After back-to-back defeats against Bournemouth and Swansea the Baggies had to get a victory against struggling Newcastle to avoid being sucked into a relegation battle.
Baggies boss Tony Pulis surprised every Albion fan by giving an unlikely recall to the forgotten man Victor Anichebe. Naughty boy Saido Berahino was again on the bench – but only just according to Pulis.
Anichebe was recalled alongside Stephane Sessegnon. The introduction of the two turned out to be a masterstroke by Pulis. The pair ran Newcastle from the first minute. For once this season Albion started the game with the intensity The Hawthorns has been crying out for.
Newcastle were on the ropes early on and James Morrison was unluckly not to open the scoring. After having one cleared off the line, Mozza then saw stand-in Newcastle keeper Karl Darlow push away his goal-bound volley.
Fletcher was next to try his luck but saw his effort blocked by a Newcastle defender before his follow-up volley was tipped over.
Newcastle’s only hope of mounting an attack came on the counter attack. After Yacob’s poor cross-field ball Newcastle’s Sissoko sprinted forward. The powerful midfielder surged forward but Gareth McAuley’s excellent last ditch tackle prevented a shot at Albion’s goal.
Albion had corner after corner in front of the Smethwick End but were unable to really test the flapping Darlow in the Newcastle goal.
After the break
The Baggies were unable to start the second half with the same intensity. Newcastle seemed more comfortable and were unlucky not to score when Dummit’s header looped against the crossbar. Coloccini’s rebound hit the post as Albion escaped a rare scare.
Anichebe and Sessegnon were still a threat to the Geordies. If only the pair could perform to this level of consistency every week Albion would have two wonderful players on their hands. Unfornately for both, these types of performances only seem to happen every couple of games a season.
Darlow was becoming more nervous as the minutes ticked on. He was almost Paul Crichton-esque at times. The keeper made good saves from Anichebe and Berahion, but reverted back to type when he fumbled Darren Fletcher’s header into the back of net.
It was a well worked goal from Albion. Sessegnon tricked his way down the right before pulling the ball back to Yacob. The midfielder’s teasing cross was headed home by his partner in crime in the centre.
The Baggies pushed forward for another and saw out the game without any real scares from the visitors.
This was the type of performance that Albion fans have been hoping for all season. Albion took the game by the scruff of its net and were unlucky to only score the one goal. The Baggies had a whopping 25 shots on target and forced 18 corners.
Although the majority of Albion fans thought that Pulis had lost the plot selecting Anichbe, his introduction – along with Sessegnon – made a real difference. While many Albion fans wanted to see Berahino given a chance, it was Anichebe who really caught the eye. He was powerful, full of running, held the ball up well and almost played the perfect lone-striker role. All that was missing was a goal. On another day he’d have had one.
Sessegnon was unstoppable as well. Every time he got the ball ‘Sess’ looked like he was going to create something. His corner kicks were also a real danger from the left.
Pulis was right after the final whistle that Albion deserved all three points. How nice would it be if he takes this approach at home for the rest of the season?
Come on you Baggies!
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