FC United of Manchester 0, Albion 4 The weather was more Arctic than Costa del Sol in Lancashire last night but that did not bother Albion’s Spanish connection.

Gloved up for the occasion, Fran Sandaza and Inigo Calderon delivered knockout blows for the Seagulls in the first half which ensured there was no FA Cup embarrassment for Gus Poyet’s League One leaders.

Sandaza has now scored three times in two starts and five substitute appearances, a healthy return for the striker. We may just see the best of him now that he has recovered from persistent thigh trouble.

Calderon, meanwhile, now has four goals after three in as many matches in October – an eye-catching haul for a right-back.

Albion became a little sloppy and could have faced an awkward climax if FC United had converted a penalty conceded by Calderon.

Late goals by the outstanding Elliott Bennett and Matt Sparrow were a little flattering but there was no doubting Albion’s superior quality against spirited but limited opponents.

Poyet signalled his intention during the pre-match build-up to field a strong team following the postponement of last Saturday’s game against Colchester.

He was true to his word. The five changes to the side held to a 1-1 draw by FC United at Withdean left the line-up pretty close to the one Poyet will probably field at Huddersfield on Saturday.

The exception was the absence from the squad of Gary Dicker and Ashley Barnes, both of whom are another yellow card away from suspension.

Peter Brezovan retained the No 1 spot he has held so far in the FA Cup but the first-choice back four was restored in front of him.

Adam El-Abd, having recovered from the horror eye gash he sustained at Southampton, partnered captain Gordon Greer in the middle with Inigo Calderon and Marcos Painter occupying their customary positions at fullback.

A midfield including the fit-again Matt Sparrow lacked only Dicker’s presence while in attack Sandaza was rewarded for his late equaliser in the first encounter with a start alongside Glenn Murray.

FC United were forced into two changes by bans for centre-half Scott McManus – after his red card at Withdean – and left-sided midfielder Jerome Wright. Ludovic Quistin and Martin Parker took their places.

Albion’s goals to chances ratio has been disappointing all season even when they were in peak form a few weeks ago.

Opportunities galore have been squandered during the recent downturn in results and another went begging just six minutes into the contest.

Bennett, back on familiar territory after a loan spell at Bury during his time with Wolves, escaped down the left and pulled the ball back invitingly for Murray. He could not quite get it out of his feet and stabbed wide from only eight yards out.

The opening was indicative of Albion’s early domination. They controlled possession in a manner we have become accustomed to on a pitch which had been protected by an inflatable cover and was passed fit by referee Eddie Ilderton after a late-afternoon inspection.

Bennett, switching from wing to wing once more, posed problems for the FC United defence with his pace and direct running.

Sure enough he fashioned the breakthrough for the Seagulls in the 25th minute which was well deserved on the balance of play if a touch fortuitous in the way it came about.

Bennett made a weaving burst into the area before partially slipping as he shot. The ball travelled obligingly into the path of Sandaza, who fired into the roof of the net. Sandaza’s style may be unfurnished but he certainly knows where the net is when he is inside the box which is where he likes to operate.

The 120 places dividing the sides was evident in the opening half hour until FC United forced their way into the match for a period.

Albion, surviving one or two untidy moments, managed to keep them at arm’s length as Carlos Roca and Chris Ovington blazed wide and high respectively from outside the penalty area.

All the while Albion’s lead was restricted to a single goal, hope remained for the underdogs.

The Seagulls needed the security of a second goal, which came at a perfect moment in first-half stoppage time.

Bennett was the provider once again. The ball broke for him off an FC United defender and he crossed for Calderon to convert with a diving header into a gaping net.

Although 2-0 is, of course, better than 1-0, it can be a strangely dangerous lead. Teams can easily slip into a comfort zone which is difficult to get out of even if the opposition score.

That crumb of comfort for the hosts was almost given credibility soon after the restart when Nicky Platt sidefooted inches wide with Brezovan beaten.

It was also a let-off for Albion, a reminder that the game was not quite up as far as their rivals were concerned.

Slackness crept into Albion’s play and they should have been punished midway through the second half when FC United were awarded a penalty.

Ben Deegan skipped past Greer and was clipped inside the box by Calderon only for Jake Cottrell to spurn the spot-kick by striking Brezovan’s left-hand post.

Just as well that FC United are even worse at penalties than Albion. Incredibly, it was their sixth failure in a row.

Albion made them pay a heavy price in the closing stages. Bennett, having set up the first two goals, slotted the third himself from a slide-rule pass by Sandaza.

Sparrow added the fourth, and his fifth of the season, with a simple tap-in after good work by substitutes Jamie Smith and Gary Hart.