Harty on Albion’s matches with Newcastle and Palace

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THE next few days could yet end up defining the Albion’s season.

A mouth-watering FA Cup fourth-round home tie against Newcastle on Saturday tea-time is followed three days later by the return game with Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.

There is no doubt that the Magpies offer up a stern test this weekend. But, with a sell-out crowd, and I hope it is, as I still find it hard to comprehend that some 411 people bought tickets for the Liverpool game in October yet didn’t attend the match, anything is possible with a great Albion performance.

For older supporters, victory will be all the more sweet against Toon boss Alan Pardew, who some 10 years ago proved there’s nothing like a good loser.

The Albion had pipped both Reading and Brentford to the then Division Two title, now League One, and for the purists the old Division Three, but as the Albion finished their campaign with a championship party at Port Vale, Reading met the Bees at Griffin Park in a straight fight for the runners-up spot, with Pardew stating “the best two teams in the division will kick-off against each other at 3pm”.

Needless to say, more than one Albion fan pointed out to Mr Pardew that old adage that the league tables do not lie. Needless to say, after Reading, he went on to enjoy a somewhat chequered managerial career, although, to his credit, he seems to have turned the corner at Newcastle (or could he merely be on a roundabout).

I’m sure Gus Poyet will field his strongest Albion side available.

The line-up last season in the fifth-round tie at Stoke was at the time questionable, but fully justified when the Albion then romped away with the League One title.

As a Championship side, with genuine Premier League ambitions, a cup run is important for not only generating income but also gaining vital experience against better teams.

That’s why, with a cracking atmosphere, which is guaranteed, and a tip-top Albion showing, they can run out winners. I will stick my neck out and say 2-1.

That, in turn, will galvanise everybody for the return fixture at Palace on Tuesday night.

There is no way of dressing up the 3-1 home defeat in September. It was embarrassing, possibly almost as bad as October, 2002, when we went to Selhurst and lost 5-0.

Never say “never again”, but I doubt, given the recent form of both sides, we’ll have that scoreline to mull over in next week’s paper.

I’m still confident the Albion will make amends for earlier in the season and come back from Croydon with all three points, and really put themselves back in the play-off picture.

And, finally, I really don’t know what the BBC South news editor had for breakfast on Wednesday but it clearly affected his geographical abilities.

During the 7.25am regional news bulletin, we had a report on Tuesday night’s match between Stevenage and MK Dons!

I know the BBC South region has grown, so what next – a live link-up from the Cavern Club in Liverpool to celebrate 50 years since “Love Me Do”?