In a third-round tie between two under-strength sides, Bakary Sako headed the only goal of the game after 31 minutes to book a place in Monday’s draw. West Bromwich Albion reached the FA Cup fourth round with a narrow win over 2013 winners Wigan Athletic.
Wigan keeper Jamie Jones superbly saved Chris Brunt’s 25-yard free kick, clawing it out of the top-right corner. But, from the resulting corner kick, Brunt crossed for Sako to head in off the underside of the bar.
Despite being bolstered by reduced ticket price offers, the crowd of 15,465 was still more than 10,000 down on the 25,555 who turned up for Albion’s 2-0 Championship win over the Latics 10 days earlier.
That was always likely in the event of expected mass team changes following a busy programme of festive fixtures and, between them, Baggies head coach Darren Moore and Wigan manager Paul Cook made 16 of them.
Albion’s nine alterations added to the seven made by Wigan, which included a late, unexpected one when midfielder Darron Gibson pulled out after the warm-up, to be replaced by Lee Evans.
For most of an under-par game, five-times FA Cup winners Albion always looked the more likely winners, especially once Sako had netted his first goal for the club.
Keeper Jones got his fingertips to Sako’s header to turn it onto the bar, then argued that the ball had not crossed the line, but television replays confirmed the goal stood.
Sako was denied a second goal after the break when he raced onto a pass by Rekeem Harper but was twice thwarted, first by Jones and then by Chey Dunkley’s clearance off the line.
Jones also denied Albion’s Sam Field from fellow midfielder Wes Hoolahan’s pass, Wigan went close with a header over from Baggies old boy Callum McManaman, while Dunkley just failed to latch onto Kal Naismith’s far-post free-kick.
Wigan have not won now in five away FA Cup ties since beating Manchester City 2-1 in the quarter-final in March 2014 – the year after famously beating City at Wembley.
West Bromwich Albion head coach Darren Moore told BBC Sport:
“I’m very happy with the result and the performance. It was a 1-0 win but the way we dominated, we could have won by more. “I’m delighted for Bakary to come in and score the winner but he could have got another one when he went through.
“We used the ball well and worked extremely hard off the ball. And I was pleased with the way the experienced players helped the youngsters through. “I was pleased with the fans’ patience. They’ve now seen a little bit of the flavour of talent that we’ve got within the club.”
Wigan Athletic manager Paul Cook:
“It was a tough game for us in general. We start games really well, we miss a chance or two and then we get punished. “As a manager you can only say ‘are the players doing enough?’ and I think they are working hard and doing enough.
“The players are doing everything they can do in games. We have clear water in our focus. “We must now show the unity to keep us in the division. The focus is the target of the achievement of staying in the league.”