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Terry's Baggies Blog

WEMBLEY HERE WE COME?

18-02-2008

Albion are the last West Midlands team left in today's FA Cup draw but despite a 5-0 thumping of Coventry on Saturday, Terry Wills would gladly swap their place in the last eight for a spot in the top two of the Championship.

Following that abysmal display at Barnsley (were we really that poor?) Baggies fans were desperately hoping a three-point haul would put such a miserable performance into perspective.

A game against Bryan Robson’s Sheffield United certainly offered a perfect opportunity. United out of form. Robbo under siege from his own supporters, and a chairman who was reportedly itching to hand out a P45 on the back of a series of disappointing performances. Surely this was the time to set the record straight, especially as a fit again Ishmael Miller was paired alongside Kevin Phillips in a 4-4-2 formation.

The midfield was most definitely below strength. No Robert Koren or Zoltan Gera - players who’d been instrumental in guiding Albion to the position of league leaders while Leon Barnett was recalled in an attempt to shore up a defence that had been far too prone to concede soft goals.

But oh dear! A goalless draw that saw us slip out of the automatic promotion spots, and a display that left supporters wondering (whisper it silently) if to reach the ‘Greed League’ we’d be ‘forced’ to endure the agony of another Play Off campaign.

Yet this was a game that should have been won. Early misses from Filipe Teixeira, energetic running from ‘Tiny’ Miller, and a more positive all round approach gave the indication it would only be a matter of time before the United defence would be breached. But it wasn’t and as the game wore on, frustration became the name of the game.

’Super’ Kevin, not having the best of games, unleashed a snap long range effort that nearly caught out the keeper, but sadly his usual all round sharpness was missing while Miller looked way off full fitness when it came to challenging for 50/50 balls.

Despite bossing the majority of the game, that slackness at the back always left United in with a chance especially just before the break when they squandered a great heading opportunity.

Second half and there wasn’t a great deal to excite the crowd, but when an unmarked Kevin Phillips rose to meet a pin point cross in front of the Brummie Road End fans, we all leapt up to celebrate a winner only to slump back into seats as amazingly he powered his header high, wide, and not very handsomely over the bar.

That summed up the game in a nutshell. Missed chances up front. A defence prone to cause themselves trouble by slack marking and positioning, leaving Tony Mowbray, much to my surprise, expressing the opinion that he thought Albion had played well.

So a scrappy game not helped by officials who made so many mistakes it beggared belief. Albion had tossed away a golden opportunity and found themselves ‘relegated’ into fourth position,needingto start another winning run to get them back into an automatic promotion spot.

So onto the 5th Round of the FA Cup and a third – albeit ‘unwanted’ - game against Sky Blue Coventry City, the scene of that hugely enjoyable 4-0 Championship demolition earlier in the seasoned

5,840 Baggies fans made the short trip and for those visiting the Ricoh Stadium for the first time they couldn’t have been impressed at its location. Away from the city centre, surrounded by the usual crop of ‘brand’ name stores, it was little wonder a sizeable majority, albeit reluctantly, found themselves with nothing better to do than plonk themselves in their seats 90 minutes before kick off time. Lovely stadium - lousy location!

Team changes. Jonathan Greening suspended. Zoltan Gera back, Roman Bednar as the lone striker and Pele recalled to hopefully bolster the defence. Most certainly an interesting substitutes bench. New keeper Michael Danek, Kevin Phillips, Ishmael Miller, Craig Beattie, and most intriguingly loan signing South Korean Kim Do-Heon

If I’d have been a City fan, I’d have been very worried at the quality of Albion’s football based on the first 15 minutes. The fluency, passing ability and running off the ball were back and not surprisingly it didn’t take long before the net was bulging, the fans were chanting, and Chris Brunt was standing and punching the air in delight as he headed home a perfect cross from Roman Bednar.

He could have had a second shortly after but his blistering shot struck the bar, while a series of teasing crosses yet again had Coventry looking decidedly uneasy and likely to concede.

But at the break it was the passionate, chanting, Baggies fans feeling a second goal would be enough to kill off the game bearing in mind City’s only reply was to launch a series of long high balls in the direction of Dean Kiely with little success.

Leon Barnett, Martin Albrechtsen, and the rest of the defence for once dealt with any set piece situations although to be fair it did result in City enjoying more of the game than the difference in quality suggested.

In the league game Coventry had been reduced to ten men due to an indisputable foul but in 48th minute when Michael Doyle was shown a red card for a foul on Zoltan Gera that seemed to be a harsh decision.

A shocking error by City keeper Andy Marshall - he amazingly passed the ball to Roman Bednar - saw the lead extended to 2-0 and in the 68th minute the same player potted home a penalty as cool as can be imagined to make it 3-0.

“When the Stripes go marching in, when the stripes go marching in, etc, etc. came at the same time as the announcement that the attendance was a record 28, 163.

Mission accomplished, the ever improving Roman Bednar was replaced by Ishmael Miller, and it was ‘Tiny’ who lashed home number four quickly followed by a Zoltan Gera ‘special’ as he calmly waltzed through a bemused defence to give the score a VERY satisfying 5-0 victory - although in hindsight, I’d have been more than happy to have seen a 4-0 win and one of the goals saved for a winner against Sheffield United. Those extra two points would have been priceless.

Yes an impressive all round display not forgetting a substitute debut from Do-Heon Kim in place of the artistic Filipe Teixeira. He gave the initial impression of being a neat ‘tidy’ player. Comfortable in possession and someone who’ll benefit playing in the style Tony Mowbray expects from his players.

Now we await Monday’s draw. Asking the inevitable question. “Can the Baggies anticipate a second visit to Wembley so soon after that awful day out against Derby County?"

Whoever the opposition please let it not be Barnsley away as it’s still August 30th 1947 since we won there or, providing they win their replay, Middlesborough away as Albion’s last win up there cameon October 3rd 1953!

One thing is beyond dispute. Given the choice of an FA Cup appearance or promotion to the Greed League everyone at the club will choose promotion every time, a fact conceded by Tony Mowbray in his post match interview after watching the satisfying demolition of Coventry City.

Now let’s get back to business by beating Hull City at the Hawthorn’s next Saturday to strengthen that resolve.

“Come on you Baggies”…

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