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Ajayi scores yet West Brom lose FA Cup tie

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Blackpool keeper Chris Maxwell said saving three shootout spot-kicks in the Seasiders’ FA Cup upset of West Bromwich Albion made up for a Christmas spent suffering from coronavirus.

The 30-year-old Welsh stopper thwarted Kyle Edwards and Darnell Furlong from the spot before his match-winning save from Matheus Pereira sent Blackpool through.

Maxwell, along with team-mate Matty Virtue, tested positive for Covid-19 on 23 December and the cup tie was his first game back after missing two League One fixtures over the festive period.

“It’s good to be back, spending 10 days away from the boys and then spending an extra three days getting back into the swing of things, it’s been difficult,” he told BBC Sport.

Blackpool manager Neil Critchley described his keeper as a “hero” and it was a dramatic high for Maxwell after a difficult period.

“It was awful,” he said. “Not only feeling terrible for about eight days but also missing out on football games and training. It was tough and it’s nice to be back and to contribute like I did today.

“I was lying in bed for about three days and felt really, really lethargic so it’s nice to come through it.”

Blackpool handed Baggies boss Sam Allardyce his managerial break in 1994 but added to his worries with a committed showing and never looked two divisions inferior to the visitors.

Twice the League One club led as Jerry Yates swept in Bez Lubala’s cross from close range and later turned provider to set up Gary Madine to stroke into the bottom corner from 20 yards.

Semi Ajayi’s header and Pereira’s penalty, awarded for an Ollie Turton handball, forced extra time but the Baggies missed three shootout spot-kicks to Blackpool’s two.

Albion remain without a win in five games since Allardyce took charge in December and the 66-year-old says he will be looking to add to Friday’s signing of Robert Snodgrass from West Ham.

The Baggies confirmed after the match that Charlie Austin is joining QPR on loan, depleting Allardyce’s attacking options further as he bids to secure an unlikely Premier League survival.

West Brom are six points adrift of safety and their only two goals from open play under Allardyce have come from central defender Ajayi, who also netted in their 1-1 draw at Liverpool.

“My job now, having looked at the full squad nearly, is to raise as much as money as we can and get as many players as we can in January,” Allardyce told BBC Sport.

“I’m in no doubt about that now having been here the last few weeks and seen what I’ve seen.

“I’m happy with the application and the effort but what we are not good at is keeping a clean sheet and at the other end we are not good at scoring a goal so I’ve got to sort both of those areas out.”

Albion had conceded nine goals in their past two Premier League games and were breached on the break for both of Blackpool’s goals, while Maxwell was largely untroubled until his shootout heroics.

“Unfortunately our penalties were not of the right quality to win us the game. We failed in even that department today,” added Allardyce.


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