West Bromwich Albion 4 Aldershot Town 1
Carlos Corberán’s Albion secured their place in the Fourth Round of the FA Cup with a comfortable victory over National League side, Aldershot Town, at the Hawthorns. It was almost as good an afternoon as the Spaniard could have hoped for as his chosen starting line up all but ensured the victory with three goals in the first half hour.
Despite his options being limited by injury and AFCON participation, the Albion boss was able to select a mix of experience and youth that was more than capable of dealing with the challenge posed by the Shots and, with the result secure with half an hour to go, he was then happy to give his youthful bench an opportunity to show what they are capable of on the first team stage.
Perhpas the biggest highlight was a goalscoring return for Daryl Dike. Having missed nine months with an Achilles injury, he looked fit and strong in the scheduled 45 minutes that he played, and capped the day with a well taken volley from eight yards to put the Baggies 3-0 up.
Before that, Nathaniel Chalobah, who made up an experienced midfield pairing with Alex Mowatt, had opened the scoring as he deftly volleyed home Fellows’ cross to settle any Albion nerves in the seventh minute. Jovan Malcolm made it 2-0 when he finished well after mistake by the visiting defence, his second senior goal having also netted in the 4-0 win over Chesterfield in the third round replay last year.
Bartley was the only regular starter, bar Mowatt, to make the eleven while Erik Pieters and Pipa added experience into the back four alongside Caleb Taylor who has been unlucky to have had few opportunities this campaign. Dike had Fellows and Malcolm alongside him with 19-year-old Fenton Heard a surprise debutant in the number 10 position.
Albion completely bossed the first period and rarely looked in any danger. Pipa, Pieters and Taylor all played the full 90 minutes and all looked very comfortable with the Spaniard looking useful as a right wing back, his preferred position that we haven’t really seen him play too much since he moved to the Hawthorns. Kipré replaced Bartley in the second half just to share the minutes around.
Chalobah looked calm and assured in the centre of midfield while I was impressed with Heard who was always looking to progress the ball forward and came close to capping an excellent debut with a goal when he fired just over. While everyone associated with Albion was delighted to see Dike get on the scoresheet, there can be few more popular goalscorers than Tom Fellows who finished neatly with his left foot after being put through by fellow academy product Harry Whitwell.
One player who may be disappointed with his debut was striker, Layton Love, who had a glorious opportunity having been put through by Chalobah but got right underneath the ball and skied it well over the bar. The only other player who may not be 100% happy will be Josh Griffiths – he made one good save in the second half but probably should have done better with the visitors’ late consolation. He would have been delighted with a clean sheet but it would be churlish to complain about the moment of glory that the near 5,000 away following obviously enjoyed.
Corberán will be happy that he was able to leave Thomas-Asante and Okay on the bench to give them some much needed rest, perhaps remembering his decision to introduce Matt Phillips to the action in the equivalent match last season that resulted in an injury to his important winger.
It’s a case of job done for the Baggies. A goal for Dike, one for Fellows, some much needed minutes for the likes of Pieters, Chalobah and Pipa, and some impressive performances from the youngsters that will stand them in good stead for the future.
We will await Monday’s fourth round draw with interest, but it’s back to league action next weekend.