Championship side Birmingham City had a scare in their FA Cup third round tie as they needed two second-half goals to come from behind to beat League One strugglers Forest Green.
The fired-up hosts led 1-0 at the break after a bright start brought about by a stunning early goal from Ben Stevenson.
But recalled striker Lukas Jutkiewicz equalized immediately after the break.
And new man Kevin Long scored his first goal since arriving from Burnley to net a brace in the fourth round against Blackburn.
Rovers, who are bottom of League One, have made five new signings so far in the January window. And, although three of them were tied, they got off to a great start, fueled by Stevenson’s rocket.
The former Wolves and Coventry youngster has previously scored just once for Forest Green – in this season’s EFL Trophy at Newport since joining from Colchester in the summer of 2021.
But when he received the ball in the area, 25 yards out, he fired a superb right-footed shot into the top-right corner for his first goal at the New Lawn.
The lead would then have been doubled if home captain Baily Cargill’s shot had not been turned over by the recalled Neil Etheridge.
He was one of five changes to the side beaten 4-2 by Bristol City on Saturday – the Blues’ fourth successive league defeat – along with loan duo Manny Longel and Hannibal Mejbri, Wales midfielder Jordan James and veteran striker Jutkiewicz.
The Championship team was also a bit subdued, they failed to strike before the break. But after a triple substitution at half-time involving Tahith Chong, Alfie Chang and Max Colin, the visitors suddenly looked like a team transformed.
First-time top scorer Scott Hogan was only denied by a fine full-length save from Lewis Thomas. Then, just two minutes later, Jutkiewicz fired a low right-footed shot from the edge of the penalty area for just his second goal of the season.
But, just after the hour, the Blues survived a double scare in a frenzied scramble when Etheridge twice came to the rescue. He first touched Regan Hendry’s left-footed shot onto the post before making a heroic save from Matty Stevens from the rebound.
Within four minutes, the Blues were in front and Long’s header kept out a goal in a crowded box – and it secured the ex-Burnley man the tantalizing prospect of a trip to Ewood Park on January 28.
Forest Green boss Ian Burchnall told BBC Radio Gloucestershire:
“We were outstanding in the first half and fully deserved to go ahead. But we didn’t get that elusive second goal.
“Then they changed shape at half-time and it took us 10 minutes to get to grips with it.
“They took their two chances and we didn’t take ours. And you can’t do that against a team of that level with that quality. It’s simple.
“We would have liked to have made it to the fourth round for the first time. But it was still a good night. The fans were great. When they give us that kind of support, it gives us a real boost.”
Birmingham City boss John Eustace told BBC Radio WM:
“The first half was difficult for us. We weren’t aggressive. We weren’t in the foreground. And losing 1-0 at Forest Green is as difficult as it gets.
“But the changes at half-time were positive and they worked. The substitutions made a big difference. Alfie Chang in particular was very good.”
“And what a world-class double save that was from Neil Etheridge. He hasn’t stopped talking about it for 20 minutes – and he has every right to be, to be fair.
“Most importantly, the second half showed that we are together. When you are going through a difficult period, as we are, it is very important to show the character that we have. Let’s hope that this is a turning point for us.”
They set up
- 2O’KeeffeReplaced byCaseyon 71′minute
- 7StevensonReplaced byDavison 84′minute
- 17McAllisterReplaced byFiabemaon 70′minute
- 25Peart-HarrisBooked in 38 minutesReplaced byBrownon 84′minute
- 9StevensReplaced byGarrickon 70′minute
- 5ReliableBooked in 69 minutes
- 26a long time
- 23LongelloBooked in 38 minutesReplaced byChongon 45′minute
- 31WhiteBooked in 57 minutes
- 6MayberryBooked in 59 minutesReplaced byBacunaon 73′minute
- 19JamesReplaced byChangon 45′minute
- 11GrahamReplaced byColinon 45′minute
- 9HoganReplaced byDeeneyon 86′minute
Full time, Forest Green Rovers 1, Birmingham City 2.
End of second half, Forest Green Rovers 1, Birmingham City 2.
Foul by Brandon Cooper (Forest Green Rovers).
Troy Deeney (Birmingham City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Dominic Bernard (Forest Green Rovers).
Tahith Chong (Birmingham City) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Corner, Birmingham City. Submitted by Baily Cargill.
Corner, Birmingham City. Confessed by Brandon Cooper.
Attempt blocked. Tahith Chong (Birmingham City) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Substitution, Birmingham City. Troy Deeney replaces Scott Hogan.
Substitution, Forest Green Rovers. David Davis replaces Ben Stevenson.
Substitution, Forest Green Rovers. Reece Brown replaces Myles Peart-Harris.
Foul by Krystian Bielik (Birmingham City).
Regan Hendry (Forest Green Rovers) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Handball by Lukas Jutkiewicz (Birmingham City).
Tahith Chong (Birmingham City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Brandon Cooper (Forest Green Rovers).
Foul by Dion Sanderson (Birmingham City).
Bryan Fiabema (Forest Green Rovers) takes the free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Auston Trusty (Birmingham City).