Having slipped up at Wigan on Wednesday, Slaven Bilić takes his team to St Andrew’s on Saturday lunchtime looking to kick off another run of victories, or at least extend an eleven match unbeaten run.
After four games of playing catch up, the Baggies play before Leeds United this weekend and will hopefully move back to the top of the table for a few hours at least after the Whites’ seventh successive victory but them on top on goal difference, albeit by a solitary goal.
The match at the DW Stadium was ostensibly a forgettable one, but it was unusual for a number of reasons. The performances of both teams relative to their recent form were, perhaps, extraordinary, and Albion were a little fortunate to escape with a point. Furthermore, both goals were unusual. Johnstone’s save to tip Sam Morsy’s shot onto the post was excellent, but the cruelest of luck saw the ball rebound onto his back and into the net, albeit it was a lead that the hosts deserved. The Baggies equaliser was equally bizarre as Latics ‘keeper, Jamie Jones, turned his back on play to take a drink as Kal Naismith played the ball to him. Apparently, unaware that it was a back pass, he picked it up on the six yard line thereby awarding the visitors an indirect free kick. In fairness, it was superbly worked by Livermore and Austin – we’ve seen plenty of such opportunities go begging – and Albion would have been pleased to leave Lancashire with their unbeaten run intact.
Much could be made of Bilić’s decision to rest Pereira, Diangana and Robson-Kanu, Albion’s most effective attacking players in recent weeks, but it’s not as if the replacements were bad players, or indeed that they were the only ones below par – it was a collective drop in intensity and quality across the entire team.
It could be argued that keeping the same team would have had more of a chance of maintaining the momentum, but with games coming thick and fast over the festive period, Slav was going to have to make use of his squad to keep the players fresh. The trips to Wigan and, perhaps, Barnsley, could be considered the easiest fixtures in that period and, therefore, the ones where the team could cope with resting one or two. Three was perhaps too many in hindsight, but I don’t think any of us could have foreseen the complete drop off in performance following the stunning victory over Swansea at the weekend.
I think it’s safe to assume that those three will be back in the starting line up for the match against Birmingham City on Saturday, and I’m sure there will be no complacency despite their recent form.
Despite just winning one of their one of their last seven games, City confirmed the appointment of Pep Clotet as head coach with the Spaniard having been operating as the interim boss since Garry Monk was sacked in June. Having been within a point or two of the play-off positions a couple of months ago, Blues have now slipped down to 15th following a 2-0 home defeat by QPR on Wednesday. They remain only six points off sixth in what is a congested mid-table, and an apparently comfortable eleven points above the bottom three, but their recent form must be a concern.
Having said that, the R’s became the first visiting team to score more than one goal at St Andrew’s this season on Wednesday evening, although Blues have managed just eleven goals in their ten games at home – only four sides in the Championship have scored fewer on their own turf.
The Baggies will be favourites, as they were on Wednesday night, but they will need to play much better if they are to do what Jeremy Corbyn couldn’t, defeat the Blues.
On Easter Monday in April 1960, Birmingham City welcomed West Bromwich Albion to St Andrew’s, no doubt with some trepidation. Not only were City battling against relegation from Division One while the Baggies were riding high in fifth, but Albion had inflicted a 6-0 drubbing on the Blues on their last visit to Small Heath the previous season.
Jimmy Campbell, who had scored a brace in that match, had moved on to Portsmouth, but Albion’s other goalscorers, David Burnside, Derek Kevan and Ronnie Allen, were all on the pitch as they sought to repeat that result.
The hosts, however, had other ideas and a repeat scoreline was soon put out of reach as they opened the scoring after just four minutes when Johnny Gordon converted Gordon Astall’s corner. It was a fairly even contest in the early exchanges, and the visitors were soon back on level terms when Hogg and Kevan combined to present the ball for Ronnie Allen to score.
The Baggies slowly started to exert their dominance, however, and another cross by Hogg was converted by Allen at the second attempt to put the visitors 2-1 ahead. That lead was extended before the break when Joe Kennedy broke through the middle and fed the ball to Alec Jackson who made it 3-1.
In the second half, it was all Albion and Derek Kevan started to take charge of proceedings. It was he who scored the visitors’ fourth goal just before the hour mark, and that was the trigger for a complete capitulation from the home side. The Tank scored twice more to complete a hat trick in a little more than half an hour, while Allen also completed his treble from the penalty spot after Bobby Robson had been fouled.
The scoreline may have been different, but it was another six goal margin of victory for the Baggies with the final score 7-1. It seems at odds that, when the teams met at the Hawthorns the following day, they played out a rather tame 1-1 draw with Kevan and Gordon both on the scoresheet again.
Gordon Clark’s Albion would would ultimately finish in 4th place while City, managed by Pat Beasley, would just escape relegation finishing 19th thanks to a final day 1-0 win over Blackburn Rovers.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
29 Mar 2019 – League Championship
West Brom 3 (Gayle, Rodriguez (pen), Livermore)
Birmingham City 2 (G. Gardner, Jutkiewicz)
Last meeting at Birmingham City
14 Sep 2018 – League Championship
Birmingham City 1 (Jota)
West Brom 1 (Phillips)
Last win at Birmingham City
24 Jan 2015 – FA Cup 4th Round
Birmingham City 1 (Grounds)
West Brom 2 (Anichebe (2))
Albion’s Record against Birmingham City