West Ham are flying high in the Premier League, Bristol City are in a similar position in League One. This will all count for nothing when the sides clash in the FA Cup fourth round on Sunday afternoon and a tough fight is set to ensue.
It is many years since I visited Ashton Gate, possibly season 1986/87. It was something of a fortress then and it is proving to be something of a fortress this season too. Bristol City have lost just two matches there so far this term and this has helped them soar to the second automatic promotion spot in the League One table, six points ahead of third placed MK Dons.
They will need to strengthen their fortress however when Premier League side West Ham come to town and City manager Steve Cotterill will be in doubt as to the difficulty of the task awaiting his side.
Nevertheless he will be fielding a side made up of home-grown talent such as Jay Emmanuel Thomas, Luke Freeman and Luke Ayling, players who were on the Arsenal books in their early years. Several other ex Premier League youngsters on City’s books include George Saville ( Chelsea ), Derrick Williams and Mark Little ( Aston Villa ), Kieran Agard ( Everton ) and Greg Cunningham ( Manchester City ).
These youngsters found themselves forced out of the Premier League by the influx of foreign and established domestic players and as such will be eager to prove a point perhaps and showcase their talent.
“We see time and time again how young players are released by Premier League clubs and have to go down through the levels before they can come up again”, stated Cotterill.
“We have quite a few like that here and a game against West Ham gives them a platform to show what they are about. I really wanted them to have this type of game. They are all young boys aged between 21 and 24 and they will be playing in front of a national television audience against some of the best players in the country.”
City’s youngsters have elevated the side to a position where they look set to make the rise to the Championship at the end of the season, however their focus will be firmly on Sunday’s clash against their more illustrious opponents and they will be in high spirits following four wins from their last four outings, their last three matches producing eight goals and none conceded.
Given City’s scoring abilities this season, we feel that they can give West Ham a bloody nose. The hosts have only failed to score in four matches in all competitions this season and they can certainly score against a West Ham side which has kept a mere four clean sheets this term.
Ok in all honesty the Hammers will win this match, however it won’t be as easy as many suggest. West Ham are firm favourites at 21/20, however they have won just one match since mid-December and may struggle to find their feet at Ashton Gate although ultimately the fifth round will be welcoming Sam Allardyce’s side.
All things considered, we’ll be backing a West Ham win with both teams scoring. The Hammers don’t possess the best defence around and City will have nothing to lose by having a go at their Premier League opponents. Spirited displays often count for nothing however and the gulf in class will become apparent as this match progresses and as such, we favour a half-time draw and a Hammers win at the final whistle.
Our betting tips
H/T Draw, F/T West Ham win – Betfred 9/2
West Ham win, both teams scoring – Coral 3/1
All odds were correct at time of posting.