Roman Bednar scored the only goal at the Hawthorns to give West Brom their third win in four and send them, albeit temporarily, into the heady heights of seventh in the Barclays Premier League.
With the Albion midfield further depleted due to the injury to Kim sustained at the Riverside, Mowbray opted to employ a 4-4-2, with Ishmael Miller partnering Bednar up front. The rest of the team remained unchanged, with Ryan Donk making his second start in the stripes partnering the goal hero of last week, Jonas Olssen, at centre back. For Fulham, former Albion favourite Zoltan Gera made his first return to the Hawthorns since leaving us for nothing in the summer; and in stark contrast to the welcome received by Curtis Davies was warmly applauded before kick-off. On paper, the home game against Fulham would be our most certain three-point banker of the season; playing a team with dreadful away from who had not won in two, shorn of their main striking threat through suspension and without a win in three previous visits to B71.
The first half was a scrappy affair, and whilst both teams created chances, neither side could gain any sort of foothold. Bullard had a free kick that scraped the bar, whilst Gera looked the liveliest for the visitors and should have put an effort on target when firing in from an inside left position on the half hour, as it was his shot sailed inches the wrong side of the post. Bednar too had chances, but for all his endeavour his close control was lacking and he hit two shots tamely at Schwarzer after giving himself room in which to manoeuvre.
Mowbray made no changes, but the Albion came out after the interval a changed side. A corner by Jonathan Greening, one of his first of the day to find a man in the right colours, was headed firmly against the post by Ryan Donk. From then on the classy Valero took over set-piece duties; the impact was near immediate when a corner ping-ponged between Miller, Donk and Morrison only to be averted from the latter by Danny Murphy with Schwarzer nowhere to be seen.
On the hour, Valero had another corner from the left, and this time the outcome was in the Baggies favour. Donk won the ball again and his quick feet found Bednar right in front of goal, who forced the ball home from a few yards out. This made three so far for Bednar this season – this the first from open play. The Baggies had to work hard to ensure that the lead was not short-lived; Bullard influential in creating a chance for both Murphy and Dempsey shortly after the goal. However, after the Albion weathered the storm they looked to extend the advantage, and dominated the exchanges at the end. Roman Bednar struck a sweet shot from 30 yards which rasped off the top of the crossbar, and Fulham created almost nothing in the last 15 minutes.
In reference to the title, this was the 7th game of the new season, which have now yielded 10 points, 7 goals scored, 7 conceded, and until Nemanja Vidic fouled Jason Brown for the first Manchester United goal, were 7th in the league table. This represents not only our best start to a Premiership season, but also our best start to a season in the English top division in 25 years. Although our next match, in a fortnight against the aforementioned Manchester United, will probably bring us down to earth, credit must be given to Jeremy Peace, Tony Mowbray and the players for getting points on the board this early – we are only a point behind the pitiful haul Derby managed in last season`s entirety, a point above the billionaires from the blue half of Manchester, and crucially two and a half times as many points as the sloggers from Stoke. Early days indeed, but plenty of reasons to be cheerful, and this victory, on the back of another, gives us good cause for confidence during the international break.
Squad wise, whilst Miller continues to toil to no great effect, and Moore has yet to justify any percentage of his transfer fee, at the back we look stronger than I can ever remember, with our two full-backs excelling in nearly every match, and the very fresh partnership of our young centre backs so far doing the business. Carson moves closer to the sublime with every match and is a fine steward of the goal. Valero is beginning to look the part of a record purchase; his performance today oozed with class and every touch had a whiff of opportunity about it, whilst around him Greening, Koren and Morrison stamped their authority on the midfield. Bednar`s sheer work rate deserves a goal a game, but this is not to say he does not possess a good touch, great holding up ability and a clinical finish. Going back to the title, it was hard not to join in on the bandwagon of Roman conquering peppered across the press. Top job Albion, more of the same please.
Scott Carson 8
Very solid performance again, and bar one fumble that could have ended disastrously was a barrier between the posts. Visibly growing in confidence with each match – and the back-to-back clean sheets give him every reason to.
Gianni Zuiverloon 9
A real bargain and a top discovery. Continued his high performances in front of fans who are beginning to adore him. Finest moment came at the death when he made a tackle that prevented a Fulham shot on goal.
Ryan Donk 8
The second part of the Dutch connection gave another hugely encouraging performance in his second game in the stripes. Like Olssen, has the potential to be a menace in the opposition box (won many good headers, including one pivotal to the goal) as well as keeping things tight in ours.
Jonas Olssen 8
Gave nothing away, a presence in both boxes, looks to have become our first choice centre back despite only being here a month.
Paul Robinson 8
The final ingredient of a very successful day at the office for the Albion defense – didn’t put a foot wrong.
James Morrison 7
Effective part of the midfield unit. Unspectacular, but did the job. Was sacrificed with ten minutes remaining for Kim
Robert Koren 7
See above (less the sacrificed part).
Jonathan Greening 7
Part of the triumvirate with RK & JM that did the hard work in the midfield, doing the jobs that normally go unnoticed. Set pieces often went astray, the responsibility for which passed to Valero early in the second half.
Borja Valero 9
Ran Zuiverloon very close for the star man. Possesses exquisite vision and a range of passing. As for his touch, a fellow fan said he caresses the ball like it’s Jenna Jameson in a Jacuzzi. Took over set-piece duty from Jonno and the instant increase in their quality was evident.
Ishmael Miller 5
Confidence just is not there, was largely ineffectual and replaced by Luke Moore just after the hour.
Roman Bednar 8
Much more of a soldier than an artist, Bednar runs all day and never stops trying. Got his third goal of the season, and all round play was good too. A great asset to the team and his delight was evident in his MOTD interview.
Luke Moore 6
Was an improvement on Miller, put himself about and created a couple of chances for himself. Yet to find form, but Moore possesses that unquantifiable ingredient that suggests he could be a class footballer.
Marek Cech N/A
It speaks volumes about the current position of the club that we can bring on players of this quality to tighten up leads and do a job.
Tony Mowbray – tinkered at half time which paid dividends on the pitch. Great management in getting such assurance from the ‘new-boys’ of the team. Brilliant start to life in the Premiership for our esteemed leader.
West Brom (4-4-2)
Carson, Zuiverloon, Donk, Olsson, Robinson, Morrison (Cech 79), Koren, Greening, Borja Valero, Miller (Moore 64), Bednar.
Subs Not Used: Kiely, Hoefkens, Barnett, MacDonald, Pele
Schwarzer, Pantsil (Stoor 82), Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky, Davies, Bullard, Murphy (Andreasen 87), Gera, Zamora (Ki-Hyeon 71), Dempsey.
Subs Not Used: Zuberbuhler, Nevland, Kallio, Baird
Phil Dowd (Staffordshire)