West Bromwich 3 Cheltenham Town 1: Ellington calls tune as Albion consign Robson to past

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The Independent Online

By Phil Shaw

Alan Curbishley may have ruled himself out of the running to take over at The Hawthorns, the former Charlton manager preferring any comeback to be in the Premiership, but West Bromwich needed little more than an hour to underline Nigel Pearson's credentials for the vacancy and shrug off any hangover from Bryan Robson's unceremonious exit. Cheltenham threatened an upset when Kayode Odejayi gave them an interval lead, only for three goals in 20 minutes after the break to book the Championship side's third-round place.

Ronnie Wallwork brought Albion level before two penalties - the first a musical affair in which Brian Wilson handled to enable Nathan "Duke" Ellington to score, the second by Stuart Nicholson - sealed the League One outfit's fate.

Pearson, Robson's No 2 and Albion's caretaker manager, had started the game as 5-1 second favourite for the job behind Steve Cotterill of Burnley at 9-2. His makeshift team was booed off at half-time but warmly applauded at the final whistle. "It was always going to be a difficult night, bearing in mind the past 36 hours," said Pearson, who has declined to discuss whether he will be a candidate. "That was a potential banana skin, but the players showed spirit and mental strength to emerge with a lot of credit."

Cheltenham manager John Ward's team did not embarrass him. Although Scott Higgs saved at Stuart Nicholson's feet and Grant McCann cleared Darren Carter's header off the line in the early stages, McCann's 20-yard shot soon rattled Pascal Zuberbühler's left-hand post.

In first-half stoppage time, the impressive Odejayi took Mickey Bell's through-ball, cut in from the left flank and left Paul McShane on his backside before angling a right-footed shot beyond the keeper.

McShane made amends by setting up Albion's 48th-minute riposte. Staying up after a corner, the centre-back found himself on the right wing and his low cross allowed Wallwork to score with a diving header. Albion's mounting pressure, orchestrated by the prodigal Jason Koumas on his first appearance in 19 months, was reflected in the scoreline on the hour after Ellington stroked home the spot-kick. Another penalty, converted by Nicholson in the 68th minute after Bell had recklessly upended Koumas, put the issue beyond doubt.

West Bromwich Albion (4-4-2): Zuberbuhler; Hodgkiss, McShane, Perry, Robinson; Chaplow, Wallwork (Greening, 73), Carter (Gera, 87), Koumas; Ellington, Nicholson (Kamara, 73). Substitutes not used: Hoult (gk), Forsyth.

Cheltenham Town (4-4-2): Higgs; Gill, Caines, Lowe, Bell (Yao, 77); Wilson, Finnigan, McCann, Armstrong; Guinan (Wylde, 77), Odejayi (Spencer, 66). Substitutes not used: Brown (gk), Bird.

Referee: A Bates (Stoke-on-Trent).

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