The Hawthorns
FA Cup 5th Round
Tuesday 3rd March 2020, 8pm
Live on BBC (Red Button or via their Sport online site)

Having contemptuously brushed aside the best that League One could throw at us, it’s off to the West Midlands this Tuesday to face a Championship topping Throstles, in the 5th Round of the Cup.

Incidentally, if you were wondering why this game isn’t on a weekend, it’s apparently to avoid fixture congestion for the really big, important teams. Nice one, FA. Let’s dilute the importance of this competition a little further, whilst making it a bigger chew on for travelling supporters. Oh yeah, there’s no replays either, so watching us miss a few pens is a distinct possibility.

The FA Cup was ever a competition proliferated with tales of derring do. Rattles, tin foil trophy replicas, David versus Goliath, titanic struggles and young boys in parkas invading muddy pitches to hug their heroes. Quite what Steve’s insipid Magpies bring to this season’s FA Cup story is open to conjecture. But, we’re 90 minutes from the last eight, so we might as well give it a go, eh?

Our hosts had been in barnstorming league form until Saturday gone, when they suffered an awful loss at home to lowly Wigan. This result could be key. The reason being, their manager, Slaven Bilic has been playing severely weakened sides in the first two rounds of the competition v Charlton & West Ham.

His sights are set on automatic promotion and the Cup is clearly an irritant. Going into the weekend, West Brom were nine points clear of Fulham in third. However, second-placed Leeds’ demolition of Hull City and the Cottagers win over Preston will probably have dissuaded the canny Croat from putting too much effort into this one. Therefore, you’d expect that we’ll be facing another patched up side.

What could go wrong? 5000 Mags roaring their side on against a weakened Championship team, who aren’t even massively arsed. 5th Round draws don’t come much better.

There is of course, an elephant in our black & white room. It’s goals. You know, that thing that happens when you lace it past the opposition’s custodian, into the net? Aye, we’re more than likely gonna have to score to get past this lot and one wonders, ‘who‘s going to do that for us?’

It’s not like we were exactly noted for being ‘free scoring’ pre the New Year, but it’s no coincidence that our latest dry gulch has coincided with a lengthy absence for Andy Carroll. We’ve apparently spent £40 Mill on a striker but are desperately missing the guile, physicality and purpose of a 31 year old pay-as-you-play crock. Ashley’s NUFC, in an effing nutshell.

So, what’s the craic on Tuesday? Well, as ever it’s tough to call. Given the way we’ve been playing recently, West Brom’s ladies team would fancy their chances. So whilst a weakened opposition is welcome, they’ll still be better than Rochdale and Oxford. Having said all that, I still think we’ll sneak through. This is based on nothing more scientific than a hunch, to be honest. For the most part we remain at least, pretty solid and I reckon either St Max or a Hawthorns returning Dwight Gayle might pull something out the hat.

So, I’m going 1-0 to the Mags, with a deflection or an OG. This will then be followed by a harrowing quarter final draw against Liverpool’s Fortnite addicted, pubescent Cup team. Yikes.

Tell me ma, me ma…..

Nick Clark