West Brom’s promotion credentials were on display as they showed they can win ugly – Joseph Chapman
Albion are top of the league once more.
Hal Robson-Kanu, super sub, poked home from close range to ensure the Baggies sealed a hard fought 1-0 win over a Middlesbrough side who gave their flying visitors plenty to think about.
Albion really began to build up a head of steam after the hour mark and, aided by the introductions of Robson-Kanu and Kyle Edwards, they nicked it when the Welshman knocked the ball over the line from close range – after more excellent work from Grady Diangana.
Here are the big talking points as the Baggies turn their attentions to Barnsley.
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- Digging in – Bilic happy to grind out win – READ
- Boro boss has simple message for Baggies – READ
- Why rivals fans are all Tone deaf – READ
- Fans getting excited after Boro success – READ
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Albion can’t win every game 4-2, with scintillating football from the first until the last minute; there are going to be matches over the course of the campaign when you simply have to get the job done.
This was a case in point. Albion didn’t blow Boro away in the same fashion in which Cardiff, Huddersfield, QPR and Blackburn have been dispatched of late.
They were tight at the back, moved the ball a lot better in the second period after some words from Slaven Bilic, and managed to build up a head of steam. The goal when it finally arrived, was due, but won’t be a goal of the season contender.
In many ways, this victory was as satisfying as those that had gone before, where the Baggies had bagged a bagful, if not more so.
Ugly wins like this go a long way and show that Albion have a steely side, too.
The bottom line is that Albion would’ve been chasing the game had it not been for Sam Johnstone.
There was the ‘Hollywood’ save to deny Paddy McNair from distance, and the smart reaction stop to prevent Britt Assombalonga from handing Boro the lead from close range.
Then Johnstone kept George Saville bay on two separate occasions in the second half, one as Boro broke from an Albion corner and another from inside the area when it appeared for all the world as though the ex Wolves midfielder was going to find the net.
He’s had his critics this term, no doubt about it, and on more than one occasion he’s deserved said criticism.
Johnstone has also, though, been quite brilliant more than once and ensured Albion have earned points in matches beyond the Riverside this past weekend.
BirminghamLive’s man of the match, the Baggies keeper’s contribution mustn’t be overlooked here.
Ahmed Hegazi’s cameo can be summed up quite succinctly.
He was introduced for captain Jake Livermore in the 92nd minute, and by the end of the 93rd he was marshalling the Albion back-line to defend a dangerous free kick he’d rather needlessly conceded.
Thankfully Lewis Wing put said set-piece into the stand and Albion escaped, but although Hegazi’s appearance was most welcome – he received a loud cheer from the travelling supporters as he took to the field – that moment in which he scythed down Marcus Browne perhaps showed how much he still needs to get up to speed with things.
A friendly match for Egypt against Botswana is one thing, but the rough and tumble of the Championship is quite another.
At any rate, it’s difficult to see where Hegazi’s opening is just now – Kyle Bartley and Semi Ajayi were both very assured once again.
WHAT A WEEK
An extension to his contract, his 100th appearance for Albion and the winning goal in the closing stages of the game.
It’s not been a bad week for Hal Robson-Kanu, who committed his future to the club this week.
The Welshman agreed an extra year at The Hawthorns which means he’ll be with Albion for a fifth season, and to top things off he was in the right place at the right time to prod home from close range and send the Albion fans who’d embarked on the lengthy journey north into raptures.
Robson-Kanu understands he won’t start every week, but his cameos from the bench this term have been important; at Fulham he made a big impact as Albion snatched a point, and he did likewise as they left QPR victorious.
Here, he was the hero himself with his first goal of the season and his tenth in Albion colours. It rounded off a very positive week on a personal level.