The third game of Steve Bruce’s tenure sees the Baggies visit Kenilworth Road to take on Nathan Jones’ resurgent Luton Town knowing that defeat would see the Hatters leapfrog Albion in the table.
The Bedfordshire side have lost just two of their last twelve games in all competitions, winning eight, a run that has seen them climb into the top half of the table and progress to the fifth round of the FA Cup. Their league form since the beginning of December has seen them average two points per game and has seen them pick up five points in games against the current top three beating Bournemouth and drawing with both Fulham and Blackburn Rovers.
If there is one positive for Baggies fans from their recent results is that last time out they suffered a surprise 3-0 defeat to lowly Birmingham City who had only picked up one win in their previous twelve, so let’s hope that Luton are a side to end a bad run against!
Since the goalless draw with Blackburn, Bruce has indicated that he may look to switch formation to try and get the best out of Andy Carroll who has undoubtedly been Albion’s best player since he arrived. The former England man’s strengths are in holding the ball up to bring others into play and, of course, his aerial threat from crosses. In a 4-3-3, it is the midfielders who should be closest to Carroll with the wide forwards providing crosses; however, Robinson and Grant are not natural wingers and will naturally cut inside and, without the insurance of a third central defender, the full backs do not have as much liberty to get forward.
There are two possible solutions that I see. A 4-2-3-1 would see two midfielders sitting to give the full backs more scope to provide the width while having three attacking players around Carroll to link up. Alternatively, a 4-4-2 could employ traditional wingers while putting a second forward up alongside Carroll but, other than Diangana and Phillips, who is injured, I’m not sure if there are any natural wingers in the squad. I’m sure it is something that Bruce and his coaching team have been working on this week, and it will be interesting to see what solution he has come up with.
Most of the Baggies squad have been playing below their best for much of the season, and confidence is generally very low at the moment. Grady Diangana has suffered particularly on that front, but has shown occasional signs of the quality player we know he is. Hopefully, a return to Kenilworth Road will be a positive spark – it was there that he made his Albion debut in August 2019 coming on as a half-time substitute with the visitors 1-0 down and scoring twice within six minutes to turn the match around.
Albion need something like the spark that Grady provided that day as they look to turn the corner. Four games without a victory or a goal, but despite the dreadful form, the players are good enough to turn it around. A little bit of luck might produce a goal, a boost to confidence could turn that into victory and, I think, with a more positive feeling around the club, one win will surely lead to more.
Albion are unbeaten in their last eight games against Luton Town, a run that dates back to April 1996 when Alan Buckley’s Baggies were beaten 2-0 at the Hawthorns.
Albion’s last defeat at Kenilworth Road was two years previously in May 1994. David Pleat was the Hatters’ boss in his second spell at the Bedfordshire club having joined the then top flight club in the at the start of the 1991/92 campaign but being unable to save them from relegation. With the Premier League coming into being that summer, Luton Town are one of two clubs, along with Notts County, who signed the deal to form the new breakaway top flight but have never played in it.
Two years later when Keith Burkinshaw brought his newly-promoted Baggies to Kenilworth Road, Pleat’s side won an incident packed relegation battle by three goals to two with future Albion striker John Hartson, then 19 years old, netting what proved to be the winner. Bob Taylor and Lee Ashcroft were on target for the visitors while Luton’s Mitchell Thomas and Albion’s Gary Strodder were sent off for fighting in the sixth minute of stoppage time. It was a result that secured the hosts’ position in Division One but left the Baggies still needing a win in their final match of the season at Portsmouth which, of course, they secured thanks to “Peggy”‘s second goal in five days.
Since then, Albion have won two and drawn three of their five visits to Kenilworth Road. Both those victories have been by two goals to one. In October 1995, Ashcroft was on the scoresheet again with Andy Hunt scoring the Baggies’ other goal while on their last visit, Grady Diangana made his Albion debut from the bench scoring twice within six minutes of the restart to overturn a 1-0 deficit.
The Baggies biggest win at Luton is just 2-0, a result they have achieved twice, most recently in December 1973 when David Shaw and Asa Hartford were on target for the visitors. The Hatters biggest win over Albion was a 5-1 thumping in December 1957. The hosts’ goals came from a Joe Kennedy own goal, a brace from Gordon Turner and further goals from Allan Brown and Jimmy Adam – Bobby Robson netted Albion’s consolation.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
14 Aug 2021 – League Championship
West Brom 3 (Naismith (o.g.), Robinson, Grant)
Luton Town 2 (Cornick, Mpanzu)
Last meeting at Luton Town
17 Aug 2019 – League Championship
Luton Town 1 (Cornick)
West Brom 2 (Diangana (2))
Albion’s Record against Luton Town