West Brom suffered more clinical lapses in concentration in their own box to succumb 2-1 to a Newcastle side who had only won one game prior to this, way back in August.
Mowbray stuck with the 4-5-1 he has employed away from home, Bednar continuing the lone gunman role up front, with a midfield of Brunt, Valero, Greening, Morrison & Koren. Despite recent capitulations against Manchester United and Hull City, the defence was unchanged with Donk and Olsson in the middle and Robinson & Zuiverloon running the flanks. The most notable inclusion in the black and white striped team was Joey Barton, who as expected came into the starting line-up for the first time in six months following a spell in prison and an FA ban.
Newcastle began the match with all the initiative, and only timely interceptions from Olsson kept them out; however, just 8 minutes into the match Ryan Donk revealed his inexperience by making a needless, clumsy challenge on Shola Ameobi inside the box. Joey Barton, in a wave of farcically inflated hype, grabbed the ball and with Carson unusually positioned slotted the penalty away. The signs were not good.
The Albion proceeded to show off the slick passing that has attracted many plaudits when they win; however for all the possession we enjoyed the only clear cut chance fell to James Morrison, which Given kept out with his feet. The ball seemed to be dropping to Morrison in several good positions throughout the first half – he demanded it from his team-mates and was as industrious as ever, however his use of the ball, especially when compared to cultured midfield partner Valero, was often found wanting.
With the Albion seeming to have the initiative they were posed the seemingly simple task of ensuring Newcastle did not double the deficit before half time. Unfortunately, an incisive run and useful cross by Habib Beye was met by the impressive Martins, who, with an awfully static back-line, had a free header that took a nick of Zuiverloon and gave Newcastle a healthy buffer on the 43rd minute.
The first ten minutes of the second half yielded little, but when Mowbray shifted the tactics to a 4-4-2, giving Miller a chance in place of the ineffectual Brunt, the Baggies suddenly offered something extra up front. Miller`s power exposed the magpies defence on several occasions, and ten minutes after his introduction he sprinted on to a perfectly executed Bob Koren through ball, rounded Given on the edge of the box and tucked away his first goal of the season. Miller almost bagged a brace not long after that, but his quick reaction to a ricocheted free kick was parried away by Given.
Newcastle held out, condemning the Albion to their third straight defeat and feelings of ill-ease throughout the travelling support. The back-to-back one nil victories now feel like an age ago and the previous criticisms of a lack of firepower have returned once more. However, having said in previous reports Miller was in need of a goal, let us hope his effort in this game (which was thoroughly deserved) spurs him on to a hatful – although I for one doubt whether he is capable of repeating this sort of form in front of an expectant home crowd.
The weekend game against Blackburn now becomes a match it is near essential to get something from – two teams meeting who are low on confidence and eager to pull away from the wrong end of the table. Fingers crossed.
Given, Beye, Taylor, Coloccini, Jose Enrique, Duff, Guthrie, Barton, Gutierrez (Geremi 70), Martins (Xisco 77), Ameobi (Carroll 90).
Subs Not Used: Harper, Bassong, N’Zogbia, Edgar
West Brom (4-5-1)
Carson, Zuiverloon, Donk, Olsson, Robinson, Koren, Morrison, Brunt (Miller 54), Borja Valero, Greening, Bednar (Moore 67).
Subs Not Used: Kiely, Hoefkens, Cech, MacDonald, Pele
Mike Dean (Wirral)