Of all the games in the run up to the Great Escape, game 34 is perhaps the one that is most forgotten. Bryan Robson, who had started his tenure at Albion with a 2-1 home defeat to his former club, returned to the Riverside on 23rd April 2005 with the Baggies in their best form of the season having drawn 1-1 at White Hart Lane in their previous match, a result that kept them outside of the bottom three.
Middlesbrough 4 West Brom 0
The Baggies travelled to Teesside without a win at Middlesbrough in more than half a century and, if Robson was hoping that his former club might go easy on him, he was sorely mistaken as Steve McLaren’s side were clinical in a blistering ten minutes around the half hour as Szilárd Németh and Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink combined to score three times and settle the game.
It’s not that Albion played poorly, and indeed Richard Chaplow laid on two very presentable chances for Kevin Campbell inside the first 15 minutes, but as Boro’ took their chances, the visitors did not. Earnshaw had a couple of chances to reduce the deficit before the break but 3-0 at half-time, the game was gone.
Stewart Downing added a fourth with a wonderful free-kick in stoppage time and Albion fans anxiously tuned in their radios to find out how damaging the result had been.
The news was not good. Norwich City registered a 1-0 win over Charlton Athletic thanks to a late goal by Mathias Svensson but the real shock was that an Andy Johnson goal had been enough for Palace to beat Liverpool at Selhurst Park. Southampton’s 4-1 defeat at Portsmouth at least meant that Albion weren’t bottom, but they were back in the relegation zone with just four games left, albeit with a game in hand over their rivals.
Premier League Table – 24th April 2005
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