West Brom recorded their biggest league win so far this season, and did the ‘double’ over the club where our manager made his name as a player for the first time in over 80 years. Those present at the Hawthorns witnessed a superb game of football that could finished with almost any score line.
New-boy Fortune was thrust into the attack in place of the suspended Bednar to partner Simpson up front, while the still injured Morrison meant a start for Chris Brunt. The back line was a very makeshift affair, with both Ryan Donk and Carl Hoefkens being given rare opportunities to impress due to injuries to Olssen and Zuiverloon respectively.
The game could not have started much better for the Baggies, with Chris Brunt receiving the ball despite looking several yards offside thanks to a deflection from a Boro player, then hitting a wickedly deflected shot past a helpless Ross Turnbull. The experience of defending a lead is not something that the Albion have to much of this season though, and the rest of the first half was a shaky affair, with Carson often tested and Donk having to really put himself about.
Afonso Alves in particular was a constant menace, nearly equalising seconds after the goal and having two other reasonable efforts during the half. With an injury to Barnett in the 39th minute, who made way for Pele, even the most optimistic fans predicted the spoils to be shared with an increasingly dangerous looking Boro side. Middlesbrough too were forced into a re-jig at the back, with Chris Riggott having to make way.
However, those worries were dispelled when a quarter of an hour into the second half, Bob Koren, in his best ever game in the stripes, hit a shot that was deflected in by Fortune for a debut goal. Boro were then down to ten men after Digard went recklessly over the ball, and five minutes after that Koren was able to seal an emphatic victory when Chris Brunt’s delightful cross found him with space and time to tuck the ball away for a much deserved goal.
After that Boro were a shambles, and although the Albion could not find the fourth goal that would have taken them above Boro in the league, they nevertheless found themselves temporarily off the bottom and very much in the survival hunt.
Scott Carson 8
Tested often but always came up trumps. Kicks well, great stopper and is increasingly vocal to marshal his young defence. Has a long way to go but his star still burns bright.
Carl Hoefkens 6
Ably deputised for the Dutchman who has himself been poor on recent outings, but still a championship player for all his effort.
Leon Barnett 6
Did little wrong until he was taken off on 40 minutes, to the relief of several people in the crowd!
Ryan Donk 9
Is this the same player who turned out for us earlier in the season? An outstanding defensive performance, who won every header and was sensible throughout. More of the same, please!
Paul Robinson 7
Got skinned several times and lucky to be in the team in front of Cech, but gives a bit of steel to the back line that is missing when Olssen is not there.
Chris Brunt 8
Superb. Showed his class with cross delivery, got the ball rolling with a goal. Gives us so much more width when he plays, and terrorised the Boro defence, hard as it may be to believe. Even chased back today. What an enigma.
Jonathan Greening 8
Cleaned up well in front of our box and passed the ball with good vision against his previous employers.
Borja Valero 6
Still finding his feet, which is not soon enough for many fans, but possessed of touch and vision that many of our lot can only dream of.
Bob Koren 9
Take a bow Kozzler. I’ve been critical in the past but today the Slovenian put in an all action display, making and scoring goals, niggling the opposition and winning possession and thoroughly impressing with bags of end product to match his undoubted industry.
Marc-Antoine Fortuné 8
Very encouraging debut for a player most fans, me included, had never heard of prior to last week. Obviously struggled to make a connection with Simpson in the first half but came on leaps and bounds in the second, was strong, incisive and ran into space well. Got a lucky goal on his debut, hopefully the first of many.
Jay Simpson 8
Bags of natural ability, reminds me of Miller a great deal but has a little something extra, gets into great positions and is a step ahead of most of the other guys in the stripes. Still raw but huge potential.
For a player to sit on the bench for almost years without a sniff of the game then be thrust into a relegation match like this, and command the air and tackle like he did he must be commended. Fantastic professional.
Luke Moore 5
Many seem to think his time with us is over. A lack of effort at Villa and now relegated to at least third in the pecking order, it is hard to disagree.
Did what was asked of him, ran about and gave options for the midfield to pass to but no real impact.
Tony Mowbray 9
The efforts of Brunt, Donk and Pele are testament to what Mogga can do.
West Brom (4-4-2)
Carson, Hoefkens, Barnett (Pele 39), Donk, Robinson, Borja Valero, Greening, Brunt, Koren, Simpson (Moore 77), Fortune (Beattie 69).
Subs Not Used: Kiely, Cech, Kim, Filipe Teixeira.
Turnbull, McMahon (Bates 70), Wheater, Riggott (Huth 36), Taylor, O’Neil (Mido 57), Digard, Shawky, Downing, Sanli, Alves.
Subs Not Used: Jones, Emnes, Adam Johnson, Bennett.
Mark Halsey (Lancashire)