Peterborough United 0 West Brom 1
For the first time this season, an opponent sought to match Albion in intensity and meet the physical battle and, to their credit, Peterborough rose to the challenge and it was a game that could have gone either way. But, like all good title-challenging teams, the Baggies found a way to win.
Despite the hosts’ creditable endeavours, it was a win that I feel Albion deserved on the balance of play, particularly in the second half. That statistics back that up with 19 shots for the visitors compared to 5 from the hosts with the best chance falling to debutant, Jordan Hugill, who really should have scored with a free header from six yards – his effort was saved superbly by Pym with Ajayi’s follow-up attempt striking the outside of the post.
Peterborough had spells of pressure but just the one shot on target, and they were penned back in the dying stages as Albion sought the winner, and it duly came in the fourth minute of stoppage time. It was a fantastic driving run from Phillips and Semi Ajayi had opted to stay up after Furlong’s long throw was cleared, and the Nigerian international was on hand to tap home Phillips’ cross.
Much of the post-match talk was about a touchline spat between Valérien Ismaël and a very bitter Darren Ferguson, and also “hoodie-gate” where, in the absence of a towel, Furlong used a fan’s hoodie to dry the football before taking his long throws.
As an Albion fan, I found both quite amusing but I do remember plenty of opposition fans getting upset with Rory Delap and his towel use when playing under Pulis at Stoke City, including Albion fans. I don’t remember being upset specifically about the use of towels, and it is ultimately down to the FA or the EFL to decide what is allowed, but it certainly has got opposition fans riled at both Ewood Park and London Road. Furlong was booked with about ten minutes left, I suspect for the time it was taking rather than the use of the garment, and opted against using it from then on.
The confrontation between the head coaches was, I’m sure, driven by frustration on behalf of the Posh boss, although there may have been a misunderstanding on the use of two fingers by the Frenchman, who was apparently using it in discussion with the fourth official regarding the two penalty shouts for Albion. Who knows what the truth is, but it certainly came across as sour grapes on the part of Ferguson in the post match interviews.
Albion were far from their best, and the introduction of Hugill did appear to help. Diangana has got bundles of talent, but he is struggling to adapt to the new style of play and, perhaps, the new interpretation of what constitutes a foul. He needs to be stronger on the ball and hopefully that will come in time. Hugill may have fluffed his lines at the key moment, albeit by an excellent save, but his general experience and strength certainly helped to keep the ball in Peterborough’s defensive third for much of the second half.
With Bartley forced off at half time due to illness, it left Townsend as the left-sided centre back and Adam Reach at left wing back. That definitely weakened Albion’s defensive solidity and Posh did have some joy down their right side during the second half, something that better sides may be able to take advantage of. Hopefully, Kyle will be fit after what is a well-timed international break for Albion. Robinson and Button should hopefully be recovered from positive COVID tests by the time Millwall visit the Hawthorns in a fortnight, and Matt Clarke will be closer to a return to fitness, although he is unlikely to be available until the end of September at the earliest.
Attention immediately turns to the closure of the transfer window on Tuesday with the possibility that Albion may bring in some further new faces with Jayson Molumby the latest to sign on Friday. Troy Deeney is apparently under consideration with Big Val having confirmed that they are still in the market for another striker, and we will all watch and wait with interest.
For now, though, we can all reflect on a fantastic three points achieved on a night when the team was well below par. Some may consider it fortunate given the lateness of the winner, but that is what good teams do.