January 15, 2014 by Shane Ireland
Birmingham City 3 – 0 Bristol Rovers
Blues have set up a home tie against Swansea City in the fourth-round of the FA Cup after overcoming Bristol Rovers.
Paul Robinson’s first goal for Birmingham, his first senior strike in over five years, laid the foundations before a late Chris Burke double sealed a comfortable victory.
It was the visitors who made the brighter start, and Blues nearly found themselves behind in the opening minutes of the tie.
Rovers’ forward Eliot Richards forced a way through but his goal-bound effort was saved by Colin Doyle, who replaced the rested Darren Randolph between the sticks.
Then Paul Robinson foreshadowed what was to come, the veteran defender trying his luck with a long-range volley. Despite flying well wide, it was a signal of attacking intent from Robbo, who would go on to open the scoring.
The 51 places between the two sides in the Football League pyramid was beginning to show as Blues looked increasingly likely to score.
Paul Caddis exchanged passes with Chris Burke before crossing into Nikola Zigic, but the Serb headed wide of the post from eight yards.
Next it was Caddis’ turn to attempt to score, but the full-back saw two shots blocked before Lee Novak could have been forgiving for celebrating prematurely, as his effort was cleared off the line.
However Rovers could hold out no more and Blues did break the deadlock after 35 minutes.
Shane Ferguson, handed a rare start on the left, sent a looping free-kick towards the far post where Paul Robinson was waiting to nod the ball home. The defender celebrated in a typically passionate fashion in front a crowd just shy of 10,000.
The marauding Mitch Hancox very nearly doubled Blues’ lead just prior to the half-time whistle, but visiting ‘keeper Mildenhall denied the 20-year-old.
Once again Birmingham threw away a chance to score a second, this time after the break. Another Paul Caddis cross was met by Zigic, who did steer his header on target this time, but straight into the arms of Mildenhall.
Olly Lee tested his luck from range but that second goal was proving elusive for Blues as Bristol Rovers upped their game and posed a real attacking threat for the first time in the match.
Lee Brown’s free-kick was tipped over by Doyle which resulted in a string of corners in front of the large travelling contingent.
However it was a cleared Rovers’ corner that lead to Blues doubling their lead and ending the tie as a contest. Nikola Zigic won a defensive header before recieveing the ball once more on the halfway line amidst an impressive breakaway.
The striker played a delightfully-weighted ball to Chris Burke who had the composure to apply a first-time finish past Mildenhall.
Moments later Blues scored a third to cap-off a comfortable victory.
Caddis found Burke on the edge of the penalty area, who’s shot nestled in the back of the net via the leg of am opposition defender.
Blues now host Swansea in the fourth-round on Saturday 25th January.
Birmingham manager Lee Clark:
“I was delighted that we won and kept a clean sheet. As a manager when you come up against lower league opposition there is the fear factor that you don’t want to be one of those shocks that we’ve already seen. Maybe the scoreline was a bit harsh on Bristol in the end, although I felt we dominated the game for large periods and had lots of attempts on goal.
”We now have four home games on the bounce now – three league games and a cup tie against Swansea. It sets us up. It’s now up to me to work extremely hard to get some additions because the 18 players I had tonight were the only 18 players I had available to me.”
Bristol Rovers manager John Ward:
“Robbo!!! I’ve known him for years. He doesn’t score goals. I don’t know what he was even doing up there. But that was tonight was all about.
“If you make mistakes like we did against a Championship side, you’ll get punished for them. 3-0 was a bit harsh but we opened up as we were trying to get back in the game and paid for it.
“You’re not going to get a lot chances and the good one that we did have came very early. But I know from playing in that position myself, they’re not always easy those one-on-ones.
Doyle, Caddis, Mullins, Robinson, Hancox, Burke, Lee (Adams 89), Brown (Elliott 73), Ferguson (Gray 89), Novak, Zigic
Subs not used: Packwood, Reilly, Shinnie, Townsend
Man of the match: Hayden Mullins