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FA Cup: Birmingham, Preston squeeze into fifth round

7 February 2006 23:08

BIMRINGHAM, Feb 7 (SW) - Birmingham City put their Premiership struggles aside on Tuesday and advanced to the FA Cup fifth round with a replay victory over a weakened Reading side at St. Andrew's. Preston, meanwhile, left it late to advance at Crystal Palace.

Birmingham City - Reading 2-1

Upstart Championship leaders Reading fielded a squad with eight different players from their league win over Crewe at the weekend, while Steve Bruce also fielded a much different side from their loss to Arsenal.

After Reading's Dave Kitson missed early opportunites to fire the Royals into the lead, Birmingham striker Mikael Forssell struck on the half-hour mark when he got in behind the Reading defenders and fired home past Graham Stack.

Reading did manage to find an equalizer in the 51st minute after some confusion the Birmingham area allowed Stephen Hunt to get in and fired beyond Maik Taylor.

The Blues would be the team to earn victory, though, as Julian Gray got in behind a defender to head in Jiri Jarosik's cross in the 67th minute for the winner and set up a fifth-round matchup away to Stoke City.

Crystal Palace - Preston North End 1-2

The match was destined for extra time, or at least it appeared that way until Danny Dichio struck late to fire Preston into the FA Cup fifth round.

Darren Ward had put the home side Eagles in front in the 26th minute when he headed home from a corner kick by Jobi McAnuff, but Dichio leveled for Preston nine minutes later as he touched in Paul McKenna's free kick.

With the match three minutes from extra time at Selhurst Park, the same combination from the first Preston goal struck again as McKenna's free kick was touched on by Dichio before hitting the back of Gabor Kiraly's goal.

Preston now advanced to the fifth round to host the winner of tomorrow's replay between Middlesbrough and Coventry City.

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