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Ferguson's strike books Everton date for high-flying Birmingham

BARRY FERGUSON kept high-flying Birmingham on the glory trail when his second-half strike earned his side a fourth-round away trip to Everton following a third-round replay win against Nottingham Forest last night.

Below-par Birmingham were indebted to two fine saves from goalkeeper Joe Hart to keep them on level terms in the opening half.

The on-loan Manchester City player denied Forest striker David McGoldrick when he looked certain to score seven minutes before the interval.

Hart then kept out Nathan Tyson's fierce drive as Alex McLeish's side struggled to reproduce the form which has lifted them into the top 10 of the Premier League.

Blues' boss McLeish looked for a more positive response from his side after the inept opening 45 minutes. But it was against the run of play after 61 minutes that Ferguson broke the deadlock for the home side with his first goal for the club.

Christian Benitez was the creator and teed up Ferguson, who crashed a left-footed drive past Lee Camp from 15 yards out into the corner of the net.

It was heartbreak all the way for Coventry City in the third round replay at the Ricoh Arena as a 120th-minute goal from Aaron Mokoena helped propel Portsmouth through to the next round.

Republic of Ireland international Leon Best put City ahead after 22 minutes and it looked to be enough to put the Sky Blues on the road to Sunderland for a fourth-round date.

However, disaster struck in the dying minutes when Stephen Wright put through his own net and the game went to extra-time.

Portsmouth's Premier League class finally began to tell and but for some smart saves from Keiren Westwood and a few timely tackles, Pompey would have seen off their Championship rivals before Mokoena's last-gasp sickener.

Sheffield United eventually squeezed through to a fourth-round clash with Bolton in their third-round replay against QPR at Loftus Road.

Goals from Lee Williamson (19), Jamie Ward (68) and Richard Cresswell (70) had put them in total command. However, battling QPR pulled a goal back in the 72nd minute through an Akos Buzacky penalty and then Damion Stewart's 88th-minute header set up a frantic few minutes for the Sheffield fans.

Dean Moxley was the third-round replay hero for Derby as they beat Millwall 5-3 on penalties at Pride Park after Steve Morrison and Steve Davis shared extra-time goals.

Substitute Gavin Williams grabbed a 92nd-minute equaliser as Bristol City earned a third-round replay against Coca-Cola Championship rivals Cardiff.

Irish Independent