Baggies secure place in last-16
VICTOR Anichebe’s first-half brace sealed Albion’s progress into the fifth round of the FA Cup as they triumphed 2-1 over neighbours Birmingham.
Tony Pulis’ side were backed by a bumper 5,500-strong travelling support at St Andrew’s and they were rewarded as the Baggies made the last-16 of the world’s oldest domestic cup competition for the first time in five years.
Anichebe was the matchwinner, with Saido Berahino claiming two assists, as the powerful striker used his strength to twice find the net – the first a well-taken near-post finish and the second across goal taking a deflection off former Albion defender Paul Robinson.
Blues left-back Jonathan Grounds found space to reduce the arrears in first-half injury time, Albion’s first goal conceded under Pulis, setting up a dramatic second half in the derby contest.
Substitute goalkeeper Ben Foster – who replaced the injured Boaz Myhill – twice denied Demarai Gray while Chris Brunt hit a post from an acute angle - and it was the Throstles who emerged victorious to book their place in the hat for Monday’s draw.
Pulis named a strong starting XI, making just three changes from the side who held Everton to a goalless draw at Goodison Park in the Barclays Premier League on Monday night.
Myhill started between the sticks in place of Foster, both of whom formerly played for Blues along with Craig Gardner, while Craig Dawson and Stephane Sessegnon stepped in for Chris Baird and James Morrison.
Berahino enjoyed the game’s first close effort, hitting the side-netting from the edge of the penalty area.
St Andrew’s united in applause when the clock turned nine and the giant screen displayed a picture of Albion legend Jeff Astle.
Berahino tested Darren Randolph before David Cotterill forced Myhill into a routine save at the other end.
Andy Shinnie came within inches of connecting with Cotterill’s cross but it was Albion who broke the deadlock in the 25th minute.
Berahino played the ball through for Anichebe, who rolled his marker, and drilled home low, clipping Randolph’s near post from 12 yards before nestling in the net.
And ten minutes later it was two-nil in very similar fashion.
Berahino was again the creator as he found Anichebe, who turned and beat Randolph this time at his far post with the help of a deflection off Blues skipper Robinson.
Yet the hosts gave themselves a lifeline in first-half injury time as Grounds, in plenty of space in the middle of the area, swept home off a post having been found by Lloyd Dyer.
Joleon Lescott came close to restoring Albion’s two-goal advantage within minutes of the restart, his header kept out by a diving Randolph, before Myhill got down to keep out Lee Novak.
Myhill made a brave save at the feet of Dyer but ultimately paid the price as he was forced off just after the hour mark nursing a hand injury, to be replaced by Foster.
Shinnie headed over in the 71st minute before Foster was called into action to deny Blues sub Gray.
Brunt came close to a third for the visitors when he struck the near post from a tight angle.
Albion were indebted to Foster late on as he again made a smart stop to deny Gray and, despite six minutes of injury time, it was the visitors who held on to seal their progress.
Albion: Myhill (Foster 62’), Wisdom, McAuley, Dawson, Lescott, Yacob, Gardner, Brunt, Sessegnon (Baird 68’), Anichebe (Ideye 81’), Berahino.
Subs: Pocognoli, Gamboa, Dorrans, Morrison.
GOALS: Anichebe (25’, 35’)
Blues: Randolph; Caddis, Morrison, Robinson, Grounds, Davis (Thomas 86’), Gleeson, Cotterill, Shinnie, Dyer (Gray 70’), Novak (Zigic 75’).
Subs: Doyle, Donaldson, Reilly, Spector.
GOAL: Grounds (45+1’)
BOOKED: Robinson (foul 67’)
Referee: Mark Clattenburg (Durham)
Attendance: 28,438 (5,467 Albion fans)
Albion star man: Victor Anichebe