Premier League “stars”. The Baggies have nothing to lose, really – get beaten and it’s the expected result – the pressure is all on the visitors and those of us lucky enough to have a ticket in the home enclosures need to do everything to ramp that up.
When it comes to the Black Country Derby, the statistic that most Baggies fans are aware of is that Wolves have not won at the Hawthorns since 1996, a run of ten encounters in West Bromwich that have resulted in five Albion wins and five draws. The most recent meetings between the sides took place behind closed doors due to the COVID pandemic which means that the last encounters with the supporters present were in the 2011/12 campaign in which the Baggies completed the league double – 2-0 at the Hawthorns and the much remembered 5-1 win at Molineux.
Including matches in Wolverhampton, Wolves have won just three of the last twenty-three games between the sides, most recently a 3-1 win at Molineux in May 2011. Their last win at the Shrine was 4-2 in September 1996 when Iwan Roberts scored a hat-trick on a day that Baggies ‘keeper Paul Crichton will want to forget.
This is the tenth time that the two clubs have been paired together in the FA Cup and Albion have progressed on eight of the previous nine occasions. The only time that Wolves have knocked the Throstles out of the FA Cup was in 1949 when Jimmy Mullen’s goal was enough to win a Sixth Round encounter at Molineux – Wolves would go on to lift the trophy beating Leicester City in the final at Wembley.
The first FA Cup meeting was in the Fourth Round in January 1886 with Albion winning 3-1 at Stoney Lane and ultimately losing in the final to Blackburn Rovers. Two seasons later, they were drawn together once again, this time in Round Three, with Albion winning once again at Stoney Lane, this time 2-0, in November 1887. The Throstles would go on to win the cup that season, beating Preston North End the following March at the Kennington Oval. Drawing Wolves a third time in the FA Cup in the 19th century resulted in another win for Albion at Stoney Lane, this time 1-0 in the Third Round in March 1895, and another appearance in the final, this time losing to Aston Villa at Crystal Palace.
The first time Albion met Wolves in the FA Cup and failed to make the final was in 1924. It was in the Third Round once again and was the first cup meeting at the Hawthorns. The visitors earned a 1-1 draw on that occasion but Albion won the replay at Molineux 2-0 – the Baggies lost to Villa in the next round.
The last time before this season that Albion were drawn at home to Wolves in the FA Cup was in the Sixth Round in 1931. As in 1924, the first match resulted in a 1-1 draw but the Baggies won the replay at Molineux with the legendary Ginger Richardson scoring in both games. Albion would go on to the lift the trophy as a second division club, beating Birmingham City in their first Wembley final and also winning promotion that season to secure what remains a unique double.
Since their only defeat to Wolves in the FA Cup in 1949, Albion have been drawn away to Wolves on three occasions. in the Third Round in 1956 (2-1 win), the Fourth Round in 1962 (another 2-1 win) and most recently in the Fourth Round in 2007 when goals from Diomansy Kamara, Kevin Phillips and Zoltán Gera saw the visitors win 3-0. That, of course, was the season when the teams met on five occasions, including the play-off semi finals, with Albion winning four of them.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
3 May 2021 – Premier League
West Bromwich Albion 1 (Diagne)
Wolverhampton Wanderers 1 (Silva)
16 Jan 2021 – Premier League
Wolverhampton Wanderers 2 (Silva, Boly)
West Bromwich Albion 3 (Pereira (2 pens), Ajayi)
Last win at the Hawthorns
16 Oct 2011 – Premier League
West Bromwich Albion 2 (Brunt, Odemwingie)
Wolverhampton Wanderers 0
Albion’s Record against Wolverhampton Wanderers