West Bromwich Albion 1 Coventry City 0
Carlos Corberán’s Baggies earned a hard-fought victory against a tricky Coventry City side at the Hawthorns on Friday night to a record a seventh successive home victory without conceding a goal for the first time since Gary Megson’s remarkable first promotion season some 21 years ago. Impressively, it is the first time in the club’s history that they have recorded six successive home league victories without conceding a goal, the 2002 run having included two FA Cup wins.
It was a much-needed victory for Albion to bounce back from back-to-back defeats and a particularly disappointing performance at Ashton Gate last weekend. The two players that disappointed me most in that match, Yokuşlu and Molumby, were both back to the standards we have come to expect and played a key part in the victory.
Rumours ahead of the match suggested that Alex Palmer was out for the season with a broken leg – thankfully, the news was not as bad as feared with the 26-year-old likely to be out for six to seven weeks, but it is still a blow given Palmer’s excellent recent performances and concerns over the form of David Button. Those concerns were somewhat allayed on Friday as the former Brighton man put in solid display and his confident claim from a stoppage time corner produced one of the biggest cheers of the evening.
To be fair, however, he had very little to do thanks to an assured display from Erik Piers and Dara O’Shea in front of him with the Irishman, in particular, putting in a fantastic performance. Such was the overall defensive solidity of the Baggies back line that the Sky Blues were restricted to just one shot on target, a free kick from Hamer that Button parried away from goal comfortably.
There were one or two hairy moments in a frantic opening 20 minutes of the game when it could easily have been 2-2 before Albion scored. I was waiting for the net to bulge when Gyökeres looked certain to tap home a low cross before a last ditch challenge from Furlong caused the Swede to fire wide, while a corner a few minutes later saw the ball fall at the feet of Callum Doyle but he was unable to sort his feet out to get a shot away.
At the other end, Dike should really have put Albion head when he had a free header from a few yards out, the best of several early chances that the hosts crafted. They finally took one when Grady Diangana fired high into the net after Wallace had flicked on a Furlong long throw. I’m not sure that a Furlong long throw has led to a goal since Val was in charge!
Although it came early in the game, it was a goal that Diangana’s performance deserved. Perhaps the goal gave him a boost that helped his overall display but I thought it was one of his best since Corberán took over. He worked tirelessly and, while he didn’t always make the right decision, he was always a willing recipient of the ball.
His was one of a number of excellent displays. I’ve already mentioned O’Shea, Molumby and Okay, but a special mention should go to debutant, Marc Albrighton. Based on that display, he will be a very good addition to the team. His workrate was second to none and the quality of his crossing was superb. It was no surprise when he was withdrawn with about a quarter of an hour to go – he had put in a monumental effort for a man that has not played much football recently.
While his replacement, John Swift, was only a bit-part player in the scheme of things, his close control and trickery in the final few minutes as Albion sought to see the game out was superb.
The other new signing, Nathaniel Chalobah, came on a few minutes earlier to replace Okay and he looked neat and tidy in possession and fond of a tackle – he might not get in ahead of the established pair at the moment, but he definitely looks like a very useful addition to the squad.
This was not an easy game. While Coventry were missing Callum O’Hare, one of their key playmakers, Hamer and Gyökeres offer real quality although neither was at their best in this game. City are a well-drilled side that can be very dangerous and Albion did a fantastic job of nullifying their threats. The result was far more important than the performance, but for me it was a display that deserved better than a 1-0.
If I have one slight criticism, it is that I feel the team look much better when they need a goal. Until the opener, they attacked with speed and flair creating multiple chances. Once ahead, it was if the foot had been lifted off the accelerator, similar to the second half at Turf Moor. I don’t think it is something that Corberán is asking them to do, and it is maybe a confidence issue in that now they are in the play-off picture, they have something to lose. Whatever the underlying cause, it is something that Carlos and his coaching team need to address.
The win moves the Baggies up to fifth but, with all their play-off rivals to play over the weekend, they may not be in the top six come Monday. It is a fantastic result and it makes it 30 points from the last 36 for Corberán’s team which is a superb run of form in anyone’s book. Attention now turns to the trip to St Andrew’s next Friday when another three points will be the expectation.