The scout who recruited Brown Ideye, and then left West Bromwich Albion ‘by mutual consent’ last month when the club’s record signing proved something of a flop, was feeling more than a little vindicated on Saturday. ‘Ahem,’ tweeted Stuart White, and understandably so when the Nigerian has now scored four goals in three games.
Clearly, all Ideye needed was a manager capable of utilising the talent that persuaded West Brom to pay £10million for him in the first place.
And while Tony Pulis may have to concede that Ideye might well have been heading for Qatar had Carlton Cole been signed in the last transfer window, the mere fact that Ideye is now performing as effectively as he is amounts to a triumph for both player and manager. Ideye marked his second of this FA Cup tie with celebratory somersault, having already demonstrated his athleticism with the power he generated from the header moments earlier.
Compared to a quite stunning first-half goal from James Morrison, Ideye’s opening 20th minute strike wasn’t much to look at. It was a poacher’s goal that owed far more to Craig Dawson and the quality of his cross as well as his success in winning an aerial challenge with Aaron Cresswell. Indeed Ideye might have been a fraction offside when he diverted Dawson’s delivery past Adrian from close range. The assistant referee saw nothing wrong with it, though, his flag remaining down.
In fairness to a side now boasting just one defeat in nine since Pulis took charge, it was no less than West Brom deserved. Set up to be aggressive by their manager, they attacked West Ham with real vigour to produce arguably their finest performance of the season.
Weakened by the loss of Andy Carroll to injury, Sam Allardyce’s side offered little in response; not a single effort on target in an opening half memorable only for a couple of free-kick opportunities squandered by Cresswell and Enner Valencia.
The second half was even more disappointing, and in the end uncomfortable for Allardyce. The travelling supporters not only booed his captain, Kevin Nolan, when he was hooked after an hour, but turned on Allardyce too with a few choice words.
To make matters worse West Ham’s manager then had to watch the player who replaced Nolan get himself sent off after only 10 minutes on the pitch.
Martin Atkinson had already shown a yellow card for his nasty challenge on Chris Brunt, then producing a red when the Frenchman foolishly shoved West Brom’s captain in the face.
West Brom, by contrast, were both composed and excellent. Well organised, obviously. This is a Pulis team, after all. But they were dynamic, determined, every inch a team desperate to progress to the last eight of a competition opening up for the few Premier League sides that remain.
Pulis had spoken of his passion for the FA Cup, of his earliest memories of watching the final as a kid and then re-enacting the game with his friends, and his players performed with that same enthusiasm.
Morrison had displayed as much with an early run at West Ham’s somewhat hesitant back four, while Craig Gardner went close to scoring first when he sent a left-foot volley just wide.
But Ideye was more clinical, making the most of that fine cross from Dawson with a simple strike from the edge of the six-yard box.
Morrison very nearly added a second when he unleashed a powerful shot that Adrian could only parry onto the roof of the net.
But when the Scottish international – and therefore not available to England however much Garth Crooks might wish it were the case – tried his luck from distance for a second time in the 42nd minute after riding a challenge from Mark Noble, West Ham’s goalkeeper was powerless to stop a shot that was curling away from him. He got his fingertips to the ball but not enough to divert it to safety.
West Brom continued to dominate after the break, with Ideye’s second coming in the 57th minute when he managed to produce a tremendous amount of power from a deflected Stephane Sessengnon cross.
For more than 5000 West Ham supporters, it all proved too much and they let their feelings be known to Allardyce and his captain. Such animosity towards Allardyce remains baffling to this observer but they had come all this way, no doubt hopeful of a successful Cup run, to witness an abject display only a week after seeing them dominate Manchester United.
To compound their misery a 72nd minute goal from Saido Berahino would then follow, and a fine goal it was too; a smart finish that beat Adrian at his near post.
Having scored two in two, and 16 this season, Berahino might now be off Pulis’s ‘naughty step’, even if Ideye remained worthy of greater praise as well as the applause he received when he came off a few minutes before the final whistle.