West Bromwich Albion 1 Birmingham City 0
A late strike from former Villa man, Andi Weimann, was enough to end the Baggies’ four match losing streak against Birmingham City and claim three points that consolidated their position in fifth place in the Championship. It was far from a vintage performance from Corberán’s team, and it was a match that could have gone either way, but the introduction of the January signings in the second half made the difference and Albion just about deserved the victory based on their attacking intent in the second period.
The starting line up was as I expected with Fellows and Palmer recalled in place of Chalobah and Griffiths while all three new signings, and Daryl Dike, were on the bench. The visitors, meanwhile, included new signing Alex Prtichard in their starting line up, the man who had played a huge part in Sunderland’s victory over Albion in December.
The first half was eminently forgettable with neither side creating too much of note. The final ball was never quite on the money for the Baggies and Blues’ defence were able to repel their set pieces without too much difficulty. Fellows and Wallace swapped wings half way through the first period and, while it did offer something slightly different, it wasn’t enough to create a clear cut chance. Late in the first half, a promising break came to nothing when Wallace and Thomas-Asante got their wires crossed, an incident that was indicative of Albion’s display before half time.
After the break, the hosts were definitely the better team and should have gone in front early in the second period when a typically direct run to the byline by Fellows ended with him standing the ball up for Mowatt whose header went wide – he really should have done better and I did wonder whether it was the defender who actually got his head to the ball, the replays are inconclusive. BTA also had a decent half chance at the far post but cold only fire his volley over the bar.
With Albion struggling to find a way through, Corberán opted to swap BTA and Swift for his two latest signings, Callum Marshall and MIke Johnston. The two Irishmen looked bright and eager with Marshall impressing with his quality on the ball and his workrate, and Johnston looking bright and making a key contribution to the goal. However, it was another substitute who won the game – Andi Weimann replaced Jed Wallace with twenty minutes to go and he produced a real poachers finish to fire home Darnell Furlong’s pull back, after Johnston had put the full back through.
Furlong was a constant threat, along with Fellows once he had moved to the right side, and that is a combination that has developed very well over the past couple of months. Mowatt and Okay were, perhaps, the other stand out performers from the starting eleven, with the Turk dropping into the back four the the final 20 minutes with Corberán presumably concerned that Kipré was on a yellow card. Wallace did OK while John Swift had one of those games when he couldn’t really get going.
That may, at least partly, be down to the opposition who had been set up well by Tony Mowbray and, in the first half in particular, caused Albion plenty of problems with their high press. Ultimately, there was little to choose between the sides and Blues were unlucky not to have taken the lead when Long’s header came off the post and conveniently dropped into the arms of Alex Palmer.
But it was the Baggies who found the all-important goal and it is refreshing that it was a new loan signing that has made an immediate impact. Not since Grady Diangana and Harvey Barnes has a loan signing scored so early and, while Weimann hasn’t had quite the influence as those two did in their early Albion career, it is certainly a promising sign.
Winning when not at your best is obviously a good habit to get into, but it is their bad habits on the road that the Baggies need to break now, starting with next week’s trip to Suffolk. Ipswich may be a tough place to go based on their performances this season, but their recent results suggest that it might be a good time to visit Portman Road.