2009: A Year's Review - July to September

Last updated : 05 January 2010 By Iain Bate - Wba-mad Editor

July

Roberto Di Matteo revealed he was relishing taking over at The Hawthorns and insisted his side would play a brand of ‘successful and winning football’.  The Italian thanked his former chairman at MK Dons and revealed he was hoping to take Albion ‘to the next step’.  The new head coach also revealed his interest in Simon Cox and hoped to sign the Swindon hotshot next week.

Michael Appleton completed Roberto Di Matteo’s backroom staff with his promotion to first-team coach.  The former Albion player, who had to retire through injury, initially joined as an academy coach but quickly progressed to Under-18s and reserve team coach after gaining his UEFA Pro License back in March.

Chairman Jeremy Peace revealed it was Roberto Di Matteo’s hunger for success which influenced his decision when choosing Albion’s next manager.   Peace believed Albion had got the right man to help them to an immediate return to the Premier League and didn’t foresee any issues working alongside Sporting and Technical Director, Dan Ashworth.

Baggies Barge creator Richard Healey sadly passed away aged 53 following a short illness.

Joss Labadie signed a new one year contract, with a year in the club’s favour, as the youngster hoped to force his way into Roberto Di Matteo’s first team squad.  Ishmael Miller returned to full training and hoped to be fit for Albion’s curtain raiser against Newcastle.

Simon Cox became Roberto Di Matteo’s first signing after joining from Swindon Town in a £1.9 million deal.  The 22-year-old former Reading striker scored 32 times for the Robins last season and signed a two-year contract, plus two years in the club’s favour.  Cox insisted he had the fire power to score the goals needed for promotion with Keith Downing appointed Academy Under-18s coach following Michael Appleton’s promotion to first-team coach.

Youssouf Mulumbu became Albion’s second signing inside 48 hours after wrapping up a £175,000 transfer from Paris St-Germain.  The battling midfielder had returned to pre-season with the Baggies without having a contract or being paid following a loan spell last season.  The 22-year-old signed a one year deal, with a year in the club’s favour.

James Morrison underwent a minor operation on his troublesome heel injury and was due to join the physio for light training in ten days. 

Roberto Di Matteo’s first pre-season fixture in charge of Albion ended in defeat against Blue Square outfit Histon.  After Jamie Barker had given the hosts the lead in the 64th minute following a failed clearance from a corner the Baggies then missed TWO penalties in the final nine minutes of the game.  Debutant Cox first stepped up and saw his weak spot kicked saved by Danny Naisbitt before Luke Moore’s tame effort was also saved by the stopper in similar fashion. 

Ishmael Miller suffered a major setback from his return from injury after undergoing a second operation on his damaged knee.  The striker was immediately ruled out of Albion’s trip to Slovenia although it was not yet known how long he’d be sidelined for.

Paul Robinson finally got his wish and exited The Hawthorns to join up with Gary Megson at The Reebok Stadium on a ‘season long loan’ with a view to a permanent deal.  After joining from Watford back in October 2003 for £250,000, Robbo went on to make 237 appearances scoring six goals in the process.

With the country gripped with Swine Flu precautions AS Nancy cancelled their planned pre-season fixture at The Hawthorns with Italian Serie A side Cheivo stepping in.

Albion travelled out to the Balkans with youngsters Luke Daniels, Dwayne Samuels, David Worrall, Joss Labadie and Chris Wood all in the touring party.

Former striker John Hartson was diagnosed with cancer aged just 34.  The former Celtic and Arsenal striker was given only a slim chance of survival after the disease had spread from his testicles into his lungs and onto this brain. 

The Baggies turned down Fulham’s ‘derisory’ offer for captain Jonathan Greening with the skipper hoping for a return to the Premier League.  Albion offered the former Manchester United and Middlesbrough man a four-year contract as a result.

Graham Dorrans returned to full training after his broken foot and immediately set about impressing new boss Roberto Di Matteo.  Leon Barnett also revealed he hoped to impress his ‘hero’, Roberto Di Matteo, during pre-season after returning from his own knee injury.

Albion returned to winning ways against NK Nafta following goals from Luke Moore, a 25-yard thunderbolt from Jonathan Greening and a header from Jonas Olsson.   After the full time whistle Albion’s skipper Greening set the record straight insisting he would have no problems staying at the club should an acceptable offer not be received and sign a new deal with the Baggies.  However he did reveal he’d like another crack at playing in the Premier League.

Roberto Di Matteo revealed he intended to bring a winning mentality back to the club after a disappointing season in the Premier League.  Robert Koren also issued his own rallying call insisting only players who wanted to play for Albion should stay at the club.

Craig Beattie opened his pre-season account for the Baggies with a brace against NK Varteks however a wonderful 87th minute free-kick from Zoran Lesjak earned the Croatians a draw late on.  As the Baggies headed home from their mini tour, Di Matteo insisted he was pleased with his players and delighted to see his strikers scoring again.

Promising goalkeeper Luke Daniels signed a new two-year deal at the club before heading north to join Tranmere Rovers on a season long loan. 

Dwayne Samuels, Romanie Sawyers, and Lateef Elford-Alliyu signed their first professional contracts with the club.  Defender Samuels, midfielder Sawyers and striker Elford-Alliyu were all handed squad numbers after coming through Albion’s academy.

Luke Moore and Robert Koren both scored against Shrewsbury Town as Albion eased to a 2-0 victory.  Di Matteo revealed that Moore had been ‘brilliant’ in pre-season so far after rarely figuring last term under Tony Mowbray.

A youthful Albion outfit travelled to Kidderminster Harriers with Lateef Elford-Alliyu earning the Baggies a respectable draw.  Keith Downing took charge of the Albion XI with Josh Knight earning and converting a penalty in the 27th minute.  Harriers fought back with goals from Matthew Barnes-Homer and Kyle Hadley before Elford-Alliyu’s equaliser in the 83rd minute.

Baggies fans outnumbered the home fans at Walsall where goals from Luke Moore and Craig Beattie rescued Albion a draw against their Black Country neighbours.  The hosts scored two goals on the stroke of half time with strikes from Dwayne Mattis and trialist Matt Richards.  However Albion fought back after the break and were well worth a draw.  Di Matteo was pleased his side had battled back at the Bescot Stadium but raised concerns about the defensive side of Albion’s game.  The Baggies boss also revealed James Morrison was expected to miss the whole of pre-season. 

The Hawthorns was chosen to host England’s Under-20 home friendly against Montenegro. 

Sherjill MacDonald completed a £650,000 transfer to Belgium top-flight outfit Germinal Beerschot.  A 15% sell on clause was also included in the deal.  In total MacDonald failed to make a single start or score for the Baggies, however did feature 32 times off the bench.  Albion paid a total of £520,000 for his services during his time at The Hawthorns.

A day after MacDonald’s exit, Do-Heon Kim left Albion to join Suwon Bluewings for £360,000.  The midfielder joined for £500,000 from Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma at the start of last season after joining initially on loan the January before.   Kim made a total of 26 appearances for the club, including 13 as a sub, and scored twice – his first against QPR to help Albion secure their first league title in 88 years.

Swindon Town inflicted Albion’s first defeat in six pre-season games at the County Ground following Gordon Greer’s header.  Roberto Di Matteo made seven changes with Filipe Teixeira and Simon Cox both missing chances either side of the break.  After the defeat Roberto Di Matteo insisted places were up for grabs in the starting XI and revealed Simon Cox would need time to adjust following his summer transfer from the Robins. 

Albion’s pre-season fixture against Port Vale was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch with both sides deciding not to rearrange the game.

Saido Berahino and George Thorne both featured for England Under-17s in the Nordic Tournament during a 1-1 draw with Denmark and during the 8-0 demolition of the Faroe Islands – in which Berahino hit a brace. 

The last day of July was a sad one for the footballing world as Sir Bobby Robson passed away.  The former Fulham and West Bromwich Albion player went on to play for his country 20 times scoring four goals.  After an illustrious managerial career, in which he took England to the World Cup semi-finals in 1990, Robson battled with cancer a number of times.  In August 2008 his lung cancer was confirmed to be terminal.  The much loved character was 76.  The Baggies and Newcastle decided to honour his life and career before their season opener as a mark of respect.

On the same day Albion completed their third signing of the summer with Rueben Reid joining from Rotherham United for an undisclosed fee.  The 21-year-old signed a two-year deal, with a year in the club’s favour. 

Chris Wood’s fantastic effort was not enough to stop a young Baggies side falling to defeat against Cheltenham Town.  Michael Appleton took charge of a select Albion XI with David Hutton opening the scoring before the break.  After Wood’s individual effort Elvis Hammond again gave Town the lead.  The young Throstles again battled back with Romaine Sawyers and Josh Knight both hitting the woodwork before the final whistle was blown.

August

Roberto Di Matteo took charge of his first game at The Hawthorns as Albion finished off their pre-season fixtures with a 0-0 draw against Chievo.  The Baggies dominated the game for long spells but were unable to find a way past a typically well drilled Italian backline with Graham Dorrans, Luke Moore and Chris Brunt all coming close for Albion.  The Stripes sported black armbands in respect of Sir Bobby Robson’s death yesterday.  The Baggies boss was pleased with Albion’s shut-out against Chievo and hoped to make some more additions to his first-team squad before the week was out.

Albion’s youngsters travelled north as they prepared to take part in the prestigious Premier Cup 09 after winning the Nike Cup back in April.  Joss Labadie rejoined Shrewsbury on loan until January.  David Worrall returned to his footballing roots at Bury joining the Shakers on loan initially for a month with the aim of gaining first team experience. 

At the Premier Cup 09 Albion’s young guns suffered defeat against KRC Genk in their opening game.  However the Baggies did earn a 0-0 draw against Korean outfit, Boin Middle School. 

A book of condolence was opened in the honour of Sir Bobby Robson.  Skipper Adil Nabi scored a stunning goal against Orlando Pirates but was unable to prevent a 3-1 defeat at the Premier Cup.  The Baggies did register their first ever win in the competition during a 2-1 win over Changchun Yatai with striker Nabi scoring both goals.  The Baggies eventually went on to become the 16th best Under-15 team in the world.

Roberto Di Matteo called for Albion’s supporters to get behind their team on the eve of Newcastle United’s visit to The Hawthorns.  It was an emotional afternoon with a number of Sir Bobby Robson’s teammates present to honour the former Albion player and Newcastle manager prior to a video tribute before kick-off.  New Zealand international Chris Wood was given his full debut at the age of 17 up front alongside Luke Moore.  New signings Simon Cox and Reuben Reid were named amongst the subs. 

Youngster Chris Wood impressed in attack before Shelton Martis scored his first Albion goal in the 39th minute following a tap-in from a corner.  In the resulting melee visiting ‘keeper Steve Harper was knocked unconscious with the unknown Tim Krul filling in between the posts.  After Damien Duff had equalised for Newcastle in the 55th minute the Baggies bombarded Krul’s goal with the talented stopper making a number of world class saves to deny Robert Koren twice, Luke Moore and Graham Dorrans right at the death.  After the full time whistle Di Matteo believed his side were unlucky not to earn three points and gave praise to Tim Krul after his impressive substitute performance.

Highly rated England Under-21 defender Joe Mattock became Albion’s fourth signing of the summer as he bolstered the Baggies’ defensive options.  The 19-year-old joined for an undisclosed fee and penned a three-year contract, plus an extra year in the club’s favour.  The former Leicester City man has been capped five times by his country.

Mattock was one of EIGHT changes to Albion’s starting XI for their trip to Bury for the Carling Cup first-round with the defender, Reuben Reid and Simon Cox all handed their full Albion debuts.  With Chris Brunt, Robert Koren, Youssouf Mulumbu, Marek Cech and Abdoulaye Meite all away on international duty, Dean Kiely, Leon Barnett, Filipe Teixeira, Craig Beattie and Graham Dorrans all made their first starts of the season.  In front of 3,077 fans, 677 visiting, Roberto Di Matteo recorded his first competitive win with Graham Dorrans’ first goal in Albion colours five minutes in and Craig Beattie’s deflected goal in the 25th minute.

Di Matteo admitted afterwards he was pleased with his players’ professionalism and confirmed his interest in signing Jerome Thomas after his trials with Hull City and Wolves. 

Roman Bednar returned from exile after the FA imposed a three-month suspension after he admitted charges of ‘possession and use of a prohibited substance’.  The striker and club officials attended a hearing in Derby with his ban back-dated to his initial suspension with Albion – May 17th – allowing the striker to rejoin training with the first team again.

The Baggies were drawn against Rotherham at home in the Carling Cup second-round following their win over Bury.  Robert Koren scored a double for his country as they edged towards qualification for the World Cup.

Jerome Thomas became Albion’s fifth signing of the summer after agreeing terms with the club.  The former Arsenal, Charlton and Portsmouth man was released from his contract at Fratton Park in the summer after a number of injuries blighted his time on the south coast.  The 26-year-old winger signed a two-year contract, with a year in the club’s favour. 

As Albion travelled to Nottingham Forest Roberto Di Matteo made two changes to the team which started against Newcastle.  Graham Dorrans made his first start of the season in favour of Chris Brunt with Roberto Di Matteo opting for a different formation.  Joe Mattock also made his first league start in Albion colours.  After Chris Brunt had his free-kick turned on to the post the Baggies were on the back foot for the majority of the game and were given two massive pieces of luck in the second half.  Firstly, after Jonathan Greening had twisted and turned his way down the left, Chris Cohen turned into his own net before former Albion striker Robert Earnshaw blasted a penalty wide with 12 minutes left to play. 

After the victory Di Matteo was delighted with the way Albion had defended at the City Ground and boosted his options by signing Shaun Cummings on a month’s loan from Chelsea following Gianni Zuiverloon’s hamstring injury against Forest.

Following Bednar’s three month ban and the maximum fine available to the club, Albion decided to take no further action against the striker after he returned to first team training.  Roberto Di Matteo revealed a number of Spanish clubs had enquired about Borja Valero with the midfielder seemingly on his way out of The Hawthorns a year after breaking the Baggies’ record transfer fee.

Shaun Cummings made his first Albion start against Peterborough United at London Road with Jonathan Greening a notable absentee following more speculation regarding his future.  Albion started in stylish fashion and were in front inside three minutes when Luke Moore somehow found a way past Joe Lewis in the Posh goal.  The striker doubled his tally for the season when Chris Wood cleverly found his strike partner with Moore making no mistake from ten yards.  Chris Brunt then tapped home for Albion’s third four minutes before half-time with Craig Mackail-Smith giving Peterborough a lifeline in first-half stoppage time. 

After the break the home side were a different side with Aaron Mclean pulling another goal back for United eight minutes into the second half.  The hosts thought they’d equalled the game in the 94th minute when Scott Carson did brilliantly to parry substitute Martin’s volley.  There was still time for another twist when Graham Dorrans was sent off for two bookable offenses in the sixth minute of injury time. 

Albion revealed that they were in talks with Fulham over skipper Jonathan Greening with Roberto Di Matteo saying the saga would be completed, one way or another, in the next 48 hours.  The Baggies also agreed a fee with Colo Colo for the services of the versatile Gonzalo Jara who Di Matteo hoped would be his sixth summer signing.

Jonathan Greening moved a step closer to joining Fulham on a ‘season-long loan’ with a view to a permanent switch after the two clubs agreed a fee.  Di Matteo responded by making Scott Carson club captain with Jonas Olsson his deputy. 

Czech striker Roman Bednar vowed to repay the faith shown in him by Albion fans during his suspension and deeply regretted his ‘stupid mistake’. 

Robert Koren came in place for the suspended Graham Dorrans as Roberto Di Matteo made only one change to the team to face Ipswich Town at The Hawthorns.  In front of the TV cameras Albion continued their impressive start to the season with Youssouf Mulumbu scoring his first goal for the club with a fine 25-yard volley after Jonas Olsson’s header had been cleared off the line.  The Baggies were dominate against a poor Ipswich team with Robert Koren marking his return to the team with a well worked goal seven minutes before half time.  The midfielder received a pass from Luke Moore before playing a one-two on the edge of the area with Chris Wood before rounding Richard Wright and slotting home.

After an impressive 45 minutes Ipswich threatened first after the break with Carson making a fantastic double save to deny Alan Quinn first and then Liam Trotter’s rebound.  After Jerome Thomas had entered the fray to make his home debut, Luke Moore had a perfect chance to make it three with a 75th minute penalty.  However the striker had his tame spot-kick saved by Wright before the striker headed the rebound straight back at the ‘keeper.  The Baggies’ unbeaten start to the season took them joint top of the league on ten points.

Jonathan Greening finally completed his ‘loan’ move to Fulham after arriving from Middlesbrough for a bargain £1.25 million back in July 2004.  The influential midfielder lifted Albion’s first league trophy in 88 years and featured more than 200 times for Albion before his departure with Roberto Di Matteo paying tribute to the former Middlesbrough man but insisted there was life after the former skipper.

The disappointment of Greening’s departure was quickly forgotten with the arrival of Gonzalo Jara.  Weeks after a deal had been initially agreed only for Albion to pull out, the versatile Chilean signed for £1.4 million.  The 24-year-old signed a three-year deal, with a further year in the club’s favour.

Roman Bednar made his first appearance in three months after his suspension during the Carling Cup second-round clash against Rotherham United.  Di Matteo made NINE changes to the side which easily swept Ipswich aside with Dean Kiely recalled, Abdoulaye Meite and Borja Valero making their first appearances of the season, Reuben Reid starting against his old club and Graham Dorrans, Marek Cech, Leon Barnett, Simon Cox and Craig Beattie all recalled.

The changes disrupted Albion as they struggled to get a foothold on the game although it was the hosts who took the lead in bizarre fashion.  Craig Beattie, playing wide left, whipped in an inviting cross which missed the offside Roman Bednar but found the bottom right-hand corner of Warrington’s net.  Bednar was adjudged to not be interfering with play and Albion were one up.  The visitors were deservedly level 19 minutes later when Green’s excellent cross was met with a powerful header by Cummings after he out jumped Cech. 

After the visitors had finished the strongest before the break the Baggies rallied early in the second period with Graham Dorrans making it two-in-two Carling Cup games with a beautiful curling left foot shot giving Warrington no chance.  With Albion still celebrating Rotherham equalised only a minute later following a strong Pope header from a Law corner. 

With the game ending in a draw extra time was needed with Rotherham drawing first blood through another excellent Pope finish following a poor Barnett clearance.  The goal however raised the home side’s game with Craig Beattie curling in an unstoppable 20 yard effort with his right foot into the top corner after cutting inside.  With Albion back on level terms and into the second period of extra time, Simon Cox scored his first goal in Albion colours four minutes from time after picking up a loose ball and firing it past a despairing Warrington. 

Roberto Di Matteo was delighted with his players’ strength of character and to maintain their unbeaten start to the season.  The Baggies boss was also delighted to see Simon Cox open his account for Albion and paid special praise to Roman Bednar and Borja Valero on their first starts of the season.

Chris Brunt signed a new and improved three year contract, plus a year in the club’s favour, after his impressive form towards the end of the last season and the early part of this campaign.  Weeks after signing his first Albion contract, Youssouf Mulumbu was also rewarded with his early season form with a new and improved two-year, plus a year in the club’s favour, contract. 

Only a day after his heroics against Rotherham Albion agreed a deal with Swansea for the transfer of Craig Beattie.  The 25-year old joined the Swans in an £800,000 deal after signing from Celtic for an initial £1.25 in July 2007.  Beattie made a total of 41 appearances, including 28 as a sub, scoring eight times.  A 20% sell on clause was also included in the deal. 

Gonzalo Jara admitted being in dreamland over his move to England hoping his switch to The Hawthorns would cement his place in Chile’s squad to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.  The Baggies were also given the tricky task of facing Arsene Wenger’s youngsters Arsenal at The Emirates Stadium in the Carling Cup third round.

Roman Bednar made his first league start of the campaign against Sheffield United at Bramall Lane with Jerome Thomas also making his full Albion debut after Chris Brunt missed out through injury.  After a goalless and scrappy first half Bednar hit the headlines for all the right reasons in the second period.  After good work down the right in the 54th minute by Shaun Cummings the full back whipped in a cross in which Bednar gratefully headed home.  Although Evans equalised two minutes later Bednar again put Albion in front when he spun Kilgallon and fired an unstoppable volley past Bunn.  With Albion seemingly heading for a well earned victory referee Phil Crossley then gave a harsh penalty against the visitors after Henderson went down easily under Cummings’ clumsy challenge.  Cotterill fired home the spot kick with just two minutes to go.  The point was still enough to take Albion to the top of the league for the first time this season.

Roberto Di Matteo revealed how good it felt to be sitting on top of the Championship despite his disappointment at not being able to hold onto three points at Bramall Lane.  Bednar again thanked the club and Albion’s fans during his suspension following his brace against Sheffield United.

Saido Berahino continued his scoring streak for England Under-17s netting twice against Turkey at Northampton’s Sixfields Stadium.  The young striker also played 56 minutes against Portugal in the following game.

On the last day of August Borja Valero returned to Real Mallorca on a season’s loan.  The La Liga outfit also have the option of purchasing the midfielder on a permanent basis.  Tony Mowbray made the former Real Madrid playmaker Albion’s record signing when he signed him from Mallorca for £4.7 million last August.  He made 34 appearances last term but failed to live up to expectations as the Baggies were relegated. 

September

Shaun Cummings chose a permanent switch to Reading instead of extending his loan at Albion much to the displeasure of Roberto Di Matteo who wished to keep the right back.  David Worrall had his loan spell at Bury extended until the 3rd of January after impressing at Gigg Lane.

Gonzalo Jara helped Chile take a step closer to qualifying for the World Cup with Robert Koren captaining Slovenian against England at Wembley during a 2-1 friendly defeat.  Former Albion defender Bostjan Cesar also featured.

Graham Dorrans received his first international call-up to the Scottish side to face Holland at the age of 22.  The midfielder had started the season in fine form and had found the net twice against Bury and Rotherham in the Carling Cup.

After taking Albion to the top of the league Roberto Di Matteo was nominated for the August Manager-of-the-Month award in the Coca-Cola Championship.  The Baggies’ Under-18s side continued their unbeaten start to the season and reached second place in the Premier Academy League Group C following a goalless draw with Middlesbrough.  Almost the same side lost 3-0 during the reserves’ game against Shrewsbury two days later.

Gianni Zuiverloon was passed fit for the game against Plymouth Argyle with Luke Moore determined to repay the faith shown in him by Roberto Di Matteo.  Simon Cox was handed his full league debut against the Pilgrims with Chris Brunt also returning from injury after missing the last two games.  In what was to be an early season reoccurrence at The Hawthorns it was the visitors who opened the scoring in the 12th minute.  Shelton Martis was outmuscled following a long ball up field with Jamie Mackie racing clear to fire under Scott Carson.  Martis made amends in the 34th minute when he scrambled home a corner to level the scores before Marek Cech stole the show.  Six minutes after Albion’s equaliser the former Porto man received a chested pass from Roman Bednar.  Twenty-five yards out from goal with nothing else on the Slovakian hit a rasping shot which gave Larrieu in the Argyle goal no chance.

After Plymouth had changed kits at the request of their manager Paul Sturrock it took Albion and Cech only three minutes to find the back of the net again – however this time his effort was cruelly ruled out for offside. Minutes later the visitors almost snatched an undeserved equaliser when Steve MacLean headed down for Mackie to blast against the underside of the bar and away to safety.  As Argyle pushed forward Albion exploited the gaps with Cech scoring a valid second this time with just four minutes left on the clock.  The victory took Albion a point clear at the top of the table. 

Roberto Di Matteo was relieved to see his team comeback from an early set-back and believed Marek Cech’s early season form was down to his new-found happiness at The Hawthorns following a difficult first season under Tony Mowbray.  The Slovakian later revealed the return of Roman Bednar had brought a smile back to his face and he was enjoying his football again at The Hawthorns.

Graham Dorrans revealed the new found spirit with Albion’s camp and backed the squad to deal with the hectic Championship schedule.  Roberto Di Matteo urged patience with new signing Simon Cox after a difficult first couple of months at Albion and backed Scott Carson to go to the 2010 World Cup with England. 

Robert Koren was the only change to the team which beat Plymouth to face Doncaster Rovers at home with Simon Cox dropping to the bench as Di Matteo opted for a five man midfield at home.  In a mirror images to the Argyle game only days before, the Baggies again conceded early when Waide Fairhurst had the easy task of tapping into an empty net in the 7th minute following good work from John Oster down Albion’s left.  The hosts were on level terms 12 minutes later when Jonas Olsson headed home his first goal of the season following a corner.  Chris Brunt came close to giving Albion the lead with a free kick before half time with the two teams going in level.

After the break it was Doncaster who looked more likely to take the lead following a poor spell from the hosts however Jonas Olsson again headed in for his second of the night.  Dorrans’ delightful curling free kick was met by the head of the giant Swede giving Sullivan no chance in the Donny goal.  The goal took the steam out of the visitors with Roman Bednar and Chris Wood both coming close before the young forward opened his professional account in some style.  The 17-year-old muscled his way onto the ball before flicking it over his shoulder, controlling it on his chest and then firing an unstoppable 25-yard volley into the top left hand corner.  A great strike from a promising forward!

Roberto Di Matteo revealed there was still work to do with his table-topping side to do after again seeing them comeback from an early goal down.  The boss also admitted the prospect of Wood ‘excites’ him and his goal was ‘worth the admission fee alone’. 

Josh Knight’s first half double secured a 2-1 win for the reserves against Sheffield United after Dean Kiely had saved a penalty.  Chris Wood admitted he models his game around Roman Bednar despite his earlier misdemeanour.

As Albion prepared to travel to second-place Boro at The Riverside Stadium Roberto Di Matteo admitted it’d be a massive fillip if they were to win on Teesside – however played down the significance of the result in the course of the season.

The club paid tribute to Cecily Batson after the former right back’s wife passed away following a six-month absence. 

Luke Moore returned from injury to partner Roman Bednar in attack during the top-of-the-table clash against Middlesbrough.  Jerome Thomas was also brought back in the starting XI.  Despite only a point separating the teams at kick-off the gulf in class was evident as the Baggies hit a five-star show at The Riverside Stadium.  In Albion’s only piece of fortune of the day, Chris Brunt gave Albion the lead in the 18th minute when his deflected free kick gave Danny Coyne no chance in the Boro goal.  Brunt’s second goal of the afternoon 14 minutes later was nothing short of sublime as the former Middlesbrough man hit a first time effort from 40 yards over Coyne’s head following his weak header.  Youssouf Mulumbu then topped a fantastic half of football from the visitors with a looping header following a Graham Dorrans cross from the left. 

Albion continued in dominant fashion after the break and were four up eight minutes from time when Roman Bednar picked up a loose ball in the hosts’ box to side foot into the corner of the net.  Jerome Thomas then capped a fantastic all-round performance with a fine individual goal twisting and turning before scoring his first Albion goal and scooping the man-of-the-match award.  The victory extended Albion’s position at the top of the league, extended their unbeaten streak to ten games and became the Baggies’ biggest away win for 32 years.  What a result!

Di Matteo afterwards described the performance as ‘perfect’ and believed his side had made a ‘statement’ to their promotion rivals.

A late strike from Lateef Elford-Alliyu against Newcastle mirrored the first-team’s unbeaten run as Keith Dowling made a fine start as Under-18s coach. 

With Albion needing to avoid defeat by Crystal Palace to equal the club’s nine-game unbeaten record Di Matteo admitted his players were keeping their feet firmly on the ground.

Gonzalo Jara made his first start in Albion colours at The Emirates Stadium as Roberto Di Matteo made six changes to face a young Arsenal side in the Carling Cup third-round.  Filipe Teixeira came in for only his second start of the season with Dean Kiely, Leon Barnett, Robert Koren, and Simon Cox all recalled.  In front of 56,592 fans in-form Albion more than matched their fledgling Premier League opponents.  Backed by a bumper following of 3,500 fans, Robert Koren and Simon Cox both came close to opening the scoring for the Championship leaders before Jerome Thomas was sent off for an off-the-ball-incident after clashing with Jack Wilshire. 

With Albion down to ten men the sending off changed the game after the break with the Gunners taking advantage of having an additional player.  Although Simon Cox missed a glorious chance with a free header from 8-yards, Sanchez Watt opened the scoring in the 68th minute tapping home a rebound after Dean Kiely had saved from Carlos Vela.  The goal inspired the hosts with Mark Randall attempting an audacious 20-yard lob which rebounded back off the crossbar into the path of Leon Barnett.  Instead of clearing the ball to safety the clumsy defender tried to chest the ball to Kiely but instead found Vela who bundled the ball past Albion’s ‘keeper to put Arsenal two up and into the next round.

After Albion’s first defeat of the season Roberto Di Matteo leaped to the defence of Jerome Thomas and also revealed how impressed he was with Gonzalo Jara following his first appearance in a Baggies shirt.  Dean Kiely also revealed how Jerome Thomas apologised to his teammates after his first sending off of his career in the changing room after the game. 

Youngsters Adil Nabi and Elikem Amenku were called up to England’s Under-16 Victory Shield for the second year running.  Player and goalkeeping coach Dean Kiely admitted he was relishing his new duel role at the club.

Jonas Olsson was sure Albion’s defeat against Arsenal in the Carling Cup wouldn’t affect their league form as they aimed to equal the club’s unbeaten record against Crystal Palace.  The club also opened talks with the Swede over a new four-year deal. 

Albion’s 5-0 hammering of Middlesbrough earned the club the F&C Investments Performance-of-the-Week Award. 

Joe Mattock returned from injury for Crystal Palace’s visit to The Hawthorns with Gonzalo Jara making his first league start in an unfamiliar right wing role.  Neil Warnock’s men came to frustrate Albion and ensured 11 men were behind at every possible occasion.  The visitors threatened only on the counter attack with the dangerous Victor Moses causing Albion, and in particular Gianni Zuiverloon, problems every time he received the ball.  Luke Moore had Albion’s best chance after a disappointing opening twenty minutes when he fired over from 12 yards after good work from Zuiverloon.

After the break the Baggies tried to up the tempo although they always looked vulnerable to a sucker punch.  Palace midfielder Ambrose went agonisingly close seeing his 25-yard effort fizz inches past the post during a rare venture into Albion’s half before Moore’s goal-bound effort was smothered by Speroni when one-on-one with the ‘keeper.  The sucker punch Palace threatened came in the 63rd minute when Butterfield’s long free kick into the Albion area looked be handled by Alassane N’Diaye as he held off Shelton Martis before poking past Scott Carson.  The goalkeeper’s and defender’s appeals fell on deaf ears. 

The Baggies again pushed forward with Jonas Olsson and Reuben Reid both coming close with headers but the game was to end frustratingly as Roberto Di Matteo suffered defeat for the first time in the Championship.  The boss admitted his disappointment at the Palace performance and rued errors at both ends of the pitch. 

Jonas Olsson raised spirits slightly with the news that he’d signed a new four-year contract with the Baggies prior to kick off.

Albion’s Under-18 side also suffered defeat for the first time at the hands of neighbours Wolves. Roberto Di Matteo rubbished newspaper reports linking Abdoulaye Meite with a move away from The Hawthorns on loan insisting speculation was ‘newspaper talk’.  The Baggies boss also called for a fast response to their first league defeat of the season against Barnsley.

Chris Wood was given his first start in eight games at Oakwell against Barnsley with Chris Brunt also favoured in midfield instead of Gonzalo Jara.  In easily Albion’s worst performance of the season the Baggies were blown away in the first half with Barnsley’s players out to impress new boss Mark Robins.  After Carl Dickinson was fortunate to stay on the field following a shocking tackle on Roman Bednar 11 minutes in, Adam Hammill gave the hosts the lead three minutes later.  The former Liverpool winger, and reportedly one-time target, was allowed to wriggle his way into the area before slotting past Scott Carson at close range.  After Roman Bednar missed a relatively easy chance, Barnsley doubled their advantage 15 minutes later when referee Mathieson awarded a penalty to the Tykes following a push from Zuiverloon.  Ian Hume made no mistake from the spot.

Di Matteo made one change at the break replacing Youssouf Mulumbu with Gonzalo Jara in midfield.  Albion briefly rallied with Bednar, Dorrans and Cox all going close before Shelton Martis capped a poor display with an own goal ten minutes from time with little danger around him.  Albion’s only moment of cheer during another defeat at Oakwell came two minutes from time when Chris Brunt capped his return from injury with a swerving 30-yard drive.

The Baggies boss pulled no punches at the final whistle after witnessing Albion’s ‘terrible’ performance at Oakwell.  Albion’s third consecutive defeat saw them drop two points behind leaders Newcastle as October arrived.