You're just seconds away from causing a FA Cup
upset and then some Premier League club spoils it all in stoppage time! That is the situation that Bristol City
found themselves in less than a fortnight ago when they travelled to The Hawthorns, where West Bromwich Albion
midfielder James Morrison rescued a 2-2 draw for the home team in the 95th minute. The two sides will do it all again this evening, this time in Bristol. Thanks for joining Sports Mole
's coverage of this FA Cup third-round replay.
First of all, let's get some team news from Ashton Gate. We'll start with the home side...
BRISTOL CITY XI: O'Leary; Little, Flint, Baker, Williams; Reid, Freeman, Pack, Wagstaff; Burns, Wilbraham
BRISTOL CITY SUBS: Wollacott, Ayling, Bryan, Vyner, Morrell, Agard, Kodjia
It's a big night for goalkeeper Max O'Leary, who will make his full debut between the posts tonight. The 19-year-old has been called upon because Frank Fielding is injured and Richard O'Donnell is cup-tied. Centre-back Nathan Baker picked up an eye problem at the weekend but has been deemed fit enough to start, while midfielder Luke Freeman is back involved after his recovery from a dead leg.
And now for the visiting Baggies...
WEST BROM XI: Foster; Evans, Dawson, McAuley, Brunt; Gardner, Yacob, McClean, Sessegnon; Rondon, Anichebe
WEST BROM SUBS: Lindegaard, Chester, McManaman, Gamboa, Pocognoli, Lambert, Leko
Morrison, who scored that late equaliser, and skipper Darren Fletcher are absent for the Baggies because of injuries. As a result, the captain's armband will be worn by Northern Ireland international Jonny Evans. Perhaps the biggest news, though, is the omission of Saido Berahino from the matchday squad. The striker has been linked with the likes of Newcastle United, Tottenham and Chelsea over recent days and his non-involvement is likely to heighten speculation.
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Or is Berahino ill? It's certainly difficult to believe, but West Brom boss Tony Pulis has just claimed as much during his pre-match interview:
"We have a few out with injuries. I would've picked Saido too but he has a bug. This is still a strong team."
While West Brom have their own saga where Berahino is concerned, it's also been a dramatic few days for those of a Bristol City persuasion. In the Championship's relegation zone, manager Steve Cotterill was handed his P45
last Thursday. Two days later they beat league leaders Middlesbrough 1-0 and today two new loan signings have arrived, although neither Ben Gladwin nor Alex Pearce can play tonight. Knocking a Premier League side out of the FA Cup would just about top it off!
With no successor in place at present, the team is being run by coaches Wade Elliott and John Pemberton. The latter spoke to the press ahead of this game, when he urged the Ashton Gate faithful to get behind their team:
"We need the support of the fans, who were great on Saturday. We are where we are, now is the time to get behind the team. We need you behind us – with that backing, who knows where it will take us? We need everybody pulling in the same direction.
""I thought on the day [against West Brom] we played well and we were unlucky. It felt like we'd lost, but we've got a replay and we'll go again with another chance to test ourselves against a Premier League team."
As for West Brom boss Pulis, he was left to bemoan the injuries that have robbed him of midfield duo Fletcher and Morrison:
"Fletcher's going to have a scan and then we'll look at it. We're hoping it's something we can sort out, but until it's scanned we just don't know how bad it is," he told the Express & Star.
"We're disappointed with Morrison. That's a big blow for us because James has been a good player for us in that pocket. That's two very important midfield players for us and two players who've been very good this year. We don't need that. We haven't got a big enough squad to cope with those sort of injuries."
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Waiting for the winner of this contest in the fourth round is League One side Peterborough United, who have been drawn away. Earlier today Posh sold their leading goalscorer
Conor Washington to Queens Park Rangers, which is a big blow. With the greatest of respect to the Cambridgeshire outfit, both Bristol and West Brom will fancy their chances of getting through that tie and booking their spot in round five.
FA CUP RECORD!
The hosts have never won the competition, with their best performance coming all the way back in 1909 when they finished runners-up to Manchester United. More recently, the Robins have advanced beyond the third round just once in their last eight attempts.
As for West Brom, they have lifted the trophy five times, the last of which was in 1968 when Jeff Astle scored the game's only goal against Everton. Quarter-finalists last year, West Brom went out in the third round during the three seasons before that.
* The Robins have lost their past five FA Cup ties against teams from a higher league tier.
* The Baggies have scored in 16 of their past 17 FA Cup matches away from home.
* James Morrison's equaliser for West Brom in the original tie was the latest scored in the FA Cup third round (94:16).
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It will be interesting to see if Stuart Pearce is in the stands tonight. The bookmakers have made the former England international the favourite to take the Bristol job. We'll keep you posted on that.
Right, the players are now in the tunnel area at Ashton Gate. Not long now until proceedings will be underway.
And here come the two teams. It looks to be a packed Ashton Gate, so it looks like Pemberton has got his wish. As far as the conditions are concerned, it's rather cold! The pitch looks to be firm, which means that balls over the top will skid away quickly.
KICKOFF! Jonathan Moss, who refereed last year's final, blows his whistle for the first time as West Brom get us off and running.
A first venture forward for West Brom as McClean weaves his way into the home side's penalty area. However, he takes too long over his cross and ends up comically scuffing the ball into the stands.
Positive stuff from Bristol youngster Burns, who picks up possession on the halfway line and drives forward with real purpose. He then overdoes it when trying to get by West Brom centre-back Evans, but it's a sign of intent from the hosts nonetheless.
SAVE! Great footwork from the returning Freeman sees him cut inside from the right flank and beat three West Brom defenders in the process. Full of confidence he then drives for goal with his left foot from 20 yards, but Foster is always behind the ball and holds with ease.
A big cheer goes up from the West Brom fans, but not because they've broken the deadlock. They chanted for Pulis to give them a wave and he duly obliged.
CHANCE! How big of a miss will this be come the final whistle? Quite simply, the home team should be 1-0 up. The speedy Burns nips in on the blindside of Brunt and he's through on goal. However, the presence of an advancing Foster seems to do enough to put off the striker, who shoots well wide.
WEST BROM SUB: And with that, Brunt's night is over. He seemed to be struggling with a calf problem as Burns sped away from him and now he has admitted defeated. On comes Pocognoli to make just his second appearance of the season.
He may have missed a sitter a few minutes ago, yet Burns is causing West Brom real problems out there. He's got plenty of pace and is looking to use that at every opportunity.
CHANCE! West Brom's Gardner doesn't half strike a good shot at time. Having scored against Chelsea recently, he goes mightily close to repeating that feat here. A loose ball falls to him 20 yards out and he instantly sends a half-volley skidding goalwards. O'Leary is rightly concerned, but he's saved by the ball just missing the target.
CHANCE! Now it's Anichebe's turn to try his luck from distance as West Brom's influence on this game grows. The Nigerian striker hits the ball with his weaker left foot, but it's always flying off target.
The position that Anichebe is playing in for West Brom is an interesting one. He's usually a target man that leads the line - that's where we've seen him down the years. Tonight, though, he's operating in the centre of midfield. To be fair, he's doing okay in there - passing well, driving forward and winning his share of tackles.
Goals are starting to fly in around the country in the other third-round replays, but we're still waiting here. In truth, clear openings have been few and far between so far.
Here's a shot of West Brom winger McClean battling for possession with his marker Little.
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CHANCE! And that is West Brom's best chance of the night by some distance. McClean's cross from the left is only cleared as far as Gardner, who instantly sends the ball bouncing back into the danger area. McAuley is all alone inside the area and a goal looks inevitable, only for the West Brom centre-back to somehow lift his headed effort well over the crossbar.
There will be two minutes of stoppage time at the end of this first half.
BOOKING! As Bristol prepare to take a free kick, West Brom midfielder Yacob has been booked, presumably for something that he said to the match official. From the set piece, Freeman curls his effort inches wide.
HALF-TIME: BRISTOL CITY 0- WEST BROM
So, there goes the whistle for the break and it's hardly been a classic. At this rate it could be a long night, culminating in a penalty shootout.
The home side certainly started the contest well, but after Burns missed that chance in the 15th minute, quality has been badly lacking in the final third. They need to get Freeman on the ball more because he has looked like the only player that is capable of opening up the West Brom defence. On the plus side, they are still well in this tie and it only takes one moment of magic and they'll be in the next round.
As for West Brom, they have by no means set the world alight, but they have at least grown into the tie. Pulis's men became more of a threat as the half wore on and they should really be in front with that chance that McAuley spurned. With the likes of McManaman and Lambert on the bench, they also have decent attacking options to come on.
Here's another image from the game, this time involving West Brom's Gardner and Bristol's Freeman.
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RESTART! As the temperature drops below freezing, Bristol get us back underway.
GOAL! BRISTOL CITY 0-1 WEST BROM (RONDON)
After what has been a mundane start to the second half, West Brom have kicked this tie to life. Dawson floats over a cross for Rondon, who takes the ball down expertly on his chest. Now six yards from goal, O'Leary tries to make the target as small as he can, but it does little to put off West Brom's most expensive ever signing as he calmly slots the ball home. Advantage to the Baggies.
Here's former West Brom striker John Hartson talking about that goal over on BBC Sport
"That's a brilliant finish from Salomon Rondon. Talk about composure and skill - he brought the ball down with ease on his chest and just tucked it past the Bristol City goalkeeper."
CHANCE! An opening for the home team as Burns works his way to the right byline and then sends in a rising cross. Wilbraham is underneath it, but under pressure from McAuley, his powerful header from six yards out is too high and does not trouble Foster. Even so, it's positive stuff from Bristol and gives them something to build on.
BRISTOL SUB: Well, this is an odd change. Freeman is being replaced for the home side, with Kodjia entering the action. Unless Freeman is injured that is a strange decision because he has been lively.
Here is the moment that splits the two sides with 20 minutes left to play:
You'd have to say that West Brom are in control at the moment. They don't exactly look like scoring a second goal, but they are dominating the possession and are not giving Bristol a sniff.
BRISTOL SUB: Second change for the hosts as Little trudges off, with Ayling taking his place.
SAVE! Much better from Bristol, who have got their fans out of their seats now. Foster comes and flaps at a cross, which sparks bedlam in the West Brom box. Eventually the ball is scrambled clear for a corner, which comes to nothing, but the home side are showing much more urgency now. After all, time is running out.
BRISTOL SUB: Final roll of the dice for Bristol as Wagstaff comes off and Agard enters the action.
WEST BROM SUB: The goalscorer and likely match-winner Rondon departs the action, with James Chester taking his place. Unsurprisingly Pulis has gone defensive.
WEST BROM SUB: And now there's another alteration for West Brom which sees Anichebe jog off the pitch ever so slowly and Lambert replace him.
There will be three minutes of stoppage time for Bristol to save themselves.
FULL TIME: BRISTOL CITY 0-1 WEST BROM
Well, there we have it - West Brom advance through to round four after what was a very professional display. Bristol worked hard, but they didn't have enough quality to cause any real problems. Reflecting on the entire 90 minutes, it's a fair result.
And that brings an end to our coverage from Ashton Gate. Thanks for joining Sports Mole this evening and until next time, goodbye.