West Brom 3 Bristol City 0
Albion bounced back in style from their defeat at Swansea by comfortably defeating a poor Bristol City side with a dominant performance at the Hawthorns. Jordan Hugill scored his first goal for the Baggies while an unfamiliar midfield pair of Molumby and Snodgrass were hugely impressive in their first appearance together.
Perhaps the only negative of the performance is that there weren’t more goals. Hugill’s opener was superbly worked but he arguably could have had another three goals before half time and only scoring three goals from 23 attempts is perhaps a little disappointing. However, after losing two of the previous three games, Albion fans were looking for a result and a performance, and they got both.
Albion’s cause was helped by a compliant Bristol City side who barely laid a glove on the hosts and gift-wrapped the third goal when Danny Simpson underhit a back pass allowing Grant to finish confidently for this sixth goal in six games. City’s best moment came minutes after Hugill’s opener when Nahki Wells had the ball in the net only for it to be belatedly, albeit correctly, ruled out for offside.
From then on, the hosts dominated. The opening goal had been superbly well worked with Furlong firing the final ball across for Hugill to score and there was almost a mirror image repeat minutes later with Townsend the provider but the Norwich loanee was always stretching and couldn’t control the finish. He had a much easier chance when City left wing back, George Tanner, underhit a back pass but the visitors’ ‘keeper, David Bentley, saved well.
Tanner was having such a torrid time against Furlong and Phillips that Nigel Pearson opted to withdraw him after half an hour replacing him with the experienced Danny Wilson, but as we saw with WIlson’s error in the second half, it didn’t have the desired effect.
A single goal in the first half would have been scant reward for Albion’s dominance but, following the long delay for the injury to Nathan Baker, it took them a while to get back up to speed but, what turned out to be 13 minutes before the break, a long throw from Furlong was headed home by Kyle Bartley.
The half time score of 2-0 was barely representative of the game – the goal attempts tally of 11-0 was perhaps closer to demonstrating the difference between the sides.
City were better after the break but never looked like getting back into the game. Johnstone only had one save of note to make, from a close range Chris Martin header, and after the third goal, everyone in the stadium knew the game was won. Albion had a few half chances to make it four, and one big chance when Hugill’s square ball was cleared by Kalas with Robinson waiting for a tap in.
Thanks to the delayed kick off to both halves due to medical emergencies in the stands, and the ten minutes first half stoppage time due to Baker’s injury, the final whistle didn’t blow until after 5.20pm but the result was secure well before then. Thankfully, all three individuals involved in the delays are recovering well.
So what changed from Wednesday night? It would be very easy to point to the midfield pair of Snodgrass and Molumby but if the other players around them hadn’t stepped up their levels as well, the result would not have been as impressive. You can also single out Jordan Hugill who put in his best performance in an Albion shirt and opened his goalscoring account for the club. He led the line superbly, something we all hoped he could do, but he needed strong performances from those around him to really shine, and I’m sure he will be disappointed he didn’t score more than once.
For me, the main difference was that the entire team played well, something that hasn’t happened in recent weeks. Furlong was back to his marauding best and picked up a couple of assists while the movement from the front three made the jobs of the midfield four much easier – there was always an option. Snodgrass and Molumby were full of energy and were calm and composed in possession, but they needed that fluidity in front of them to facilitate that.
It was almost as if they had suddenly remembered what had got them success earlier in the campaign. Perhaps a shake up in personnel has helped to a degree, and the performances of Molumby and Snodgrass were hugely influential,
However, it doesn’t mean that the excellent performances from Mowatt and Livermore earlier in the campaign can be forgotten. The massive positive of their displays is that we can be comfortable that Albion have excellent strength in depth in that central midfield position, something that was not always evident.
It was exactly what Albion needed and they now have a full week to prepare for their toughest test of the season to date as they visit free scoring Fulham next weekend who moved back into second place with an impressive 4-0 win away to Nottingham Forest on Sunday.
The fact is that 28 points from 14 games is a fantastic start to the campaign, particularly when you consider that the players are still adapting to a complete change in playing style and there have been some poor performances in recent weeks. This performance was hugely encouraging and, despite Fulham’s outstanding form, Albion should go into next Saturday’s game with confidence.