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FA Cup provides tasty target men duel as Hammers at Bristol City

Bristol City have never beaten West Ham United in any domestic cup competition, but the FA Cup is all about making history.

Coral naturally make the Premier League visitors odds-on 19/20 favourites to win this fourth round tie in 90 minutes, and this Sunday fixture is all about old-fashioned English centre forwards.

Their hosts, the Robins have won four in a row, however, and six of the last seven since the League One promotion favourites slumped to a shock loss at Crewe just before Christmas. City are now Bristol’s only Football League club, and have odds of 3/1 to knock the Hammers out. They are also 15/8 to qualify from the tie, while a draw, which means a replay, is a 13/5 chance.

Without further ado, it’s pretty plain who the protagonists are that spearhead the Robins and West Ham attacks. Matt Smith is a name already writ large in FA Cup folklore for being a scourge of Merseyside rivals Liverpool and Everton. His goals knocked out the Reds at this stage two years ago and forced the Toffees to a replay in the next round when playing for Oldham Athletic.

Moreover, battering ram Smith has a frightening nine goals in seven appearances across all competitions from Boxing Day onwards coming into this encounter, so the Hammers will have to be wary of a dose of their own medicine.

Spanish stopper Adrian will be disturbed to learn Bristol City’s centre forward managed to injure both of Scunthorpe United’s senior goalies in clashes last time out. This fearsome reputation, cup pedigree and fantastic form make Smith sensational value at 2/1 to score against West Ham anytime.

At the opposite end of the field could be Andy Carroll. The England target man will be hoping to force his way into Roy Hodgson’s thinking for an international recall, especially with Rickie Lambert struggling at Liverpool.

Carroll has netted in both of his last two Premier League outings, and that is why he is even-money in the anytime market. Punters can get better value on him scoring first at 4/1, which he did on both those occasions.

Robins defender Aden Flint is certainly hoping Hammers boss Sam Allardyce sends Carroll out in the starting XI. “You always want to play against the best players and it’s a challenge I’m relishing,” he said ahead of the tie. “He’ll [Carroll] let me know that he’s there early on and hopefully I can give that back. It’s a battle I’m looking forward to.”

There’s also value in backing ex-Arsenal attacker Jay Emmanuel-Thomas to grab a goal for Bristol City after four in his last three. He’s a tasty 10/3 to net again anytime.

Big Sam, meanwhile, has another target man in Carlton Cole to call upon, and used him off the bench against Everton in the third round replay; he scored to ensure that went to penalties. Odds of 7/4 say he will net again anytime, and Cole is 6/1 to have the final say again.

Alex Song’s availability, because of international retirement from Cameroon, is an added bonus for West Ham, and including this ex-Indomitable Lion in midfield allows Allardyce an all-action option that the hosting Robins will have to watch. His influence from deep helped the Hammers hurt Hull City last time out, and Song is an 8/1 shout to get on the scoresheet.

Expect Bristol City to give a good account of themselves here, but the gulf of 40 places in English league football separating them and West Ham will tell in the end. Odds of 3/1 for a West Ham win and both teams being on target are tempting, while the visitors scoring three or more at Ashton Gate is a tasty 10/3.