West Brom v Peterborough
It’s a bet that rides on the old adage that if you don’t buy a ticket, you’ll never win the raffle. Graham Westley’s men average more 16 shots per game - the highest in League One - whereas the Baggies muster just nine - the lowest in the Premier League - and the visitors’ desire to reach the final third, combined with their willingness to let fly from range might just pay dividends against opposition unaccustomed to playing on the front foot.
The Black Country outfit made heavy weather of getting past a struggling Bristol City side in the last round. The Robins were just one long punt upfield away from progressing at the Hawthorns three weeks ago but James Morrison’s goal, scored after the allotted four minutes of stoppage time had elapsed, set up a televised replay at Ashton Gate that was much better suited to Albion’s preference for playing with the handbrake on.
Some punters might be put off by Peterborough’s record against higher-placed teams in their own section. The Posh have been tearing it up against the makeweights ever since Westley arrived in September but defeats against Coventry, Wigan, Walsall, Gillingham and Burton hint at a naivety in their gung-ho approach that clued-up opposition are quick to expose.
However, Westley knows full well he must be more tactful here and his record against higher-division opposition in knockout competition warrants a degree of faith. Intriguingly, he was scathing in his assessment of Peterborough’s performance at home to the Brewers in midweek, arousing the suspicion that he might be playing the shame card on his players at just the right time.
Portsmouth v Bournemouth
One of the most under-rated aspects of Eddie Howe’s managerial skill-set is his ability to keep fringe players happy, so much so that they bust a gut for the cause whenever called upon. Over the past 18 months, the Cherries have made wholesale changes for most cup games but have been ultra-professional to win eight out of 11 cup ties, seven in regulation time.
Only Liverpool (twice) and Aston Villa have ended their involvement in knockout competition in that sequence trips to Rotherham, Exeter, Cardiff, Hartlepool, Preston and Birmingham all negotiated with relative ease, so a packed Fratton Park will hold no fears. Bournemouth will play with freedom, the pressure will be on Paul Cook’s men.
Pompey might be top dogs in League Two when it comes to shot ratio but they acquire points at a rate of 0.31 per game, which is 1.69 points short of the standard conversion. In short, Paul Cook’s aren’t ruthless enough to justify a 21/10 quote against a team three divisions above and the 7/5 available on the visitors has to be snapped up.