Blues' FA Cup hopes were brought to a halt at St. Andrew’s this afternoon as they suffered a narrow defeat to Premier League neighbours West Bromwich Albion.
Baggies forward Victor Anichebe did the damage for the visitors with a first-half brace, with Jonathan Grounds pulling a goal back for Blues in stoppage time at the end of the half.
Gary Rowett made just the two changes to his starting XI with Lloyd Dyer and Lee Novak in for Clayton Donaldson and Demarai Gray, who both dropped down to the subs’ bench. Amongst the Albion starting line-up were former Blues players Craig Gardner and Boaz Myhill.
The game kicked-off with a cauldron of noise resonating around a packed St. Andrew’s.
The first opening fell to Saido Berahino on ten minutes. He collected the ball on the turn before trying his luck with a snap shot which went into the side netting.
It took until 16 minutes for Blues to fashion their first chance when Stephen Gleeson’s pass found David Cotterill and the Welsh winger tried his luck with 25-yard effort that was comfortably held by Myhill.
Andy Shinnie was just a whisker away from meeting Cotterill’s brilliant cross with the goal at his mercy.
As the half progressed Blues were beginning to grow into the game and look more of an attacking threat.
But it was actually Albion that took the lead against the run of play after 25 minutes through Anichebe. Berahino’s through ball found Anichebe, who then ran on and beat Darren Randolph low down just inside his near post.
Ten minutes later the same player doubled his side’s advantage with almost a carbon copy of his first strike. Once again Berahino was the provider of the key pass, but this time Anichebe fired the ball into the other side of Randolph’s goal via a deflection
With half-time rapidly approaching Blues were back in it when Grounds pulled a goal back for the hosts.
Dyer’s ball from the left found its way across the front of the Albion box where Grounds was on hand to fire the ball home off the inside of the post.
Half-time: Blues 1 West Brom 2
Two minutes into the second-half Randolph was forced to pull off a fantastic save from Joleon Lescott’s header, following Gardner’s corner ball.
Almost immediately Blues went down the other end and Myhill needed to be alert to keep out Novak’s low shot with a neat diving stop.
Blues were beginning to ramp up the pressure and it was becoming a real cup tie for the spectators to enjoy.
Cotterill then launched the ball forward for Dyer to run on to but he was just beaten to it by Myhill, which the Blues winger colliding with him and going over in the box, but the referee waved play on.
Minutes later the Baggies stopper was forced off with an injury which he had sustained in that challenge and was replaced by former Blues favourite Ben Foster who got an excellent reception from the home fans in the Tilton.
With 70 minutes on the clock Rowett made his first substitution when he sent on Demarai Gray for debut man Dyer.
A minute later Blues were close to levelling the scores when Caddis’ cross found Andy Shinnie, but the Scot headed his effort just over the bar.
On 75 minutes Nikola Zigic entered the proceedings in place of Novak.
Blues continued to press forward in search of an equaliser and Gray tried his luck with a curling shot which Foster tipped over for a corner.
West Brom were being forced to defend in numbers as Blues were throwing everybody forward.
On 88 minutes Foster produced another excellent save to deny Gray who had fired in a peach of a shot from 25 yards.
Gleeson then fired the ball two yards wide of Foster’s goal with a half-volley, before Zigic launched a shot from at least 30 yards out but it went the wrong side of the post.
That was to be the last chance for Rowett's men who will now need to put all their energies into their Championship campaign.