Albion will be at Wembley next month to contest the third FA Cup semi-final in our history after we eased past Grimsby Town at the Amex.
Deniz Undav got the early goal to settle things down and in the second half Evan Ferguson produced two fine finishes to put the tie to bed before Solly March – with a superb header – netted for the third time in eight days to make it 4-0. Kaoru Mitoma’s deflected effort in the closing moments rounded off a good afternoon’s work by Albion.
Grimsby’s fantastic fans helped create the best atmosphere of the season at the Amex but there was never a sense they could continue a brilliant run which had seen them beat five higher-placed clubs, including Southampton in the fifth round.
Roberto De Zerbi had chosen a strong side with only three changes to the team that beat Crystal Palace. Adam Webster came into central defence while Undav partnered Ferguson up front and Rob Sanchez returned in goal.
Grimsby lined up in a 4-5-1 formation but they were breached after just six minutes.
Albion had already gone close inside a minute when Max Crocombe saved Ferguson’s angled effort but when the keeper failed to hold onto Moises Caicedo’s powerful drive from inside the D, Undav reacted quickest and emphatically fired in his second goal of the FA Cup campaign.
As might have been expected Albion dominated possession as they tried to pick their way through the massed ranks of pink shirts in front of Crocombe, but Grimsby were organised and diligent without the ball.
Undav headed Solly March’s cross straight at the keeper who then rushed out to save at Ferguson’s feet after he beat the offside trap and latched onto Webster’s pass before Mitoma missed a glorious chance on 33 minutes, lifting a right-footed shot over the bar from point-blank range after Pascal Gross got in behind and provided the cross.
The Japanese winger volleyed well over from another Gross pass, Caicedo’s low drive whizzed just wide after Albion’s high press won the ball back and Gross failed to hit the target from a decent position 12 yards out having been found by Mitoma’s cut-back.
Albion ought to have wrapped up the tie by half-time with Sanchez only called upon on a couple of occasions, first to control Lewis Dunk’s overhit back pass and then when he came to the very edge of his box to collect under pressure from Danilo Orsi.
Albion nearly found an unlikely route to goal three minutes after the break. March’s cross took a deflection, looped over Crocombe and bounced off the post into the path of Undav, but he volleyed over from six yards.
No matter. Albion had their second three minutes later, thanks to sublime skills by Ferguson. He cushioned Mac Allister’s dink with one touch which gave him the space to sweep a right-footed shot inside the right-hand post.
Ferguson thought he’d scored again when he fired the ball home from March’s assist, but Solly had strayed a boot’s length offside before Sanchez was tested for the first time on the hour when he stood tall to palm away John McAtee’s shot.
Normal service towards the Grimsby goal resumed. March’s header gave Webster space to open up his body and side-foot a right-foot shot which came back off the bar before Ferguson put the tie to bed in the 70th minute. Undav held the ball up on the edge of the box and laid it into the Irishman’s path and his right-foot shot flew into the bottom corner.
Ferguson was replaced a few moments later with the tie won and Albion could even afford to give skipper Lewis Dunk a rest in the closing stages. They made it 4-0 with eight minutes to go when Webster picked out March making a diagonal run into the six yard box and March headed powerfully past Crocombe.
The lively McAtee nearly got a consolation for Grimsby but Sanchez flung himself to his left to push away his shot and preserve his clean sheet but Albion had the final word when Mitoma’s shot took a hefty deflection off Luke Waterfall and into the bottom corner.
A professional job done by Albion – and now there’s a return to Wembley to look forward to.
Albion: Sanchez, Gross, Webster, Dunk (van Hecke 77), Estupinan (Colwill 45), Caicedo, Mac Allister (Ayari 77), March, Mitoma, Undav (Sarmiento 72), Ferguson (Welbeck 72).
Unused subs: Steele, Enciso, Veltman, Buonanotte.
Referee: Jarred Gillett