Photograph: Paul Currie/Colorsport/Shutterstock
Sammie Szmodics’s 20th and 21st goals of the season made him the star turn of Blackburn’s knockout win against the EFL’s glamour club, setting up a fifth-round visit by Newcastle.
While this means the scrapping of “Tinsel Toon” or other Hollywood-related puns as Wrexham, owned by Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney, are out, the Rovers manager, Jon Dahl Tomasson, can now plot to turnover the team from Tyneside he played for in 1997-8.
Related: Blackburn v Wrexham: FA Cup fourth round – live
The Dane’s nominated partner then was a certain prolific geordie marksman, at least until a pre-season ankle injury to the latter thwarted this plan. But as Newcastle’s all-time highest scorer fired Blackburn to the 1994-5 title, anticipate copious Alan Shearer derby-type yarns in the buildup.
Tonight, Rovers were a class above, stroking the ball about and upping pace at the apt moment. Such as when Tyrhys Dolan zipped the ball to Sam Gallagher, he pinged it in, and Szmodics let fly – missing, for once.
The next time Gallagher sent Szmodics free he chipped Arthur Okonkwo as Wrexham’s goalkeeper rushed out but no colleague matched the free-scoring midfielder’s break.
The visitors were off the pace so their manager, Phil Parkinson, watching from the stands due to a ban, was heartened to see Elliott Lee flip a pass in to Paul Mullin as they at last troubled Rovers backline.
“You’re only here for the Wrexham,” sang the travelling support. And when Andrew Cannon’s shot found the net to give the visitors an early lead, jubilation was theirs. A fine sequence featured Mullin turning inside and tapping to Sam Dalby. He curved the ball further right to Cannon who, bursting forward, crashed the ball beyond Aynsley Pears.
Rovers, rocked, could not clear their heads and the Welsh club dizzied them more. Another Cannon rocket was parried by Pears who leaped up instantly to stop James McClean’s follow-up. Brighter for Rovers was when Szmodics burgled the labouring Eoghan O’Connell, though his pirouette and delivery failed to find a lurking Gallagher.
Tomasson schools his side in cultured play and the equaliser was emblematic of that. Several pass-and-move triangles were formed as the ball was recycled before Jake Garrett slid in Gallagher, he pulled the ball back and Szmodics finished.
It was Wrexham’s turn to reel. And they spun more due to Gallagher’s next intervention. From Arnór Sigurdsson’s throw-in, the 28-year-old slipped past Ben Tozer and poked the ball beyond Okonkwo as he recklessly charged out.
As the rain cascaded, Rovers were rampant and their third goal dampened Wrexham’s mood further. Szmodics, galloping on to a Sondre Tronstad hoof, again beat Okonkwo – the on-loan Arsenal keeper guilty of a weak left hand – and that was five for him this season in the Cup.
Last January, as a non-league proposition, Wrexham dumped the Championship’s Coventry out of the third round. But all hope of reversing this tie faded when Tronstad pulled the trigger. The omnipresent Szmodics passed to Gallagher who tried to unload a shot, the ball squeezed to Tronstad, who rippled the roof’s net.
The score read 4-1 to Blackburn and the prospect of the clash featuring prominently in any Welcome to Wrexham episode, the Disney series on the world’s third oldest club, dimmed.
For Blackburn the £120,000 winners fee is welcome as they endure a hand-to-mouth existence, which was underlined by Saturday’s statement from the owners, Venky’s. It said: “£11m of interim funding was made available to the club … before Christmas with a further tranche set to be received, which will cover costs until at least the end of the season.”