Date: 31st December 2007 at 2:43am
Written by:

WEST Bromwich Albion go into 2008 three points clear at the top of the Championship after another free-scoring display at The Hawthorns.

This time it was Scunthorpe United who felt the full force of the Albion goal machine as the home side served up a tasty Christmas feast for the fans, making it 13 goals in their last three home games to only three conceded.

Manager Tony Mowbray likened it afterwards to a mini goal-of-the-season competition, such was the quality of all five strikes.

Evergreen striker Kevin Phillips added another two notches to his scoring belt with his 14th and 15th goals of the season to date, a phenomenal return from just 14 starts.

The win took Albion`s goals tally for the season to date to 56, the highest in any of the four divisions. Their goal difference of 27 is again the best in any division.

And this in a division that remains tight and where only 11 points separate second-placed Watford from Southampton in 14th.

Mowbray surprised everyone by announcing an unchanged team after hinting earlier in the week that he was contemplating changes ahead of the trip to Ipswich on New Year`s Day.

Clearly the Iron were working to a defensive game plan and for half an hour they soaked up the pressure, living dangerously on several occasions and only rarely having the confidence to venture beyond the halfway line.

It was after one such incursion that they fell behind as the ball was fed forward quickly to James Morrison, whose crossfield pass was perfectly weighted and flighted for Phillips to send a looping volley over former Baggies keeper Joe Murphy.

Scunthorpe manager Nigel Adkins was furious that the 35th minute goal was allowed to stand, believing that the former England striker was offside and was dismissed to the stands by referee Neil Swarbrick after protesting too vociferously to the fourth official.

The game was effectively over as a contest barely ten minutes later when the Iron were reduced to ten men when Marcus Williams was dismissed for a professional foul on Zoltan Gera.

Robert Koren completed an eventful final ten minutes of the first half when he volleyed home a Carl Heofkens cross at the second attempt after Murphy had beaten out the Slovenian international`s first shot.

With Ishmael Miller on for Roman Bednar, the Baggies tore into shell-shocked Scunthorpe in the second half and within seven minutes Phillips made it 3-0 with a delicate chip that floated perfectly just under the crossbar after Murphy had raced off his line to intercept Morrison`s surging run into the penalty area.

Phillips was given a wonderful opportunity to complete his hat trick in the 58th minute when Miller was upended by a combination of the busy Murphy and defender Kelly Youga.

Albion`s leading scorer placed his penalty to the left of the keeper, but it lacked pace and Murphy, correctly guessing the right way to dive, was able to palm it away.

Phillips gave way to Craig Beattie soon afterwards but there was no let up for Scunthorpe, who conceded a fourth goal after 77 minutes as Gera cut in from the left and unleashed a right-footed thunderbolt of a shot from just outside the area that fairly rocketed past Murphy.

Beattie made the final contribution to a highly-entertaining afternoon when he produced an almost carbon copy of his sublime winner at Leicester three weeks, curling a right-footed shot beyond Murphy`s reach from the left-hand corner of the penalty area.