FA CUP: BURNLEY 3 WEST BROMWICH ALBION 1
There will be no repeat of last season’s FA Cup heroics for West Bromwich Albion as they were dumped out by Championship side Burnley at Turf Moor – but don’t expect Tony Mowbray’s men to be too downhearted.
In terms of their priorities, staying in the Premier League must rank higher than recapturing last season’s charge to the semi-finals, especially considering the injury epidemic which has swept through the club.
As a result, Mowbray made six changes to the side that grabbed a point at Hull City with Graham Dorrans given his first start in a three-man midfield and Jay Simpson utilised just behind a front two of Marc Antoine Fortune and Roman Bednar. New signings Youssouf Mulumbu and Juan Carlos Menseguez were not eligible to feature.
It was no surprise, considering the freezing conditions, that the match took a while to warm up as Albion made a solid but unspectacular start.
They controlled the early play without creating any chances of note and it was the Clarets who looked to have more of a cutting edge.
Bednar had a glancing header that flashed wide and Marek Cech sent a free kick just over the bar but it was former Birmingham City striker Robbie Blake who injected some much-needed quality in what was a drab first half hour.
First he went within inches of giving the hosts the lead with a trademark free kick that had Carson scrambling and then the Albion keeper was relieved to see Blake’s low, curling shot from the corner of the area skid past the far post.
Albion’s best chance came four minutes before half time from their best move of the half involving Felipe Teixeira and Fortune before the Frenchman pulled the ball back for Bednar whose rasping shot was touched over the bar by keeper Brian Jensen.
The former Albion stopper then denied Ryan Donk from close range after Fortune had flicked on a Dorrans corner, although the Albion centre-back should have done better with his header from close range.
But then, just as the fourth official held up the board to indicate added time, the Clarets took the lead with a move straight out of the book of route one football.
Jensen pumped a free-kick forward and Steven Thompson flicked the ball on for Wade Elliott whose sweet volley dipped over Carson.
To make matters worse for Albion, Simpson had limped off after only 33 minutes with what looked like a hamstring injury to compound Mowbray’s injury concerns before Saturday’s vital Premiership match against Newcastle United at The Hawthorns.
Albion should have been on level terms within two minutes of the restart as Teixeira teed up Bednar but the Czech Republic striker failed to hit the target with his header and then Zuiverloon fizzed a ball across the six-yard area but the unmarked Bednar failed to connect. It was not the Albion striker’s night.
Albion were punished for their wastefulness in front of goal as Burnley added a second in the 52nd minute when Christian Kalvenes picked out Martin Paterson at the far post and his header came back off Donk and landed invitingly for Thompson to finish off from close range.
Again Albion created a gilt-edged chance when Cech picked out Donk with a teasing cross but the centre-back headed tamely into the arms of Jensen from six yards.
Finally, Albion did finish one of their chances, although the goal came from an unlikely source. Fortune and substitute Chris Brunt battled for the ball on the edge of the Clarets’ area and the latter then fed Gianni Zuiverloon who flashed his shot across Jensen and in off the far post.
Paterson, the scourge of Albion in the first match when he scored the last-minute equaliser to set up this replay, almost restored Burnley’s two-goal lead when he jinked into the Albion area and tested Carson with a fierce shot which was beaten away and then Blake saw the whites of the Albion keeper’s eyes but again Carson was big enough to deny him.
But Carson almost gifted Burnley the third with 20 minutes remaining when Blake chanced his arm with a fierce free kick from 35 yards which Carson spilled and Paterson reacted quickly to latch on to the rebound but could not beat Donk on the line.
Burnley finally killed off Albion when Blake twisted and turned to reach the byline and pull the ball back for Thompson to score the third.