Luton Town 1 West Brom 2
Grady Diangana made an instant impact on his league debut for the Baggies scoring twice within six minutes of his half time substitution and producing an outrageous piece of skill that almost led to a third Albion goal when Charlie Austin hit the post.
It was exactly what Albion needed after what had been a frustrating first half at Kenilworth Road. Bilić’s side were once again in control of possession for much of the game, but lacked any real penetration in the first 45 minutes and found themselves a goal down when a slip by Semi Ajayi gave Harry Cornick all the time in the world to power a free header past Sam Johnstone.
It’s still very much a work in progress for Slaven Bilić and his coaching team, but there are improvements game by game and it’s very encouraging that the Baggies have managed to pick up seven points from a possible nine when there is so much room for improvement. According to whoscored.com, Albion are also top of the pass completion charts for the Championship so far this season; they are also second in the possession stats and, perhaps more surprisingly, third in the shots per game table. So it’s definitely working to a degree, even if it’s nowhere near perfect.
Zohore struggled again in the first half but showed signs of improvement after the break. Nonetheless, in the ten minutes that Austin had from the bench, he looked so much more effective and it can only be a matter of time before he gets his chance from the start. Understandably, Bilić is being cautious with Austin’s fitness and will also be conscious that KenZo’s confidence will take a knock should he be dropped, but the difference in performances is stark based on what we have seen so far, and that decision can only be a game or two away.
Matt Phillips had a bit of an off day on Saturday and it was a surprise that it was Edwards that was withdrawn at half time, although Bilić was at pains to point out that the substitution was not a reflection on his performance. Livermore, meanwhile, had his best game in an Albion shirt for some time as he was very much the driving force in the middle of the park epitomised by the fierce shot he had in the first half that was tipped over by Sluga.
The man who made the difference was, of course, Grady Diangana. Not many players would have attempted to find the net from the position he was in for his first goal, but it was a perfectly struck shot which was threaded into the corner of the net with power and precision from fully 30 yards.
The West Ham loanee’s second was a tad fortunate in that Krovinović’s shot deflected into his path, but he was in the box to nod it home – in the first half, Albion players had failed to get in the box often enough.
And then there was that incredible control on the touchline – a high ball seemed destined to go out, but he brought it out of the air and flicked it down the line in one touch, running on to it to bamboozle the Luton defence and cross for Austin – all that was missing was the striker’s finish as the ball thumped off the post. It’s the sort of thing that will get fans of their seats and Diangana could well prove to be as influential as Harvey Barnes.
He wasn’t the only new winger to impress as Pereira also showed signs of his pace and skill in his 15 minutes as a substitute for Matt Phillips. There are some really good signs that Bilić has some genuinely exciting options across the front three that bodes well for the season ahead.
A special mention should also go to Nathan Ferguson. The 18-year-old had to face former Baggie, Callum McManaman, who, while his Albion career may not have ever got off the ground, possesses no little skill. Furthermore, Ferguson was the subject of abuse from the Luton boo boys after being fouled a few times by the former Wigan man, something that would have fazed many players of his age. Not so with Albion’s right-back – the fact that McManaman was substituted in the second half suggests that Ferguson won that particular battle.
The away end at Kenilworth Road was bouncing by the end with the new favourite chant of “Diangana baby” to the tune of Human League’s “Don’t you want me?”.
It wasn’t the only new song to get an airing, with Charlie Austin getting a song of his own too, to the tune of Slade’s “C’mon Feel the Noise” revelling in the fact that Austin rhymes with bostin’!
This result should not be underestimated. Luton Town maybe a promoted side, but they hadn’t lost at Kenilworth Road for more than 18 months and I doubt it will be an easy venue to visit for any side this season.
Albion move on in good spirits to face Reading at home on Wednesday evening.