Blackburn class proves too much for Wrexham in FA Cup
Sammie Szmodics notched a brace as Blackburn came from behind to see off Sky Bet League Two high-flyers Wrexham 4-1 at Ewood Park and set up an FA Cup fifth-round clash at the same venue with Newcastle.
The visitors, who won at Coventry and drew with Sheffield United in last season’s competition, were on for an upset when Andy Cannon put them in front in the 19th minute, bringing a huge roar from the 7,000-plus away fans who had made the trip.
But Blackburn responded in ruthless fashion with goals in quick succession from Szmodics and Sam Gallagher just past the half-hour mark to turn things around.
Szmodics, the Championship’s leading scorer this term with 16 goals who had bagged a hat-trick in the 5-2 third-round victory over Cambridge, then scored his second of the night just prior to the interval before Sondre Tronstad wrapped things up in the second half.
Securing cup progress was a welcome boost for former Newcastle forward Jon Dahl Tomasson’s men, who are currently 18th in the second tier and winless in their last seven league games.
Phil Parkinson’s Wrexham, second in League Two, return to their quest to make it back-to-back promotions in their high-profile resurgence under the ownership of actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney.
Szmodics had a good chance to put Blackburn ahead in the third minute but put his shot wide and moments later sent the ball past goalkeeper Arthur Okonkwo from the right side of the box, but Wrexham skipper Ben Tozer was on hand to clear.
A couple of further efforts for the hosts from Jake Garrett followed before Wrexham began to exert some pressure, with Aynsley Pears gathering a Sam Dalby header and a Paul Mullin free-kick.
Soon after, there was jubilation in the vociferous away section as the Red Dragons grabbed the lead when Cannon collected the ball from Dalby and fired past Pears.
And they went close to swiftly adding another as Pears parried Cannon’s drive, then did superbly to tip over James McClean’s follow-up attempt.
Having been rocked, Blackburn hit back with an equaliser in the 32nd minute, Szmodics slotting in from Gallagher’s cutback.
And two minutes after that they were in front as a miscalculation by Okonkwo was punished, the goalkeeper opting to race out of his area as Tozer was beaten by Gallagher, who was left with a simple task to slot into the net.
The hosts then extended their advantage in first-half stoppage time as Szmodics controlled Tronstad’s pass and stroked home, putting a finger to his lips as he celebrated in front of the away fans.
Tronstad added a goal of his own just before the hour mark when Gallagher attempted to shoot, the ball came to the Norwegian and his shot went in via a deflection off Elliot Lee.
With the game looking very much up for Wrexham, Lee subsequently tried his luck with an attempt from inside his own half that dropped wide, and substitute James Jones had a low shot saved.
Szmodics had a chance to complete another treble in the closing stages, but saw his strike saved by Okonkwo.
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