When Darren Moore took his Baggies team to the KC Stadium at exactly the same stage of last season, the early autumn promise had started to wane and a 1-0 defeat to second bottom Hull City proved to be a fourth game without a win, although a 4-1 victory over Leeds United a few days later reignited the spark.
In this campaign, Slaven Bilić’s team are in a rich vein of form, particularly on the road having won their last three games away from the Hawthorns, but the Tigers are also enjoying a much better season. Grant McCann’s team have won their last three games, all against clubs expected to be challenging for a top six spot in Nottingham Forest, Derby County and Fulham, and they have earned 16 points from their last eight games second only to Albion themselves who have picked up 17.
City’s poor start to the season in which they registered just one victory in their opening seven games is now long forgotten, and their fans will hope that they can maintain their good form and challenge for a return to the Premier League. Under Nigel Adkins in the last campaign, it promised to materialise as they won six of seven games up to and including New Year’s Day, but a very poor start and a mediocre finish meant that they could only achieve a mid-table position.
It promises to be an exciting encounter with both teams scoring plenty of goals and, for the hosts, Jarrod Bowen is on fire having scored five goals in his last four games. It was, perhaps, a surprise that the goalscoring winger didn’t make a move to a bigger club in the summer having impressed last season with 22 goals, but perhaps his run of just one goal in his last seven games of the campaign was well timed to dampen the fervour that was surrounding him earlier in the year. It was, of course, to the Tigers’ benefit as he has already scored ten goals this season, nine in the league putting him just two behind top scorer, Aleksandar Mitrović.
High scoring strikers are, of course, a topic of much debate amongst Albion fans as Bilić’s favoured front man, Charlie Austin, continues to frustrate. Hal Robson-Kanu has come off the bench to score three goals in his last four appearances at a rate of one goal every 83 minutes played. No player who has scored more than one goal in the Championship has a better ratio.
The Welshman has made an impact even when he hasn’t scored, and Slav must be considering whether he deserves a start, or whether he is best left as a super sub. Meanwhile, KenZo is also fit and waiting in the wings, but with HRK performing so well off the bench, he is struggling to get a look-in.
When Austin scored against Cardiff a month ago, he had the backing of the home crowd after failing to convert two early chances, and most expected him to kick on. That hasn’t happened although, in fairness, he hasn’t had that many chances. A decision to take him out of the starting line up would be a big one by Bilić. The former Saints front man may not be firing on all cylinders but, if you wanted a big chance to fall to any of Albion’s strikers, I still think Austin is the man you would want to have it.
There is another weapon in the Croat’s armoury this weekend as Gareth Barry has finally put pen to paper on a new deal at the Hawthorns. I don’t expect to see him in the starting line up, but he could be a massive player for the Baggies as the season goes on, particularly to manage games late on, and his influence and experience can only be an asset in the dressing room.
Perhaps the only other choice that Bilić has to make for Saturday’s game is at left back. If Gibbs is fit, he will certainly be a consideration, but Townsend has done well and it would be harsh to switch out any of the back four, particularly after a rare clean sheet on Monday evening.
One other piece of good news this week was the statement by West Ham boss, Manuel Pellegrini, that he has no intention of recalling Grady Diangana during the January transfer window. The young winger has been on great form for the Baggies and sparkled once again in the televised game at Stoke and rumours were abound that the Argentine would be looking to use the option to take him back to the London Stadium to bolster his attacking options. I guess the only thing that could scupper it now would be if Pellegrini to get sacked in the next two months – I don’t mind rooting for West Ham for a few games to stave off that possibility.
November is a big month for Albion. One win already on the board and, after Saturday’s testing away trip, they face home games against two of the play-off contenders in Sheffield Wednesday and Bristol City. The signs remain positive, but the examinations continue to come.
Ahead of the weekend when Tony Mowbray’s Albion visited the KC Stadium in January 2008, they were, as they are ahead of this Saturday’s game, top of the Championship in what was an even tighter league table than we have in 2019. Only goal difference separated the Baggies from Watford and Bristol City, while Stoke were four points further back. Hull City, meanwhile, were in ninth spot some eleven points behind Albion.
The clash on Humberside had been chosen for coverage by Sky Sports and was kicking off at 5.20pm, so by the time the teams took to the field, the Baggies were no longer on top, although of the two sides level with them at the start of the day, only Bristol City had managed to pick up a point to edge above Mowbray’s team.
Albion took little time in establishing themselves as the superior side. Inside the first two minutes, Ishmael Miller played the ball wide to Chris Brunt, and the left winger who had yet to become a Baggies legend played a delightful ball in behind the Tigers’ defence to give Kevin Phillips the simplest of finishes to open the scoring.
Half an hour later, Super Kev turned provider. He received the ball from Robert Koren and laid the ball on a plate for James Morrison with a beautiful through ball and Mozza fired the ball into the corner of the net from the edge of the box.
37-year-old Dean Kiely had to be at his best to produce a great double save to keep Phil Brown’s side out before half time but, with less than 20 minutes left, the hosts did manage to get a goal back. Richard Garcia played a neat one-two with Michael Turner before firing an unstoppable shot from 20 yards that gave Kiely no chance.
City were back in business, and their hopes were raised even further a few minutes later when Paul Robinson received a second yellow card, described by Dingle Don as “harsh”, to leave Albion with only ten men to see out the last quarter of an hour.
In the final minute, Hull launched the ball into the Albion box and it was headed out and Koren then cleared the ball up towards Roman Bednar. The Czech striker, who had come off the bench for Miller, ran forward and, rather than head for the corner, he took on the shot from 20 yards and it was too good for Baggie-to-be, a beardless Boaz Myhill, in the Tigers’ net.
A 3-1 victory and Albion moved back to the top of the table, a position they occupied on the final day of the season as they won the title at Loftus Road. Hull City, meanwhile, had their day at Wembley as they beat Bristol City in the Play-Off Final to take their place in the top flight for the first time.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
19 Apr 2019 – League Championship
West Brom 3 (Gibbs, Gayle (2))
Hull City 2 (Kane (2))
Last meeting at Hull City
3 Nov 2018 – League Championship
Hull City 1 (Campbell)
West Brom 0
Last win at Hull City
12 Jan 2008 – League Championship
Hull City 1 (Garcia)
West Brom 3 (Phillips, Morrison, Bednar)
Albion’s Record against Hull City