Tony Pulis takes charge of West Bromwich Albion for the first time as they take on Conference play-off hopefuls Gateshead in the third round of the FA Cup.
The Welshman watched from the stands as his new side earned a respectable point at West Ham United in their last Premier League outing, with Saido Berahino – restored to the starting XI – netting their equaliser. The form of their top scorer is likely to go a long way to deciding the Baggies’ fate this season, but some believe that the presence of Pulis has radically improved their chances of top-flight survival.
He will be keen not to begin with an embarrassing cup exit, but he may see this as an opportunity to get a proper look at some of the club’s fringe players or to implement his playing style and formations in a game Albion should win comfortably, although they did need penalties to see off League Two Oxford United in the Capital One Cup in August.
Gateshead are one of the many teams involved in the race to make the Conference play-offs, and they currently lie four points adrift of the top five in 11th place, although they have several games in hand over some of their rivals.
Manager Gary Mills has improved their fortunes remarkably over the past 12 months, and in May they were just 90 minutes away from the Football League. With former Premier League winger John Oster among their ranks, the Tyneside club play an attractive passing game.
Jonas Olsson misses out for West Brom due to injury, but they are hoping the Craig Gardner can return after he sat out the game at Upton Park.
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