Four days after losing narrowly to table-topping Chelsea, Albion looked to get their survival bid back on track with a return trip to the capital to take on Charlton Athletic. And like game 30 of the current campaign, it produced an unexpected convincing victory.
Charlton Athletic 1 West Brom 4
Given the Addicks’ current league position, a win at the Valley may not seem that remarkable, but Charlton Athletic were a very different side sixteen years ago. This was a club managed by Alan Curbishley at his peak, a man that was being consistently linked with the England job, a side that had been promoted as Champions in 2000 (albeit losing their final game at the Hawthorns as Gary Megson rescued a struggling Baggies side) and had subsequently established themselves in the Premier League.
Indeed, the previous season had seen the Addicks finish seventh, their highest league finish since the 1950s, and they were once again fighting for European qualification sitting once again in seventh when they hosted Albion.
On this particular day, however, the Baggies were looking like a side on a mission and they started the game on the front foot. Less than ten minutes were on the clock when Geoff Horsfield gave Albion a deserved lead, heading home Zoltán Gera’s hooked cross with the Charlton defence looking very disorganised.
The hosts were soon level, however. when Baggie-to-be, Jerome Thomas, threaded a wonderful through ball for Jonatan Johansson splitting the Albion defence. Russell Hoult advanced out of his area to clear the ball, but it rebounded off Johansson leaving the Finn the simple task of rolling the ball into an empty net.
Just five minutes after the equaliser came a key moment in the game when Talal El Karkouri lunged two-footed into Gera and referee, Mark Halsey, had little option but to send the Moroccan off leaving Charlton to play the remaining hour with just ten men.
Albion struggled to find a way through until Robson opted to withdraw Kieran Richardson and introduce Robert Earnshaw to switch to 4-3-3 on 64 minutes. Within ten minutes, the Welshman has made an impact. Paul Robinson’s wonderful cross from the left was headed back across goal by Horsfield and Earnie was on hand in the centre to nod home and put the Baggies back in front.
Ten minutes later, Gera’s through ball sprung the hosts’ off side trap leaving Earnshaw in acres of space and he calmly slotted the ball past another Baggie-to-be, Dean Kiely, to make it 3-1.
And with time almost up, Earnie made history. Richard Chaplow had come off the bench for his Premier League debut and with older heads looking to keep the ball in the corner to run the clock down, the youngster opted to take the ball into the box and was hacked down by Bryan Hughes – penalty to Albion. Only one man was going to take it, and Robert Earnshaw scored easily becoming the first (and still only) player to score a hat trick in all four divisions and at international level.
On the same day, Crystal Palace lost 4-1 at Chelsea while Norwich City were beaten 1-0 at Bolton Wanderers. However, Southampton recorded a surprise win away to Middlesbrough on the Sunday and, at the end of the weekend, the table looked like this.
Premier League Table – 20th March 2005
If you cannot see the table, click here.