So it took 120 minutes and penalties but Albion finally made it through to the third round of the Capital One Cup. It was a hard fought affair which turned out to be a very uncomfortable evening for the supporters. Despite only playing 48 hours earlier, Tony Pulis made just four changes to the starting line-up for the tricky tie against Port Vale with Serge Gnabry, Rickie Lambert, Brown Ideye and James Chester coming in for Salomon Rondon, James Morrison, Callum McManaman and Craig Dawson. Before kick-off there was a minute’s silence in memory of the Shoreham Airshow crash victims.
The match started off with Albion making all the early running with Gnabry showing glimpses of his pace and attacking threat on his first start for the club. However, just 12 minutes into the match Chris Brunt hobbled off with a leg injury which makes him doubtful for the game against Stoke and he was replaced by Craig Dawson who slotted in at right back with Chester moving to left back. Gnarby impressed early on with his pace and trickery beating Vale’s full back Dickinson. Unfortunately his final ball was often over-hit.
The first chance for Ideye came and went as Lambert's looping cross was diverted just off target by the centre forward. McClean was having his every touch booed by the travelling fans but he continued making runs and winning the ball back for us. Just a few minutes before half time Gnabry had another chance as he latched onto a loose ball but he drilled his shot over the crossbar from just outside the area. Lambert also had another shot which was deflected and well saved by Jak Alnwick in the Port Vale goal just before the interval.
AFTER THE BREAK
At the start of the second half Albion started with a flurry of chances as they looked to impose themselves on the visitors. Lambert had a header cleared off the line just after a great cross from Dawson. Lambert then found himself in possession all of 25 yards out and his powerful shot looked destined for the top corner only for Alnwick to pull off a superb save and tip the shot over for a corner.
It seemed like our missed chances may come back to haunt us as Port Vale then began to carve out some promising opportunities themselves. Dodds pulled his shot narrowly past the far post as he was played through by Dickinson. Rondon was then introduced to the action for the lively but largely ineffective Brown Ideye.
We then became more direct with our play and Lambert hit a 40 yard volley which looked a certain goal but the impressive Alnwick made another great save.
EXTRA TIME AND PENALTIES
As we entered extra time the visitors began to tire unlike their travelling fans who continued to spur their team on throughout the match. Rondon had his first real chance as he scuffed his shot wide when he really should have done better. The Venezuelan then had another opportunity but he snatched at his shot, when again he should have done better. Rondon then hit the bar as the £12 million man certainly missed our best chances in extra time to win the match. In the dying moments of the game Lambert had the final chance of the game as his header was saved by Alnwick.
Despite the flurry of chances the game finished 0-0 and penalties were how it would be decided. Lambert, Yacob, McManaman and Fletcher all despatched their penalty kicks with ease whilst Port Vale scored only three out of their four spot kicks as Richard Duffy shot over the cross bar which swung the shootout in Albion's favour. And so it was up to Chester to take the decisive spot kick and he converted from 12 yards to ensure our passage into the next round and with it break Port Vale hearts which was cruel considering their determination and effort they had shown throughout the match.
This was by no means a perfect performance from us and continually throughout the match the fans were getting more and more frustrated with the lack of quality finishing. Port Vale to their credit played well and did their fans proud but in truth they never really tested Boaz Myhill. So onto round three and we're away to Norwich which will be a tough game and a long trip for the fans. But what is certain is that if we want to continue our cup run we'll have to perform significantly better than Tuesday evening.
COME ON YOU BAGGIES!
Have your say on Albion's win here at Baggies Banter.