FA Cup 3rd Round: Charlton Athletic 1 West Bromwich Albion 1
West Bromwich Albion will need to play the match that neither they, nor Charlton Athletic, wanted if they are to ensure their passage into the fourth round of the FA Cup.
Tony Mowbray's lethargic side just about managed to scrape a draw in south London to set up an unappealing replay at The Hawthorns next Tuesday evening.
Just how much interest Albion fans take in that match will depend on who they might face when the draw is made later today for the fourth round.
Suffice to say that an unattractive draw could kill any lingering cup fever which was already sadly lacking in Saturday's contest.
The home side went ahead before a minute had elapsed when Zheng Zhi made the most of some awful Albion defending to drill his shot past Dean Kiely.
Ishmael Miller equalised in the 34th minute and it was thanks to Kiely that Albion will take their place in the draw for the next round.
The 37-year-old, whose place may come under threat during this transfer window should Albion follow up their interest in Czech goalkeeper Michal Danek, has certainly given his manager something to think about following a string of impressive saves.
Taking the first minute out of the equation, Kiely was inspired against a club where he made such a significant impact during the period following their promotion to the top flight.
He saved Izale McLeod's ninth-minute shot before keeping out Zheng's bicycle-kick four minutes later. From then on, he was Albion's best player.
The Baggies' leveller came when Jonathan Greening sprayed a ball out to Chris Brunt. The left-winger turned past Yassin Moutaouakil and delivered a sweet cross for Miller to head past Nicky Weaver.
Former Dutch under-21 international Sherjill MacDonald, coming on as a half-time substitute, then made an instant impact, twisting his way past Kelly Youga before laying the ball off for Miller. Albion's first-half scorer drove his shot against a Charlton defender and the ball was cleared away for a corner.
It was to be MacDonald's best moment of the afternoon as the visitors' mediocrity continued. At the other end of the pitch, Charlton were certainly showing more willing and Luke Varney had a great opportunity to restore the home team's lead after the interval.
There was more to come from the hosts after McLeod, who was completely unmarked, was able to race onto Lloyd Sam's 63rd-minute pass only to be denied by Kiely, who judged his angles to a tee, denying the ex-MK Dons man the chance of exploiting either corner of the goal.
Substitutes Grant Basey and Chris Dickson combined late on to almost snatch the game for the Addicks but Kiely was once again quick to react, grasping the ball from Dickson's weak, but goalbound, header.
Albion manager Tony Mowbray was suitably impressed with his goalkeeper's efforts. "I'm delighted for Dean, coming back to his old club and performing at the level he did," he said. "He's performed pretty well for us all season, but it's always nice for someone to go back to their old club and do well. We needed him to have a good game this afternoon and that's what he did."
Charlton manager Alan Pardew, whose side lie fifth in the Championship table and who admitted wanting a replay as much as Mowbray did, said: "We should have won. Dean Kiely played really well and we seem to have a habit of making our old players look good at the moment."
There is no doubt that Albion need to improve following their two most recent away performances.
They were poor at Portman Road in their 2-0 defeat to Ipswich Town on New Year's Day and could have been defeated by a heavy scoreline at The Valley, had Kiely not been on form.
Mowbray revealed that his players held a brain-storming session after Saturday's match to iron out some of the recent deficiencies and he is confident that lessons will have been learnt.
"I wasn't pleased with the performance because it was way below the standard I expect of them," he continued. "After the game, we had a good 20-minute chat about how we move on and what the expectations are. We understand the demands that have been put on the players lately but we still expect a lot better from them.
"I'm sure we'll get that as we push on in the league, we've got our own targets in the next 20 league games and hopefully we can achieve them."
He also defended his decision to rest four players, with leading scorer Kevin Phillips joining Pele, Roman Bednar and Paul Robinson on the sidelines.
Mowbray believes there is still a burning appetite to get through to the next round of the competition, even though promotion from the Championship remains the priority.
He continued: "In my mind, the FA Cup falls below promotion to the Premier League. That's not a slur on the cup, that's a sensible answer to the question.
"This club getting to the Premier League is more important than us trying to overcome Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool to win the FA Cup.
"We've got the next 20 league games to concentrate on and try to get as many points as we can to try to get out of this league. There's no disrespect to the FA Cup."