West Ham face a tricky-looking tie against Shrewsbury this Sunday - one of the form teams in League One. Alan Dudman previews the televised match, and is expecting the Londoners to book their place in round four...
"I was quite surprised that the Premier League club were initially priced at [2.08] for Sunday, although this went into [1.95] following the excellent 1-1 against Spurs at Wembley. A game where the Hammers were once again, tactically spot on."
Shrewsbury Town v West Ham United
Sunday 7th January, 14:00
Live on BBC One
West Ham have progressed from each of their last five FA Cup ties as a Premier League side against a team from the third tier or below. So on that Opta stat alone, the Londoners are certainly worth backing here at a fair price of [1.95].
The big question is how much of a priority the Hammers' boss David Moyes will put in a FA Cup run over survival in the top flight. The latter is a must of course, and their price in the Relegation market is [6.60]. Their odds in the FA Cup winner market are [50.0]. I personally see no reason why you can't do both, but such are the rewards in the PL these days. Managers have a blind spot with cup runs, just like they do in thinking players cannot operate in the Europa League from Thursday to Sunday.
Although we must put this into context; they face a League One team this weekend - albeit one in terrific form.
Moyes revealed before Thursday's Premier League point with Tottenham that he didn't have many squad options apart from players in attacking positions. Maybe this is influencing the price?
The Scot has made an impact as Kevin Hatchard pointed out in his Thursday preview; and a record of 12 points from seven matches, plus an improved Marko Arnautovic in terms of work-rate and end-product, means he gets a 7/10 from me. And as a Hammers' fan, I wasn't exactly excited at the time about his appointment, but he has done very well as the team are now organised.
In a remarkable twist of fate, the last defeat for the Hammers against Shrewsbury came in April 1980 - 14 days before winning the FA Cup.
Hurst performing miracles in wonder season
This is Shrewsbury's first FA Cup third round tie against Premier League opposition since January 2003, and on that occasion they eliminated David Moyes' Everton.
Their season in League One this term has been something of a triumph so far against all the odds. I don't know one person who mentioned them as possible title winners, but here we are just after Christmas, and Shrewsbury are still riding-high in second position with 54 points, just two behind leaders Wigan, and five ahead of Blackburn Rovers.
Respect to anyone that has been matched at the [200.0] price for the League One title.
Salop boss Paul Hurst has gone against the grain in many ways to most teams at this level. He has shunned the usual shed-load of loans from higher clubs bar the excellent young goalkeeper Dean Henderson from Manchester United and a couple of Norwich youngsters, and operated way above what their budget would expect - especially compared to the league's heavy-hitters Wigan and Blackburn. Henderson hasn't played in any of Shrewsbury's FA Cup ties to date.
Shrewsbury are known as one of the fittest teams in the third tier, and it's no surprise Hurst has been linked with a number of jobs in the Championship. He took over when they were bottom of the table last term.
This will be the first meeting between the two since February 1981 - and West Ham's goalscorers that day were Alan Devonshire and David Cross. As a fan myself, "Dev" ranks up there as one of my favourites, closely followed by Ian Bishop.
I was quite surprised that the Premier League club were initially priced at [2.08] for Sunday, although this went into [1.95] following the excellent 1-1 against Spurs at Wembley. A game where the Hammers were once again, tactically spot on.
I suspect that the near-evens price has something to do with a degree of uncertainty as to what sort of team Moyes will field (especially given his pre-Spurs comments concerning squad depth). I expect there'll be a bit of moving in the odds before kick-off waiting for the team news - much like when Randolph and Mortimer Duke were waiting on the Clarence Beeks' Crop Report in Trading Places.
Even Shrews' boss Hurst was unsure as to what sort of side he'll face on Sunday. He said: "It will be a bit of guesswork going into it and even their system. I don't know if they'll stick to what they have been doing or not."
Hurst also outlined how his team will need to make this uncomfortable as possible for the PL club, although the nice surface and neat stadium in Shropshire doesn't quite fit that particular requirement.
The layers have been slow to wise-up to Shrewsbury this term with their prices in League One games. The likes of Charlton will always go off short at home purely on name, where as Hurst's team will often be around [2.20] to [2.40] for a match at New Meadow. Which given their league position and rattling good form - is something of a surprise.
Therefore Saturday's price of [3.90] is not something I can entertain at all. It's far too short. Markets are all about expectations, and the expectation is that West Ham will have a test here.
As I have made my case for backing West Ham at [1.95], we obviously need to find a scorer. Given that Javier Hernandez started against Spurs on Thursday after one or two appearances from the bench, I would be interested in backing him as First Goalscorer if he starts. He was out for five weeks injured from November, and now at peak fitness, I would expect him to play.
The Mexican forward is priced-up at 9/2 on the Sportsbook for that bet.
Moyes certainly does have plenty of options up top, and Shrewsbury could have a torrid time if Andy Carroll starts following his two-goal salvo against West Brom. A slightly left-field choice would be Diafra Sakho here to score at anytime, though. He has mainly been used as an impact player, but has six goals from 19 appearances this term. He has scored in two League Cup matches, and his pace would be a big weapon coming off the bench against a side that could be chasing the ball for the majority of the game.
Shrewsbury brought in a number of strikers in the summer, and one of them was the journeyman Stefan Payne, who has scored ten this term. Norwich loanee Carlton Morris has bagged six, but hasn't found the back of the net since November.
The home team like to "stay in matches" - which has been evident this term. A home record of W10 D1 L1 is impressive, and they have conceded just 14 at the Meadow - which is the second-best in the division. They've kept nine clean sheets in that run.
Games against the big clubs include Wigan (0-0 and 1-0), and 1-1 with Blackburn. They have conceded more than one goal at home this term on just one occasion - and that came against Rochdale.
I think West Ham will have too much firepower here. I would look to the 0-2 at [9.0] and 0-3 at [19.0].
Alan Dudman's P&L for 2017/18
League One: +14.48
FA Cup: -1.69