West Brom 2 Luton Town 0
Albion finally ended their winless run with a relatively comfortable 2-0 victory over bottom club, Luton Town, and registered their first league double of the season and their first clean sheet at the Hawthorns.
It was a much needed three points that lifted the Baggies back to the top of the table after Leeds United suffered a 1-0 home defeat to Wigan Athletic. The gap to third placed Fulham is now four points after Nottingham Forest lost at Birmingham City.
However, as Leeds’ recent results have shown, there is no guarantee that this result will spark a return to form for Albion, but the signs are certainly positive.
It was a decent performance from Slaven Bilić’s team, but there were still a few concerning moments that a side better than Luton might have been able to capitalise on.
New loan signing, Callum Robinson, went straight into the starting line up and produced a very encouraging display. It was his cross that was turned into his own net by Hatters’ defender, Donervan Daniels, for the opening goal, and he certainly offered plenty to suggest that he will be a positive addition to the squad this season.
Matt Phillips also produced one of his better performances of late, and he set up the second goal for the returning Semi Ajayi. Phillips has been pretty much guaranteed a place in the starting line up in recent weeks, and the addition of Robinson and Grosicki to the ranks may well have spurred him on to better things.
Perhaps the one disappointing performance came from Charlie Austin. Given his first start since Boxing Day, his display was perhaps indicative of why he has been left on the bench lately. Albion looked much more dangerous once Hal Robson-Kanu replaced him and the Welshman certainly seems to be the Baggies best option as a front man in the current formation. Having said that, I still expect Austin to have an impact from bench between now and the end of the season.
Livermore also performed well, and while Sawyers did OK, he still hasn’t regained the calm authority he was displaying before the team’s dip in form.
Defensively, the Baggies were better, but there were still one or two moments which provoked anxiety amongst the fans. The hope is that the victory will build confidence and such nervous moments will start to disappear. Bartley and Ajayi deserve the opportunity to rebuild the excellent partnership they developed earlier in the campaign.
The full back situation is perhaps the biggest question mark for Bilić. The Nathan Ferguson situation seems unlikely to be resolved any time soon, while Kieran Gibbs remains sidelined. He seems to have developed a liking for Dara O’Shea at right back and, while he has done well defensively, I do think we lose the attacking drive that Furlong brings in that position.
Lee Peltier is an interesting option. He is a natural right back but has played at left back and in the centre of defence during his career. It remains to be seen whether Bilić sees him as a regular starter on either side, or a backup option.
With Peltier, Grosicki and, of course, Pereira available next week, it could be all change again for the trip to Millwall. Albion haven’t found things easy at the New Den on recent visits, but with two victories in London this year already, and a 2020 league win finally secured, they should face Gary Rowett’s side with confidence.
Lead photo by Laurie Rampling