Win number twenty edges Baggies closer

West Bromwich Albion 2 Rotherham United 0

A twentieth victory and a seventeenth clean sheet was just what was needed for a Baggies side who had gone three games without a win. One more victory will surely be enough to guarantee a top six spot with most of the teams chasing the play-off positions dropping points over the midweek fixtures.

It was ultimately a fairly comfortable victory for Albion, but the visitors had one or two promising moments and the award of the penalty that gave the hosts a little breathing space was dubious in the extreme. Brandon Thomas-Asante really should have added to his opening goal missing two glorious chances in the second half, but the victory was secured and we move onto the visit of Sunderland on Saturday that could make Albion’s top six position almost unassailable.

Corberán opted to shuffle the pack a little and was forced to leave Jed Wallace out of the squad through illness. Perhaps the biggest surprise was a start for Adam Reach, just his fifth of the season, with Conor Townsend apparently rested and dropping to the bench. The 31-year-old proceeded to put in an excellent performance, providing the assist for the opening goal, earning him a place in the Championship Team of Midweek. I personally don’t think he’s a left back, but against a team as limited as Rotherham United are, he wasn’t overly tested on that front.

Yann M’Vila was handed his first start in an Albion shirt and did OK. He was not lacking in fitness and completed the 90 minutes with no apparent drop off despite having fasted for the final time during the day with Ramadan coming to an end. However, he certainly won’t be challenging either of the regular central midfielders for a starting spot in my opinion, and it’s difficult to say he offers much more than Nathaniel Chalobah.

With Chalobah and Semi Ajayi also getting some minutes on the pitch, along with Matt Phillips and, for the first time since December, Josh Maja, it was not only a successful evening in terms of the result, it will have been important for the squad as a whole to give those squad players some much-needed game time. It was great to see Maja again, although he wasn’t immediately recognisable from a distance given his change in hairstyle since the last time we saw him, and he will be available to face his former club again on Saturday, hopefully with a very different outcome this time.

It was by no means a sparkling performance by Albion, no doubt not helped by the rather flat atmosphere. That can, at least in part, be put down to the meagre away following that the BBC reported as 179 and was certainly the smallest following I can remember since Wimbledon visited in 2002 shortly after their move to Milton Keynes. Still, fair play to those that did turn up to see the Millers’ seventh successive away defeat and their 36th game on the road without a victory, the last coming at Bramall Lane in November 2022.

A win is a win, though, and the Baggies have a four point gap to Norwich City in sixth while Coventry City and Preston North End are both nine points behind albeit with a game in hand. That top six spot is tantalisingly close….

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