Luton Town 2 West Bromwich Albion 3
In every successful promotion campaign, there are particular matches that you look back on as pivotal. Should Albion be successful at the end of this season, this victory will be certainly be one of those.
At 2-0 down inside ten minutes, there was a sense of shock and disbelief given Albion’s form of late, but fifteen minutes later, I certainly had a strange feeling that it would all be OK. This was a game that Corberán’s team bossed, and once Dike had pulled a goal back, there was a sense of inevitability that Albion would go on to win the game. Not since I witnessed Megson’s team come back from 3-0 at Upton Park nearly 20 years ago have I had that same feeling, which was, incidentally, the last time that the Baggies had come back from two goals down away from home to claim victory.
This was a game that the visitors well and truly bossed. Finding themselves 2-0 down thanks to an impressive snap shot from distance, and a well-executed set piece, the team didn’t panic and kept playing the way that Corberán has coached them. John Swift had gone close to equalising with a header even before the second Luton goal went in and, as the game ticked over the 20-minute mark, it was the visitors who were creating all the chances.
Chances came and went but the confidence that Corberán has instilled in the method encouraged them to keep trying and finally the goal came. O’Shea lifted a long ball over the top for Dike to run onto – the American beat the onrushing ‘keeper to the ball and nicked it past him and into the net.
The belief started to course through the away end and the way the visitors started the second half only strengthened the feeling that Albion would go on to win the game. The only surprise that it took until the 65th minute for the equaliser to come, Molumby firing home after a goalmouth scramble, but it was only two minutes later when Townsend was on home to poke home Matt Phillips’ cross for his first league goal for Albion, his only other strike being the winner in the FA Cup at West Ham three years ago. There were very few scares for the Baggies after that and they comfortably saw the game out to take all three points.
Despite the concession of the early goals, it must go down as one of the most impressive performances since Corberán took over. Having been challenged last week at Chesterfield, albeit with mostly different personnel, the team was challenged once again and more than met it. For me, the most impressive thing was the complete lack of panic, the complete belief that the process would bring them to success.
While the overall team performance was excellent, not everyone was at their best. Yokuşlu was a bit in-and-out and didn’t offer the usual outlet for the centre backs, possibly due to the attentions of the Luton midfield, and was perhaps the man at fault for the Hatters’ second goal. Dara O’Shea was a little wasteful in possession at times and Swift was a little quiet. But the performances of their teammates more than made up for their occasional deficiencies. Jayson Molumby was once again superb, covering every inch of the pitch and capping a fine performance with his second Albion goal. Daryl Dike led the line well and is, game-by-game, becoming the striker we thought we had signed; what’s more, he completed a first full ninety minutes in an Albion shirt which is definitely a milestone worth celebrating. Matt Phillips and Darnell Furlong were both excellent while Jed Wallace and Conor Townsend also contributed significantly to the overall performance. Furthermore, Diangana came on and played his part, a pivotal one in the build up to the equaliser.
What makes the performance even more impressive is that Luton Town are a good side. They hadn’t lost at home since September and Rob Edwards, a coach I would have happily seen at the Hawthorns before Corberán was appointed, has got the team playing very good and very effective football and had won three out of his four league games since being appointed just before the World Cup – victory would have seen them move into the top four. Make no mistake, this was a very good result against a very strong opponent.
So Albion’s remarkable run of form continues – 27 points from a possible 30, a record only matched in the Championship by leaders Burnley, the Baggies’ next league opponent on Friday evening. That will be another test altogether.