A determined effort from the much-maligned defence of West Brom earned Tony Mowbray`s men a first win at the Riverside in 52 years.
Much like last weekend, the Albion pre-match plan was thrown into disarray by an injury – this time after kick-off, when 40 seconds in Kim Do-Heon, with no opposition players within yards, turned and collapsed on the turf for what looked like a painful ligament injury that needed 5 minutes to get him stretchered off. MacDonald was his replacement.
The woodwork saw most of the action in the first half, with Alves rattling the bar and towering centre-back Jonas Olssen having a header palmed onto the post by Ross Turnbull. Alves had several good chances to break the deadlock but was wasteful in front of goal – at half time Middlesbrough should have been ahead through at least one of his efforts. MacDonald, despite one curling shot the missed on the right had made a negligible impact and so was substituted for Ishmael Miller at half-time.
The substitution paid dividends right away, with Jonathan Greening swinging a dangerous corner into the box on 53 minutes. Turnbull, under pressure from Olssen, made a very poor punch that Miller picked up and turned back into the box – Olssen on hand to fire in via Mido from six yards, and wheel away with jubilation at his first goal in the stripes.
From then on Boro were a team spurred on, and the Albion had the proverbial kitchen sink thrown at them. Enter Scott Carson, who produced a string of truly top-class saves to keep out everything the smogmonster`s could muster. Morrison played his part too – although overall his performance was poor, presumably putting himself under too much pressure in his first match back at his old ground, he made two vital goal-line clearances wither side of Olssen`s decisive strike.
In the last five minutes Carson was at his imperious best, flying low to keep out an Alves free-kick then holding a strong header from David Wheater moments later. Hitting Middlesbrough on the counter, the Albion, despite being second best for most of the afternoon, could have doubled and even trebled the deficit when Miller missed several late chances. The misses did not prove costly, and Albion held on to earn their first away win since Martin Albrechsten scored at the JJB in January 2006.
For the first time this season we were a distinct second best – which makes coming away with the win all the more satisfying. Away from home we have not conceded in 266 minutes since Samir Nasri sucker-punched us on day one. Today, Donk debuted, and after a shaky start grew in stature. A thoroughly good team effort and a hugely satisfying three points.
Scott Carson 9
Magnificent. Grows and grows, and there’s deserved clamour about a potential recall to the England fold next week. 3 top saves stand out but made many more throughout the afternoon.
Gianni Zuiverloon 8
Another accomplished performance from the young Dutchman – kept Downing subdued all match much like he did to Young last weekend. Technically gifted and a very bright prospect.
Ryan Donk 7
Allowed Alves far too much space early on, but grew in confidence as the game progressed (ably marshalled by Robinson) and at full-time looked much more comfortable. An encouraging debut.
Jonas Olssen 8
Hit the post before he scored – is a big presence at the other end for set pieces and could cause trouble for other teams all season. Has settled remarkably, and whilst there is the odd blunder plays the ball out of defence in a very cultured manner. Could be a snip at 800K.
Paul Robinson 7
Unspectacular but notable for his excellent communication. Made sure that both of the new centre backs were alert, ready and in the right places. Great marshalling.
Borja Valero 7
Continuing to show signs of price-tag justification. Very rarely loses possession and has a great eye for a pass. Another player adapting to English life at a very acceptable rate.
James Morrison 6
Clearly had huge expectations of himself returning to his old club; tried to hard as a result. Two super goal-line clearances, made way for Cech with 13 minutes left as we tightened up.
Bob Koren 6
See any previous match report (i.e. Did the job)
Jonno Greening 7
Made more of playing at his old stomping ground than Morrison – controlled the tempo for parts of the match in midfield, but little impact made on the game.
Kim Do-Heon N/A
Didn`t have a touch before suffering a suspected cruciate ligament injury minutes in. Replaced by MacDonald, fingers crossed the injury isn’t serious.
Roman Bednar 8
Played the lone striker role well again, and fitted well into the 4-4-2 with the introduction of Miller in the second half. Never stops running.
Sherjill MacDonald 4
One to forget from Shergar. Played nearly the whole first half with virtually nought to show for it. Came off for Miller.
Ish Miller 5
The line is ever so thin. Could have helped himself to two late on (possibly three) but didn’t manage to get any on target. That said, muscled Wheater off the ball (no mean feat) and was lively. Desperately needs a goal (which will come).
13 minutes for our utility sub to keep things tidy. Job done Marek.
Tony Mowbray 8
Not many managers leave ‘Boro with three points. Was particularly impressed with his unsentimental pre- & post-match comments on his return to a club where he earned legendary status as a player.
Turnbull, Hoyte, Huth, Wheater, Taylor, Aliadiere (Adam Johnson 60), O’Neil, Shawky (Digard 60), Downing, Alves, Mido.
Subs Not Used: Jones, Riggott, Emnes, Bennett, Walker
West Brom (4-5-1)
Carson, Zuiverloon, Donk, Olsson, Robinson, Borja Valero, Morrison (Cech 76), Koren, Greening, Kim (MacDonald 4), Bednar, MacDonald (Miller 46).
Subs Not Used: Kiely, Barnett, Moore, Pele.
Chris Foy (Merseyside)