A lengthy absentee list on both sides probably won’t do much for the overall standard of this FA Cup fourth round replay but it should make for a fairly entertaining spectacle with both teams inclined to throw caution to the wind against under-strength opposing defences. Take the 7/2 that William Hill offer on West Brom to win and both teams to score.
The Baggies should be more determined than usual to show a bit of purpose going forward after Tony Pulis’ scathing assessment of their 1-0 defeat at Newcastle on Saturday, which he described as the worst away performance of his tenure. "We just shadow boxed all day," he lamented. "It was only in the last 10 minutes that we got up the pitch and created opportunities."
To compound matters, defenders Gareth McAuley, Craig Dawson and Jonas Olsson all picked up knocks at St James’s Park and could join Chris Brunt, Callum McManaman and James Morrison on the sidelines, while Jonny Evans is also a major doubt. It’s a rearguard-heavy list of casualties that suggests a catenaccio approach against a team from two divisions down would be folly.
Pulis has promised that Saido Berahino will start and his remarkable record of eight goals and four assists in six FA Cup appearances more than compensates for any reservations about his recent lack of minutes. With Stephane Sessegnon, Victor Anichebe, Rickie Lambert and Salomon Rondon also available, Albion surely have too much firepower for a ill-prepared Posh defence.
Peterborough already know they will be without Michael Smith and Ricardo Santos, both of whom were sent off in Saturday’s energy-sapping 1-0 away win at Chesterfield, while recent signings Tom Nichols and Adil Nabi are both ineligible. A central defensive partnership of Jack Baldwin and Gabriel Zakuani looks decent on paper but both men are lacking match sharpness.
All of which means Graham Westley will probably be on a mission to live up to his growing reputation as an attack-minded manager by instructing his team to be direct and incisive, going from back to front whenever possible. With his ambitions dampened by the lack of options, racking up the shot count would be an understandable way of defending himself against the possibility of a heavy defeat.
Posh, of course, place heavy emphasis on shot data and average 16 shots per game at League One level and, bearing in mind the old adage about buying tickets to win raffles, you can never say never. But when you look at the respective starting line-ups, the likelihood is that the visitors will win this one handsomely, so a bet on West Brom to clear the -1 handicap is also advised.
So long as the Baggies find the net twice, we’ll double our money at the very least.
Click here for more information about Mike Holden’s shot-based ratings system