SAIDO Berahino’s four-goal haul helped ensure Tony Pulis enjoyed an emphatic winning start to his Hawthorns reign as Albion romped past non-league Gateshead 7-0 in the FA Cup third round.
The Baggies’ newly-appointed head coach had vowed, like he did at Upton Park on New Year’s Day, to watch his first official game in charge from the stands in order to get a better view of proceedings.
But that lasted no more than 15 minutes due to an impressive first-half showing from the Conference visitors, who were backed throughout by a loud away following.
Yet their resistance was finally broken in the 42nd minute as Berahino opening the scoring before Victor Anichebe added another in first-half injury time.
Berahino crashed home two further quickfire goals immediately after the restart, completing an 11-minute hat-trick and taking his tally for the season to 13 in all competitions.
Baggies captain Chris Brunt then got in on the act – registering a fifth goal in the space of just 13 minutes either side of the interval.
And it was left for James Morrison and Berahino, with his fourth, to wrap up an emphatic afternoon late on and seal Albion's place in the FA Cup fourth round.
Pulis named a strong side for the encounter, with seven players in his starting XI who lined up in the 1-1 Barclays Premier League draw at West Ham just 48 hours ago.
In came fit-again pair Anichebe and Sebastien Pocognoli, defender Craig Dawson and goalkeeper Boaz Myhill.
A balanced opening saw both sides enjoy half-chances, although Myhill steadily became the busier of the two goalkeepers as the plucky visitors certainly made themselves feel at home.
That ensured Pulis’ stay in the stands came to a swift conclusion as he appeared on the touchline to send out instructions.
Tynesiders midfielder Alex Rodman sent a shot narrowly wide during a spell of dominance for the non-league outfit, before John Oster fired a clear opening over the crossbar.
But it was Albion who made the breakthrough just before the break as Berahino coolly converted after Gateshead ‘keeper Adam Bartlett had saved well from Graham Dorrans.
Anichebe soon added a second, collecting a pass from Berahino before rolling Ben Clark and firing home.
And the game was over as a contest within a minute of the restart as Berahino’s superb curling finish put the Baggies three goals to the good.
The England international then quickly wrapped up his hat-trick from Chris Baird’s cut back, making it four-nil.
The Albion faithful did not have to wait long for a fifth goal as Brunt was sent clear by substitute Georgios Samaras and duly rounded Bartlett before slotting home into an empty net.
James Morrison added a sixth goal in the 79th minute, slotting home unmarked at the far post after build-up play from Samaras and fellow sub Silvestre Varela.
And it was left for Berahino to put the icing on the cake in added time with another sparkling finish as Albion made it seven.
Albion: Myhill, Pocognoli, McAuley, Dawson, Baird, Morrison, Brunt, Dorrans (Yacob 54’), Sessegnon (Varela 67’), Anichebe (Samaras 54’), Berahino.
Subs: Foster, Wisdom, Mulumbu, Ideye.
GOALS: Berahino (42’, 46’ 53’, 90'), Anichebe (45’), Brunt (55’), Morrison (79’)
Gateshead: Bartlett, Jones, Curtis, Clark, Oster, Gjokaj (Chandler 60’), Turnbull, Baxter, Rankine (Wright 68’), Rodman, Pattison (Ramshaw 56’).
Subs: Wilson, Shaw, Guy, Allan.
Referee: Andy Madley (West Yorkshire)
Albion star man: Saido Berahino