Beausejour keeps Blues on path to Wembley double

Birmingham City 3 Sheffield Wednesday 0
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The Independent Football

The Wednesday fans who outsang the home crowd here might still consider their club to be bigger than Birmingham but the gulf between the teams on the field was a painfully accurate reflection of where they are now. Birmingham may face a battle to stay in the Premier League but they brushed aside their League One opponents all too easily.

A week away from their Carling Cup final date with Arsenal, the victory took Alex McLeish's side to within two games of a Wembley final double as they secured a second consecutive FA Cup quarter-final. With next Sunday's showpiece in mind, McLeish retained only three of his starters from the midweek League defeat to Newcastle but two goals inside the first 17 minutes more or less insured him against any embarrassment.

Wednesday produced the odd bright moment going forward but defensively they were woeful. Gary Megson, whose three games in charge so far have all ended in defeat, might yet find himself worrying about relegation as much as McLeish.

Megson wore his frustrations on his sleeve from the sixth minute, when the industrious Lee Bowyer bypassed four Wednesday defenders with a ball cut back from the by-line on the left and found Jean Beausejour unmarked. The Chilean midfielder's first goal in a Birmingham shirt will be among his easiest.

Obafemi Martins, in his third start after arriving on loan from Rubin Kazan, followed with his first Birmingham goal, bounding away after the Wednesday centre-back Michael Morrison failed miserably in his attempt to tackle the Nigerian and slotting the ball wide of goalkeeper Nicky Weaver with aplomb.

With that the contest was effectively over. Neil Mellor threatened to put Wednesday back in it with a couple of half chances but they were no more than that and the wonder was that Birmingham did not extend their lead before half-time. Keith Fahey went close with a free kick and Cameron Jerome squandered a clear opportunity at the near post when he beat Weaver to Bowyer's low cross.

They did so in any event within eight minutes of the restart. Weaver, challenged by Bowyer, could not push Fahey's corner away from danger and left-back David Murphy lashed home the loose ball. It was Murphy's second goal among 10 scored by Birmingham in the competition so far, shared among eight different players.

The fringe players will wait now to see if they impressed McLeish enough to get a chance against Arsenal. Sadly, Alexander Hleb's appearance against his former club has been placed in doubt by a knee injury inflicted by James O'Connor's mistimed tackle. "We don't think his cruciate is involved but he'll have a scan in the next 24 hours," McLeish said. "Otherwise it was a good day for us, with some players getting the chance to recharge their batteries and others, like Obafemi, getting some match sharpness."

Attendance: 14,607

Referee: Anthony Taylor

Man of the match: Bowyer