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WBAFans_Latest Posted on 06/01/2017 17:21
Big Dave Previews Cup Clash

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Darren Moore hopes Albion learned their lesson from their embarrassing League Cup exit, because he reckons the high-flying Baggies are in the perfect position this season to target the FA Cup.

Back in August, Tony Pulis’s side were dumped out of the League Cup on penalties by League One Northampton Town.

It was a poor start to the season and heaped pressure on Pulis, but since then the head coach has turned the club’s fortunes around, and Albion currently sit in eighth place in the Premier League.

‘Big Dave’ is a professional development phase coach at The Hawthorns, but he’s especially looking forward to tomorrow’s third round clash against Derby County because he played for both clubs during his career.

“We did have a poor showing before and one that we weren’t happy with, far from it,” said Moore, speaking about that dismal evening at Sixfields. “But I’m hoping we learnt from that, learnt from the bad taste that it left in our mouths.

“We go into Saturday’s game in a bit of form, with more group cohesion, more togetherness, and more confidence, which is a massive thing.”

With relegation a distant concern following six wins in 10, supporters are eagerly anticipating the FA Cup, and Moore agrees that it’s the perfect chance to go deep in the competition.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to go on a successful cup run alongside some solid league form,” he said. “I don’t see any reason why we can’t do it, we’re not down the bottom of the league.

“As a football club we love this competition. We take it really seriously.

“I know the gaffer has been to an FA Cup final, didn’t win it, but he’s definitely looking forward to this competition.”

Not that it will be easy. Steve McClaren’s in-form County side are pushing for the Championship play-offs this season, and went on a 10-game unbeaten run in the league before their recent 3-0 defeat to Norwich, picking up 26 points from a possible 30.

Bristol City and Peterborough both took Albion to replays last season before Reading eventually knocked them out.

Moore, who helped Albion reach the quarter-final of the FA Cup in 2002 when they were in Division One, knows lower-league opposition shouldn’t be taken lightly.

“Cup competitions are a leveller,” he said. “You expect the bigger teams to win but it’s not always the case.

“You’ve got to deal with the anticipation of the crowd, who think it’s an automatic win. The lower teams are thinking ‘we’re playing against higher opposition, let’s raise our game’.

“The fans come and get behind them, they raise their voices more, it’s more passionate, they try harder, they want to be part of an upset. Everything goes against you.

“What you hope is the professionalism of the club and the standard of the players comes out on the day.”

Derby will be backed by a sell-out travelling support as 5,200 fans take over the Smethwick End.

If they needed any more encouragement than that, they’ve got plenty of ex-Albion players among their ranks to add a bit of spice to proceedings.

Goalkeeper Scott Carson, defender Chris Baird, midfielder George Thorne and striker Matej Vydra all ply their trade at Pride Park at the moment.

Although Thorne is still out after suffering a double leg break on the final day of last season, the other three are all first-team regulars.

"We’ve got a lot of ex-Albion players up there now in the Derby team that are good solid players," said Moore. "They’re good lads as well.

"I remember (ex-Derby boss) Paul Clement ringing me and asking about Chris Baird when they were going to sign him and I said he’s an absolute diamond, a great person and a good lad.

"You look for a player’s ability but a lot of managers look into the personality now, because you want a player who’s going to look after himself instead of having to manage him. Chris is a leader, and he’s proving that at the moment. He’s steady, very experienced, been around the block a little bit."

Midfielders Will Hughes and Jacob Butterfield are both suspended and the Rams currently have four left-backs injured, following Ikechi Anya’s hamstring strain against Norwich.

Albion, meanwhile, are sweating on the fitness of Jonny Evans after the Northern Irishman was forced off during Monday's win over Hull with a hamstring problem, but may have Allan Nyom available after he was left out of Cameroon's Africa Cup of Nations squad.

Moore hopes Derby will be distracted by their promotion push, and he wouldn’t be surprised if McClaren rang the changes for tomorrow’s game. But he’s also aware they will use the game as a useful comparison tool.

“Derby’s sole purpose I would imagine is to get back into the Premier League so you’ve got different mental advantages and disadvantages,” said Moore.

“But it’s also a chance for them to pit their wits against Premier League opposition. It’s a benchmark, they’ll use it as a chance to ask how far are we away from it? Let’s see what gap we need to bridge to compete with the likes of these. For those reasons, Derby will be mentally fired up for it.”

Link: Express & Star
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