West Bromwich Albion v Harrogate Town
Wednesday 16th September 18:00
Live on Sky Sports Football
Bilic to view PL survival as number one priority
West Brom manager Slaven Bilic received a rude awakening with his team’s return to the Premier League on Sunday – and an underwhelming return at that with the 3-0 home reverse against Leicester. A team with far too much class.
Bilic was happy with his side’s first-half display, but was less than impressed with the mentality having conceded the first goal on 56 minutes. There is plenty of work to be done with recruitment in terms of the end game – top-flight survival. Which is why a Carabao Cup run is highly unlikely to feature in Bilic’s job remit.
The Throstles are also favourites in the Rock Bottom market at [3.5] – slightly shorter than Fulham. A bad start will see that price move.
Simon unlikely to weave his magic for cup upset
The mood in Harrogate is far more upbeat, indeed, one of elation following their first-ever Football League fixture last weekend against Southend. The Yorkshire club triumphed 0-4 at Roots Hall – which tells you just as much about the sorry state the Shrimpers are in at the moment as well as how Town have progressed under Simon Weaver.
The 42-year-old had a modest playing career, but he has been in charge of Harrogate for over 500 games since 2009 and evidently has some strong characters in his team.
Weaver’s starting XI against Southend had all played in the National League the previous season. It helps that the manager’s father Irving is also the chairman at the club, but he looked a very impressive character in last year’s BT Sport documentary “The Gaffer”.
Wednesday will be the club’s first-ever competitive match against a Premier League team.
Whilst the odds for Burton and Villa were a bit closer together, we hardly are driving down Great Gatsby territory with a back of West Brom at [1.33]. And as much as I admire Harrogate and their tremendous achievement to reach this point, it’s hard to see them winning, even if they are priced at [12.5].
What do we do with the hosts at such prohibitive odds?
Well, the team news could impact slightly, although the market has probably second-guessed that Bilic will make wholesale changes to his Leicester eleven – especially with Everton to come on Saturday.
Bilic made nine changes in last term’s first round exit to Millwall, and previous manager Darren Moore fielded experimental teams in the victories against Luton (1-0) and Mansfield (2-1) in 2018.
Harrogate beat Tranmere on penalties in the previous round, but the task is huge, as according to Opta; Albion haven’t been knocked out of the League Cup at home by a team lower than the top two tiers since 1997.
I can see the visitors acquitting themselves well, but it could be a game similar to the Luton and Mansfield matches, and it could give layers the chance to have a go at taking on the Over 3.5 Goals price at [2.88]. It’s just about within the laying range.
Alternatively, the back of the Under 3.5 Goals at around [1.50] gives a bit more value if you are running away from the shorter odds on the home success. The West Brom Half Time market is an obvious port of call, although the initial [1.78] price on Monday had gone out to [1.82] the day after.
The To Score market could be the place to head. Charlie Austin was an unused substitute against Leicester, and with the possibility of playing a few youngsters, Bilic could hand the forward a start for his experience – and he looks appealing to score at [2.02].
He got the nod in the Millwall fixture at this stage last season – a game he scored in. His clinical finishing might just be enough to steady a team with the possibility of changes.
Harrogate’s Jack Muldoon scored 14 in their promotion season last term and bagged a couple at Southend on Saturday. Although a more familiar sounding name to many will be veteran journeyman Jon Stead – but he hasn’t scored against the Baggies in 11 games for five different clubs. I wouldn’t be in the habit of laying [5.7] chances, but you need layers to form a market, and some might be taking that view.