Another Baggies home win reinforces play-off spot

West Bromwich Albion 2 Coventry City 1

Albion’s twelfth home win of the campaign moved them seven points clear of Norwich City in seventh place ahead of Saturday’s fixtures. After an excellent first half with two great goals from Mikey Johnston and Grady Diangana, things were a little nervous after the visitors pulled one back from the spot, but the Baggies held on relatively comfortably in the end and they now look head to a run of seven fixtures against sides outside the top ten.

Carlos Corberán’s team have held fifth spot in the Championship since the 2-0 win over Ipswich Town on matchday 18, and with eleven games to go, their hold over a play-off spot looks as strong as ever. With the takeover by Shilen Patel confirmed earlier in the week, a near 25,000 crowd turned up with a renewed sense of optimism surrounding the club and Mikey Johnston’s sixth minute opener was the perfect start. Reminiscent of his goal at Plymouth a couple of weeks ago, the Irish international nutmegged the defender, cut in on his right foot and planted the perfect shot off the far post.

The visitors played some neat football but were mostly restricted to shots from outside the box. Corberán opted to go with a starting eleven that was unchanged from that used on Humberside last weekend, with Erik Pieters’ excellent recent performances rewarded with a fifth successive start and Jed Wallace continuing in his role as auxiliary centre forward. With Mowatt and Yokuşlu as imperious as ever in the middle of the park and Diangana producing a much-improved display in the number ten role, Albion were in supreme control.

It seemed a definitive tactic that Albion didn’t press Coventry too high up the field with Corberán presumably fearful of committing too many forward with the quality of Kasey Palmer and Callum O’Hare, in particular, ready to expose any gaps at the back. It left Mark Robins’ side trying to break down a solid defensive unit, and they never looked close to doing so in the first half.

Tom Fellows didn’t get too many opportunities to shine but, ten minutes before the break, he got the opportunity to take on his defender one-on-one for the first time and his cross was slotted home by Diangana with Wallace making a diverting run across the near post.

Coventry had been poor with both Ellis Simms and Kasey Palmer firing well wide of the target whenever they had half a chance, and it was no surprise that they were more aggressive after the break. It was something of a surprise to see O’Hare withdrawn with American, Haji Wright, coming on to join Simms up front. Nonetheless, the hosts remained largely in control and it wasn’t until the withdrawal of Okay Yokuşlu with twenty minutes left that the Sky Blues looked like getting any joy. Nathaniel Chalobah failed to cope as well with the aggressive pressing and gave the ball away a few times to give the visitors something of a head of steam. Having said that, I still didn’t feel that City really looked like scoring and it look a mis-timed challenge from the otherwise excellent Cédric Kipré to give them the opportunity from the penalty spot.

The final fifteen minutes was a little nervy but I still felt fairly confident that the Baggies would see it through. Coventry rarely looked dangerous from set pieces and they never looked like getting in behind the solid Albion defence. It would have taken either a mistake or a long range screamer to get an equaliser, and the final minutes were without any real scares and the three points were safely secured.

It was a big result leaving the Sky Blues eight points behind Albion and two more of the sides chasing the play-offs are guaranteed to drop points on Saturday afternoon as Hull City travel to Preston North End and Norwich City host Sunderland. Draws in both of those games would leave the Baggies six points clear of seventh spot and three points clear of the Tigers in sixth.

Of course, Corberán’s team only have to look after their own results to guarantee a top six finish, and they now face two away games against sides struggling at the wrong end of the table. Anything less than six points would be disappointing, but given their away form this season, most of us would probably take four!

Related posts