Steve Bruce’s team welcome runaway leaders, Fulham, to the Hawthorns on Tuesday evening looking to build on the moderately encouraging results achieved in their last two matches, but knowing that it will take an almost miraculous run in to secure a play-off spot.
When these two clubs met at Craven Cottage in October in round 15 of the Championship season, it was a clash between two clubs expecting to be in the automatic promotion hunt for the remainder of the season. The hosts were in second place, five points behind leaders Bournemouth, and just a point ahead of third-placed Albion. The 3-0 home win was harsh on the Baggies who were the victim of a couple of poor refereeing decisions, but given the subsequent form of the two sides, it was perhaps a precursor of what was to come. The Cottagers have picked up 44 points from their 20 games since that meeting, five more than any other Championship side in the same period, while Albion have collected just 22 points from 21 games which would put them 18th in the table had the season started on Halloween.
On paper, this should be the toughest test that the Baggies will face in the remainder of the season. Not only are Marco Silva’s side twelve points clear at the top of the table, they are also on an eleven match unbeaten run away from home in the league having last lost on their travels at Coventry in early October.
Fulham were held to a draw at Barnsley on Saturday, the first time they have failed to win an away league game in this calendar year. They had previously only dropped points at home in 2022, and they haven’t failed to win successive league games since they drew at Luton and were beaten by Bristol City at the Cottage just before Christmas.
While the opponents are on a fantastic run of form, Albion should have gained some confidence from their last two games. The victory at Hull was obviously key, but to come from two goals down against Huddersfield was, perhaps, the bigger achievement. It was only the sixth time this season that the Baggies have earned points after conceding the first goal and the first occasion since the opening game of 2022 when they came from a goal down at home to Cardiff City to secure the draw.
There have been encouraging signs in both of the last two games, although against the Terriers, there were times when it looked as if the players were retreating into their shells once again. That they managed to recover is a positive sign, but they will need to be mentally tough against Fulham if they are to get anything. Marco Silva’s side have a habit of destroying sides if they get an early lead having scored four or more goals on no fewer than ten occasions this season. Six of those have come on the road including 7-0 wins at Blackburn Rovers and Reading and a 5-1 win at Swansea City earlier this month.
Steve Bruce seems likely to persist with the same starting eleven, although it was Andy Carroll’s introduction from the bench that turned the game on Friday. The former Liverpool man scored the equaliser and also secured that point when he cleared the ball off the line in stoppage time – it may be harsh to keep him on the bench, but I feel that his lack of mobility makes him a better choice as an option to bring on when things need changing.
I also think that maintaining a consistent line up can help to build confidence when that team is getting results. Robinson, probably the only player whose position is at risk, has been inconsistent all season, and within both of the last two matches. He can be a match winner and he and Grant have developed a good understanding this season, but he can also go missing. I would persist with him for now, but with Darryl Dike likely to be available for selection in the near future, he will need to do well to maintain his starting spot for too long.
I doubt that too many Albion fans will have much expectation of getting a result against Fulham, but I’m sure that Bruce and the team will not be discounting the possibility of beating them. The Championship may not be the highest quality division this season, but on any day, any side can beat any other. Who knows, Tuesday evening could be Albion’s night.
Since the turn of the century, Albion have not fared well against the Cottagers winning just four of the 26 meetings between the sides in all competitions. Three of those victories were in the league at the Hawthorns but the last of those was more than a decade ago when goals from Youssouf Mulumbu and Marc-Antoine Fortuné earned Roberto di Matteo’s team all three points in a Premier League clash in October 2010 to move Albion into the Champions League places.
That recent record is a far cry from the first half of the twentieth century. From the first meeting between the sides in 1907 to 1950, the Baggies won 17 of their 23 encounters with Fulham in all competitions, including two runs of six successive victories between 1909 and 1912, and again between 1939 and 1948. It was in that second period that Albion recorded their record win in the fixture, a 6-1 victory in November 1946 when both Ray Barlow and Ike Clarke grabbed a brace apiece while Frank Hodgetts and Davy Walsh also scored. Archie Macaulay’s Albion matched that result 16 years later in September 1962 with Derek Kevan scoring four goals and Keith Smith grabbing the other two.
It looked like being the same again three years later in November 1965 when a 20-year-old Tony Brown had scored twice to add to a brace from Graham Lovett and further goals from Ray Wilson and Clive Clark. Jimmy Hagan’s Baggies were 6-1 up in the final stages but Albion legend, Bobby Robson, popped up to notch a second consolation goal for the visitors, then managed by another Baggies legend, Vic Buckingham, to make the final score 6-2.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
30 Oct 2021 – League Championship
Fulham 3 (Mitrović (3, 1 pen))
West Brom 0
Last meeting at the Hawthorns
30 Jan 2021 – Premier League
West Brom 2 (Bartley, Pereira)
Fulham 2 (De Cordova-Reid, Cavaleiro)
23 Oct 2010 – Premier League
West Brom 2 (Mulumbu, Fortuné)
Fulham 1 (Carson (o.g.))
Albion’s Record against Fulham
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