One of the best things about the Championship is that you rarely have to wait long until the next match and, after a disappointing defeat, you quickly have the opportunity to get back to winning ways. So far this season, Valérien Ismaël’s team have reacted positively to a defeat by winning the next game and they need to do so again on Wednesday evening as Hull City visit the Hawthorns.
Grant McCann’s team have endured a difficult start to the season and sit third bottom of the table with just nine points from their opening fifteen games and on a run of four straight defeats. They have found the net just nine times this season – only Norwich City have scored fewer league goals this season in all four divisions – and have lost ten matches this season – no league team has lost more.
On paper, therefore, it should be a straightforward home win but things are rarely straightforward in the Championship. Hull will undoubtedly set up to frustrate and the Baggies have struggled to break down such teams this season, although the victory over Bristol City last month was hugely encouraging.
Ismaël has some selection decisions to make, not least a decision on who to play at right wing back as Darnell Furlong will serve a one game suspension following his red card at Craven Cottage. It is one position where there is no immediate senior alternative but Ismaël has reportedly been impressed with both Taylor Gardner-Hickman and Ethan Ingram who have both played there for the U23s. Given the opposition, it could be the perfect time to blood one of the youngsters, but he may opt for a more experienced player. Matt Phillips has played there before and Jayson Molumby is another potential option – the Irishman filled in there after Furlong was dismissed on Saturday.
Molumby’s absence from the starting line up at Fulham was the subject of much debate on social media with the decision to bring back Jake Livermore much criticised. I was less concerned by the decision to recall the skipper than by Val’s suggestion that he was being recalled because he was the skipper – there is, perhaps, another interpretation in that he is captain because Ismaël feels he is an important player in his system and, captain or not, he is a first choice.
There is no doubt that Livermore has huge experience and he is still a very good player, albeit the wrong side of 30. He shares that with Robert Snodgrass, of course, and perhaps that combination rather than each individual player was more of an issue in the selection for the Fulham match. WIth Ismaël wedded to a midfield two that will often be outnumbered, playing two over-30s was always going to be a risk.
Snodgrass, of course, did not have a particularly good day and it made it very easy to criticise his selection over Molumby in hindsight. Personally, I think that the Scotsman may have gotten the nod because of his set piece delivery which, in the absence of Mowatt, is probably the best in the club, but the lack of legs in the middle of the park was evidently issue against a quality midfield like Fulham’s.
Nevertheless, as I said in my match report, I don’t believe there was a huge amount between the sides despite the result.
Against Hull, I’m sure we will see Livermore in the side once again, but who will be alongside him is much less clear. Mowatt might be fit enough but I have a feeling we may not see him again until after the international break given the options available. I also don’t think that Ismaël is the sort to drop a player because of one bad game – if Molumby does play in the middle, it will be because the Frenchman feels he is the right man for this match. Obviously, it could be that he uses the Irishman as Furlong’s stand in leaving Snodgrass in the middle.
Up front, I do think Grady Diangana deserves a start – he offers a trickiness that none of the other forward players can match, and that can be particularly useful in opening up a stubborn defence. At Fulham, Jordan Hugill failed to capitalise on his decent display against Bristol City and, while he can be very effective in holding up the ball and bringing others into the game, his level of consistency leaves much to be desired. Callum Robinson hasn’t managed to regain his early season form in recent weeks and I’d be tempted to start Phillips through the middle with Diangana and Grant either side, but who knows what Big Val will do.
With two thirds of the season still to go, we are nowhere near “must win” territory just yet, but Hull City are the sort of opponents that a promotion-chasing side should be dispatching fairly comfortably. However, as I said earlier, there is nothing straightforward in the Championship and I’ll be happy with three points however they come.
Albion have not lost at home to Hull City since October 2008, which was the first ever meeting between the sides in the top flight. Both sides had been promoted the season before but the Tigers were adapting much better to life in the Premier League and won 3-0 thanks to goals from Marlon King, Kamil Zayatte and Geovanni – unsurprisingly, that is City’s biggest ever win at the Hawthorns.
The next meeting at the Shrine in December 2013 finished 1-1 but the Baggies have won all five of their home matches against Hull City since then by an aggregate score of 14-7.
The Throstles record victory over Hull at the Hawthorns came back in April 1930 when Jimmy Cookson had not yet handed over the number nine shirt permanently to W. G. Richardson and scored four of the hosts’ seven goals that day, with a Tommy Glidden brace and a goal from Harry Boston completing the 7-1 rout that was decisive in sending the visitors down on goal difference come the end of the season.
The only other time that the Baggies have scored four or more goals against the Tigers was the last meeting between the sides in July 2020 when the visitors twice equalised after goals from Charlie Austin and Ahmed Hegazi before former Hull winger, Kamil Grosicki, scored his only Albion goal against his old club to make it 3-2. Grady Diangana added a fourth to secure the points with 14 minutes left.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
5 Jul 2020 – League Championship
West Brom 4 (Austin, Hegazi, Grosicki, Diangana)
Hull City 2 (Stewart, Wilks)
Albion’s Record against Hull City
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