West Brom 2 Queen’s Park Rangers 1
Karlan Grant scored a brace at the Hawthorns on Friday night as Albion came from behind to claim all three points against Queen’s Park Rangers. With many fans, myself included, feeling that Grant should have been withdrawn when Ismaël decided to replace the other two of the front three ten minutes into the second half, the former Huddersfield Town striker proved his boss right as he scored twice in the last fifteen minutes to win the game for the Baggies.
While the evening started disastrously for Albion when the visitors spring the offside trap inside the first minute allowing André Gray to opening the scoring with Sam Johnstone caught in no man’s land, it was a much improved performance from the hosts as they pretty much dominated the game from that point onwards.
It’s true to stay that Mark Warburton didn’t change his approach as much as the head coaches of Albion’s most recent opponents, but for much of the game they were more direct than their usual style of play. Ismaël’s side look to have discovered a solution, one which we saw the beginnings of in the second half against Derby County, whereby they show much more composure on the ball, playing through the midfield on occasion, and it was arguably their best performance of the season, and certainly their best since the 4-0 demolition of Sheffield United.
Nonetheless, it was the high press and quick counter, the foundations of Val-ball, that produced the winner. A combination of Livermore and Mowatt won the ball back on the halfway line and Mowatt fed Robinson who exchanged passes with Hugill, the latter producing a delightful back heel, before feeding Grant who, full of confidence after his earlier goal, finished clinically into the corner.
His first goal owed much to an error from R’s ‘keeper, Seny Dieng, but goalscorers don’t care how they go in, and the boost it gave Grant was clear to see when the second chance came along. He has a great record of scoring in the Championship and we can only hope that this is the start of the recovery of that form, form that persuaded Slaven Bilić to recommend that the club part with £16m for his signature.
When Big Val opted to make a change after 55 minutes, I think most people expected Grant to be one of those to make way having seemingly contributed little, but it was Phillips and Diangana who were withdrawn with Grady’s substitution drawing boos from a section of the Hawthorns faithful. To me, the former West Ham man seemed the most likely to engineer the breakthrough, but I’m not the one making the decisions and I’m happy to say that the man who is got it right. Not only did Grant get both goals, but the two players who came on were instrumental in creating the winner.
As I said in my preview, Ismaël needed a win more than a performance, but he got both. There can be few Baggies fans who watched that game and not have felt entertained. There was some excellent football at times and, while it did feel for some time that Albion’s lack of a cutting edge might cost them, Karlan Grant produced the goods and Albion were back on top of the table, albeit briefly.
The Throstles now travel to Cardiff City on Tuesday evening full of confidence knowing that another win will put them back on top of the table, for another 24 hours at least, and that avoiding defeat will set a new club record unbeaten start to a league campaign.