A Year's Review - October to December

October

Graham Dorrans was again called up by Scotland to face Japan in Yokohama City.  James Morrison finally received some good news when he returned to the brink of light training following his heel nightmare.  Another injured star, Ishmael Miller, signed a new five-year contract with the club – despite not figuring for nearly twelve months with a serious knee injury.

After three straight defeats Roberto Di Matteo recalled Abdoulaye Meite for his first start of the season away at Preston North End.  In front of the TV cameras Albion deployed a five-man midfield with Graham Dorrans supporting Roman Bednar in attack.  The formation worked with Dorrans causing the home side problems throughout with his advanced role.  After a scrappy opening it was Albion who came the closest to opening the scoring when Dorrans’ mazy run agonisingly hit the post in the 14th minute with Andy Lonergan beaten. 

Preston threatened only at set-pieces with Dorrans coming close a further two times as Albion pushed forward for the win.  The Scotsman thought he’d given Albion the lead in stoppage time with Lonergan making a great low save following the midfielder’s header.  The point was enough to secure second place for the Baggies heading into the international break.

Roberto Di Matteo was pleased to end Albion’s losing streak and believed his side deserved more than a point.  The boss also said Roman Bednar should’ve been awarded a penalty after being brought down in the area.

Jonas Olsson believed the international break would reinvigorate Albion’s stuttering promotion push with Jerome Thomas raring to go after his suspension.

Gonzalo Jara and Abdoulaye Meite helped Chile and The Ivory Coast qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa; Graham Dorrans also made his international debut for Scotland against Japan.  After helping Chile qualify, Albion had a request for Jara to return to England early refused by the Chilean FA.

Reuben Reid scored his first goal in Albion colours for the reserves with Lateef Elford-Alliyu also netting a brace during a 3-2 victory against Macclesfield. 

Adil Nabi made his debut for England Under-16s against Wales in the Victory Shield.  The young striker almost opened his account during his 45-minute appearance after hitting the post.

England enquired about Scott Carson being called up to the national squad after Robert Green’s sending off against the Ukraine however Albion’s captain was sidelined through injury.  Roberto Di Matteo insisted the enquiry would be a massive boost for the stopper.

Luke Moore and Jerome Thomas both returned to the Albion side to face Reading at The Hawthorns.  After four games without a win Albion started in the worst possible manner after Matt Mills headed the visitors into the lead in the sixth minute.  Albion thought they’d been awarded a penalty in the 14th minute when Moore was brought down by Ingimarsson however referee Anthony Taylor gave a free kick on the edge of the area.  The hosts were level 15 minutes later on the half-hour mark when Jobi McAnuff’s under hit back-pass was intercepted by Jerome Thomas with the winger having the easy task of rolling the ball into an empty net.

It was Thomas who gave Albion the lead after the break when Chris Wood’s excellent through ball found the winger who made no mistake when one-on-one with the keeper.  After Reading goalkeeper Adam Federici had made a number of fine saves to deny Albion, Youssouf Mulumbu scored Albion’s third of the afternoon with an excellent looping volley from the edge of the area.  Graham Dorrans had the final effort of the afternoon with a 45-yard shot which Federici had to be at full stretch to tip the ball over the bar.  The victory took Albion back to the top of the Championship.

Roberto Di Matteo congratulated his players for beating any pre-match nerves following a winless streak with Scott Carson praising the impact Jerome Thomas had following his return from suspension. 

Former inside forward David Burnside sadly passed away after suffering a sudden heart attack.  The 69-year-old joined Albion as an amateur and made 135 appearances scoring 42 times.  Burnside was renowned for his magical ball skills and only visited The Hawthorns at the start of the season to honour Sir Bobby Robson.

Albion’s Under-18 side thrashed the renowned Crewe Alexandra youth team 7-2 with Lateef Elford-Alliyu scoring two with Kayleden Brown, Sam Mantom, Saido Berahino and Ethan Mannion all scoring with a Crewe player also netting for the Baggies youngsters.

Roman Bednar’s back injury was not as bad as first feared after he was carried off and taken to hospital against Reading.  Chris Wood was recalled to the Albion team to play Swansea City as a result.  The visitors frustrated Albion throughout with defenders Williams and Tate faultless for the Swans at the back.  When Jerome Thomas danced into the Swansea area and was upended by Tate The Hawthorns roared for a spot-kick, however referee Andy D’Urso waved away any appeals.  The visitors broke swiftly with Craig Beattie inches away from scoring against his former side.  The visitors were now on top with Carson doing well to save efforts from Nathan Dyer and Tate following a corner. 

After Di Matteo had introduced Filipe Teixeira and Robert Koren after the break it was Swansea who opened the scoring when Beattie did find a way past Scott Carson following a low drive.  Simon Cox was introduced from the bench to find an equaliser and almost did when put through by Dorrans however he dragged his shot inches wide.  Albion again pushed for an equaliser but couldn’t find a way past an organised Swansea defence.  Despite defeat Albion remained at the top of the league.

Assistant manager Eddie Newton rued being undone by a sucker punch with Scott Carson disappointed Albion couldn’t open up a lead on second-placed Newcastle following their defeat at Scunthorpe. 

Newton congratulation Albion’s young side for topping the division after the first 13 games but warned there were plenty more difficult games to come.  Albion’s No.2 also said Neil Clement was being given the club’s full support as he tried to battle back from a serious knee injury.

Roberto Di Matteo reverted back to the five man midfield he deployed at Preston against Coventry City at The Ricoh Arena.  Robert Koren made his first start in four games with Dorrans deployed behind Luke Moore in attack.  In an East vs West Midlands derby void of any real quality it was Albion who offered any type of goal threat.  After Thomas again had valid penalty calls turned away the winger fizzed an effort inches wide after cutting inside in the 20th minute.  Backed by a bumper following of 4,000 Albion fans, Jonas Olsson wasted a free-header from a corner with Graham Dorrans hitting the outside of the post.  In the third minute of first-half stoppage time Thomas again looked to have been brought down in the area with referee Stroud time blowing his whistle – amazingly to book the winger for diving!

The stalemate continued into the second half with neither team able to control the game.  Filipe Teixeira came within inches of scoring for the visitor’s before Albion’s best chance of the game four minutes from time.  Dorrans did well to find substitute Wood who ran clear but was unable to find the net following a good save from City’s goalkeeper.  After the final whistle Jonas Olsson was involved in an ugly spat with a section of Albion fans following their criticism of the Baggies’ poor performance.

Di Matteo moaned that Albion should’ve been awarded a penalty for the second successive game and insisted his players must take their chances when presented.  Olsson played down the disagreement after the final whistle with the visiting fans insisting he ‘likes the pressure’ at the top of the league.

Simon Cox found his scoring boots for the reserves with Shelton Martis scoring a last minute equaliser away at Port Vale.

Following the shot-shy display against Coventry Roberto Di Matteo revealed he’d be putting his players through finishing school in training as he hoped to find Albion’s goalscoring touch again.

George Thorne helped England Under-17s beat Kazakhstan 6-2 and Azerbaijan 4-0. 

Di Matteo was eager to return to winning ways at home following the Swansea defeat at The Hawthorns.  Jerome Thomas also admitted he needed to improve his form after his last two below-par performances against Coventry and the Swans.

Filipe Teixeira was handed his first league start in 19 months as he and Simon Cox were selected to face Watford at home.  Di Matteo’s extra training in the week in front of goal paid off as the Baggies produced a five-star show against the Hornets.  Jonas Olsson gave Albion the lead inside the opening five minutes when he headed home Graham Dorrans’ centre to settle any early nerves.  The advantage was doubled in the 18th minute when Luke Moore was upended in the area and Graham Dorrans smashed home the resulting spot-kick.  Watford striker Danny Graham then missed a glorious chance to equalise when he mis-hit his effort moments before half time when unmarked at the back post.

Albion continued their dominance after the break with Simon Cox first missing a point blank header before Luke Moore made it 3-0 in the 49th minute.  After keeper Loach had blocked the striker’s first effort he regained the ball before firing it home from an acute angle.  Gianni Zuiverloon then passed up the opportunity to make it 4-0 when he squared the ball to Jerome Thomas whose shoot was blocked on the line.  However the defender didn’t make the same mistake a minute later scoring his first league goal for the club in the 63rd minute.  Albion were unstoppable at this point with Simon Cox scoring his first league goal five minutes later with a volley from 25-yards which gave Loach no chance.  The resounding victory took Albion from fourth before kick-off to a point clear of Newcastle at the top of the league.

Albion chief Di Matteo was pleased to see Luke Moore end his scoring drought and demanded more goals from his forwards.  The Baggies boss also insisted everybody should keep their feet on the ground following the impressive win against Watford. 

November

Simon Cox hoped his first league goal for the club would be the first of many for the Baggies with Roberto Di Matteo praising the ‘professionalism’ of Filipe Teixeira after hours of hard work on the training field worked wonders during his impressive performance against Watford.

Albion’s second string went goal crazy during their visit to Burton Albion smashing home a perfect ten!  Seven different scorers, Reuben Reid (2), Shelton Martis (2), Chris Wood (2), Paul Downing, Roman Bednar and Lateef Elford-Alliyu, got their name on the score-sheet. 

Gianni Zuiverloon admitted his joy at this his league goal for the club but admitted the clean sheet against the Hornets meant just as much.  Roberto Di Matteo admitted having sympathy for out-of-favour Robert Koren amidst reports he’d be searching for a January switch away from The Hawthorns.

Leon Barnett joined Coventry City on an emergency loan until January 31st after falling down the pecking order at The Hawthorns.  The former Luton man had figured just twice so far this season.  Roberto Di Matteo backed Joe Mattock to cope with the hostile expected on his return to The Walkers Stadium following his summer switch to the Baggies.

Chris Wood and Robert Koren were both called-up by their country for the important World Cup qualification play-offs.  Both would eventually quality for South Africa.  Despite several players heading off to represent their countries, Di Matteo arranged a training camp in La Manga, Spain, to help boost team spirit.

Elikem Amenku and Adil Nabi both figured for England Under-16s in the 2-0 victory over Northern Ireland in the Victory Shield. 

On the eve of Albion’s journey to Leicester City, Chris Brunt thanked Foxes No.2 and former Albion coach Craig Shakespeare for his influence during his time at The Hawthorns.  Brunt was recalled to the starting line-up in place of Filipe Teixeira.  After saluting the armed forces in this year’s Poppy Appeal, Jerome Thomas and Luke Moore came close to opening the scoring for the visitors as Roberto Di Matteo’s men took control of the game.  Graham Dorrans made it two goals in two games after his free-kick made its way through a sea of legs in the 37th minute with Gonzalo Jara doubling Albion’s advantage three minutes later with his first goal in English football with a beautiful swerving drive.

Albion were again on top after the break with Brunt and Thomas both testing Weale in the Foxes’ goal with Luke Moore almost putting the game out of reach in the 79th minute however his shot cannoned back off the crossbar.  City pulled a goal back in the fourth minute of injury time after Scott Carson could only parry a free-kick with Albion managing to hold on to the victory much to the delight on the 3,200 travelling fans.

Roberto Di Matteo revealed his delight at Albion’s deserved win at The Walkers Stadium and hailed the ‘Premier League class’ of Gonzalo Jara following an impressive show from the World Cup bound Chilean.

Jonas Olsson revealed Albion’s trip to sunnier shores had been a success with confidence and moral now brimming following great victories over Watford and Leicester City.  Albion chief Di Matteo insisted the training camp would prove to be invaluable as the busy festive period approached.

Following his impressive form at Real Mallorca, Roberto Di Matteo insisted the door was still open for Borja Valero to return to The Hawthorns when his loan spell ended at his former club.  Albion’s record signing netted three times in nine games despite never scoring for the Baggies.

After returning from his loan spell at Shrewsbury early after Paul Simpson no longer requiring his services, Joss Labadie joined League Two side Cheltenham Town on a month’s loan.

Jonas Olsson hoped his early season form would be enough for him to earn his first call up to the Sweden squad following new coach Erik Hamren’s appointment.  The giant defender also praised the impact of Joe Mattock insisting the defender had filled the void left by Paul Robinson who was now sitting on Bolton’s bench.

Albion were unchanged for the first time during Roberto Di Matteo’s reign at the club and returned to the top of the table following another stellar show against Bristol City.  The Baggies’ training trip to Spain immediately paid off when Jerome Thomas jinked in off the left to fire home at the near post in the third minute – moments after Gianni Zuiverloon had cleared off the line.  Brunt then scored an almost carbon copy to double Albion’s lead when he timed his run to perfection and waltzed around Dean Gerkin to slot home.  Graham Dorrans then missed a glorious chance to put Albion three up missing a volley from ten yards when unmarked. 

The Baggies started the second half as they had the first and were three goals to the good inside 50 seconds of the restart.  Gianni Zuiverloon found Simon Cox down the right with his cross-come-shot diverted into his own net by Louis Carey.  It was 4-0 only seconds later as Albion won the ball back and Jerome Thomas swung in an inviting cross from the left.  Simon Cox showed his predatory instincts to prod home the inviting centre.  However the best goal of the afternoon would belong to City and Paul Hartley.  The former Scottish international midfielder had already hit the outside of the post in the first half before scoring an unstoppable 30-yard free-kick with seven minutes remaining.  The resounding victory saw Albion storm back to pole position in the Championship.

Di Matteo was pleased his side had maintained their momentum following the two-week international break and revealed his expectations had been surpassed so far after taking over in the summer from Tony Mowbray.

Joe Mattock’s injured foot was not as bad as first feared after undergoing an x-ray with Canadian starlet Marcus Haber arriving for a training spell with the Baggies.  Albion’s new found rearguard resistance pleased Roberto Di Matteo but insisted there was still more work to be done.

Young prospect Saido Berahino’s first reserve goal salvaged a late draw for Albion’s second-string against Black Country neighbours Walsall.  Di Matteo praised Gonzalo Jara for quickly settling into life in England and The Hawthorns.  The versatile 24-year-old had already featured across the back-line and in central and wide right midfield following his switch from Colo Colo.

Chris Brunt revealed he felt a ‘more experienced’ player before his return to Sheffield Wednesday and Hillsborough.  Marek Cech replaced the injured Joe Mattock in Albion’s only change to the side which brushed aside Bristol City.  In one of Albion’s most emphatic performances of the season the visitor’s recorded a fourth straight league victory after an accomplished 4-0 victory.

Although Wednesday threatened briefly during the opening stages it was Albion who had the attacking edge with Jerome Thomas a real thorn in the Wednesday defence.  Following a Graham Dorrans cross which the hosts failed to clear Simon Cox was left unmarked to open the scoring at the back post in the 23rd minute.  The striker then doubled Albion’s lead after again finding himself unmarked at the back post to simply pass the ball into an unguarded net.  Jerome Thomas then capped an impressive first half when he interchanged with Simon Cox before firing home a beautiful curling effort.

The visitors controlled the game after the break but seldom threatened as they had in the first half.  Albion had a slice of good fortune in the 54th minute when Jonas Olsson upended Marcus Tudgay in the area only for the linesmen to raise his flag for offside after a spot kick had been awarded.  After Moore and Cox had both gone close to scoring a fourth, Chris Brunt scored against his former club in the 85th minute after drilling home a right foot effort.  With Albion cruising George Thorne was introduced in the 88th minute to become the club’s youngest player to make his league debut since Bobby Hope in 1960.

Despite seeing his side score an amazing 15 times in four games Roberto Di Matteo decided to praise his defenders after the 4-0 Wednesday victory.  The boss was delighted with Albion’s overall performance and to grant George Thorne an ‘early Christmas present’.

Robert Koren underwent the surgeon’s knife to cure a hernia problem with the midfielder expected to be sidelined for up to month.  Albion were drawn against League One high-flyers Huddersfield Town away in the third-round of the FA Cup.

December

Dan Ashworth insisted Albion would be fully prepared for the opening of the January transfer window however revealed the Baggies would only be pursing loans or loans with a view to a permanent deal.  Roberto Di Matteo was again nominated for the November Manager-of-the-Month award with Simon Cox also up for the Player-of-the-Month award for the Championship.

Albion’s youngsters beat Swansea 3-0 in the FA Youth Cup third round with Saido Berahino netting twice in between a goal from Kayleden Brown. 

Graham Dorrans believed that Roberto Di Matteo’s philosophies were rubbing off on the team following four straight victories.  Simon Cox also revealed his delight at proving his early season doubters wrong at and at his nomination for Player-of-the-Month.

The Baggies and Ishmael Miller were given a massive boost with the news he was free to return to light training following a year out with a serious knee injury.  The former Manchester City powerhouse was expected to make his return to first-team football towards the end of January.

Roberto Di Matteo hinted Albion would be searching for cover during the loss of Abdoulaye Meite at the African Cup of Nations as speculation linking Gabriel Tamas to The Hawthorns increased on a daily basis.  The Baggies boss also praised the development of Scott Carson under Dean Kiely’s coaching.

The Baggies boss was forced into one change as Albion travelled to Derby County with Jerome Thomas missing out through injury and Joe Mattock coming in and Marek Cech filling in at wide left.  With Derby boasting an imposing home record and the Baggies boasting the best away form more than 30,000 fans turned up at Pride Park to see a repeat of the 2006-07 Play Off Final.  Controversy reigned supreme throughout but it was the visitors who almost opened the scoring in the eight minute when Graham Dorrans pulled the ball back for Simon Cox whose effort beat Stephen Bywater in the Derby goal but rebounded back off the post.

The first flash-point came in the 30th minute when a melee ensured following a clash between pantomime villain Robbie Savage and Scottish international Graham Dorrans.  Following a strong challenge from Savage, Dorrans reacted with a robust reply while the Derby captain was still grounded.  The home fans called for a dismissal however referee Darren Deadman decided to book Paul Dickov for his part in the trouble and Dorrans for his challenge. 

After Carson had made a truly world-class save following a goal-bound deflection from Gianni Zuiverloon, the Albion stopper was powerless to stop Dickov’s deflected effort giving Derby an undeserved advantage three minutes before half-time. 

With Albion pushing for an equaliser and Derby counter-attacking the game ebbed and flowed  towards a tremendous finish.  With Albion only eight minutes away from their first defeat in five games Simon Cox bundled the ball home to continue his scoring streak with Derby defenders desperately claiming hand-ball.  Albion sensed a winner and thought they had it when Graham Dorrans jinked his way into the area before smashing the ball home in the second minute of injury time.  With Albion fans celebrating a fifth straight win, Derby rallied once again and found an equaliser in the last minute when DJ Campbell headed home from close range. 

After the last-gasp draw Di Matteo decided to overlook any heartbreak and focused on another point picked up away from The Hawthorns by his side.  The head coach was also pleased to see Simon Cox continue his purple patch.

Following on from Albion’s last minute disappointment at Pride Park Di Matteo focused his attentions to Cardiff City visiting The Hawthorns expecting the Throstle’s most difficult test of the season so far.  The Italian made two changes to the starting line-up with Roman Bednar replacing the injured Luke Moore and Youssouf Mulumbu recalled in place of Joe Mattock. 

The Baggies were three places and eight points ahead of Cardiff before kick-off with Graham Dorrans – playing from the left – almost giving the home side an immediate advantage when he cut inside and unleashed a 25-yard effort which David Marshall could only parry around the post.  Cardiff responded with Burke and Rae both coming close before the visitors took the lead in the 18th minute.  Scotland international Burke was allowed to run with the ball unchallenged and curled the ball around Carson from the edge of the area.  Following on from the last minute equaliser at Pride Park, Albion seemed to lack energy and confidence with Di Matteo making a tactical switch in the 36th minute with Mulumbu replaced by Teixeira and Dorrans returning to the centre. 

 Albion regrouped after the break and almost found an equaliser three minutes after the break when Simon Cox fed Roman Bednar who saw his effort blocked at point-blank range by Marshall.  The hosts were on top for the first time in the game and Graham Dorrans almost levelled the scores in the 55th minute when he pulled his effort wide following a one-two with Bednar.  Chris Brunt came even closer to equalising in the 68th minute when his effort fizzed agonisingly wide of Marshall’s goal with the keeper beaten.  The Baggies were putting pressure on the visitors who were camped in their half but were dealt a hammer blow eight minutes from time.  After Carson had punched clear a Cardiff centre Albion’s captain then reacted following words from Michael Chopra with the striker falling dramatically to the floor and the England international shown his marching order.  To make matters worse, referee Taylor then awarded a penalty to the Bluebirds which sub Kiely initially saved but Whittingham slotted home his missed spot-kick.

Roberto Di Matteo was disappointed Albion couldn’t find a way past David Marshall in the Cardiff net with Dean Kiely insisting Scott Carson would be’ hurting’ after his needless red card against the Bluebirds. 

The reserve’s six game unbeaten streak ended at Derby with Sam Mantom’s goal not enough to earn a draw in a 2-1 defeat.  Two days after his sending off, Scott Carson issued an unreserved apology with the captain set to miss the fixtures against QPR, Blackpool and Peterborough through suspension.  Carson hoped to make amends by helping out his teammates during the pre-match warm up.

Albion’s youngsters were drawn at home against Aston Villa in the FA Youth Cup fourth round following their victory over Swansea City.  Another long term injury victim, James Morrison, was also given the green light to return to fitness work after being sidelined for months following a heel problem.

The club organised a one-game sponsorship deal with Blue Square ahead of the televised QPR game.  Despite the Hoops’ troubles off the field, RDM expected Rangers to pose a tricky test for his side.

The Baggies boss made four changes to the side he fielded against Cardiff to face Queens Park Rangers with Jerome Thomas, Luke Moore, Joe Mattock and Dean Kiely all in from the start.  After a forgettable opening Albion had the best chance in the 15th minute when a delightful Joe Mattock cross found the head of Simon Cox.  However the in-form striker jumped too early and headed his effort tamely into the turf and into the welcoming hands of Radek Cerny.  After Kiely had made a fine stop from a 25-yard effort from Taarbt, Jerome Thomas had a clear effort to open the scoring when the ball bounced kindly to him but shot straight at Cerny. 

After the break Albion threatened first with Cox and Moore only inches away from Chris Brunt’s rebounded shot seconds into the second-half.  However after all their pressure Albion were behind in bizarre fashion in the 56th minute.  Ben Watson swung in a right wing corner and, under pressure from Kaspars Gorkss, Jonas Olsson headed into his own net when off-balance.  The goal was the first Albion had conceded from a corner this season.  Rangers were almost two-up a minute later when Taarbt’s effort was palmed onto the crossbar and away by Dean Kiely.  The visitors did double their advantage in the 62nd minute following another piece of good fortune when Kiely saved Watson’s free-kick but saw the rebound off Mattock and into the path of Gorkss who rolled home into an empty net. 

With the Baggies seemingly heading for a consecutive home defeat Roberto Di Matteo introduced Chris Wood in place of Luke Moore with the youngster’s introduction changing the game in Albion’s favour.  After Cox had gone close with a long-range effort, Dorrans found Brunt at the back post who headed back across goal with Jerome Thomas poking home at the back post.  The goal seemed to rejuvenate the visitors more than the hosts with Dean Kiely this time pushing Wayne Routledge’s effort onto the post.   It was Albion’s turn to hit the post in the 79th minute when Gianni Zuiverloon somehow headed wide from close range with Cerny doing brilliant to turn over a Simon Cox volley as the clock ticked down.  With the game deep in injury time Roman Bednar pumped a long ball into the visitor’s box.  Sub Wood did excellent to hold off the defenders before turning and smashing a left-foot volley towards the goal.  Cerny again somehow saved the effort but was unable to stop the on-rushing Simon Cox side-footing into an empty net and salvage a dramatic draw for Albion.

Roberto Di Matteo praised his side’s never say die attitude but revealed he expected more than a point from consecutive home games. 

Simon Cox revealed his desire to play for the Republic of Ireland with Dean Kiely insisting there was plenty more life in him following his three excellent saves to keep Albion in the game against QPR.

Neil Clement was sent to a third knee specialist to see if he could play competitive football again.  The club’s longest player had been sidelined for 16 months by an articular cartilage injury to his right knee.  Albion’s perfect ten against Burton reserves saw them win the totesport.com Performance-of-the-Month Award for November.

Gonzalo Jara revealed he was loving life in England and playing for the Baggies.  Roberto Di Matteo said his players would be training on Christmas Day as he geared towards a hectic festive season insisting it was ‘business as usual’. 

Albion’s game against Blackpool was postponed due to a frozen pitch following sub-zero temperatures during the week.  Di Matteo believed it was the right decision but still said he was disappointed the game didn’t go ahead.  The postponement however did see Jerome Thomas given more time to recover from a hamstring strain.

The club appointed Adrian Wright as the new Sales & Marketing Director after switching from Birmingham City. 

Roberto Di Matteo for the first time admitted the club were in talks with Auxerre and Gabriel Tamas over the Romanian international joining the Baggies in January for cover of Abdoulaye Meite.  Robert Koren returned to training following his hernia operation but quickly picked up a knee injury on the training field.

Albion arranged for Abdoulaye Meite to delay his departure to the African Cup of Nations with the Ivory Coast allowing the defender to depart after the Scunthorpe game instead of the Peterborough clash.

Roberto Di Matteo named an unchanged side for only the second time during his reign as Peterborough United visited The Hawthorns on Boxing Day.  In front of a bumper Hawthorns crowd, the opening stages were a scrappy affair with neither team able to regain possession and create any chances.  Jerome Thomas’ effort in the 25th minute was Albion’s only real shot in anger before Gianni Zuiverloon shot over in the 37th minute when left unmarked at the back post. 

After an uneventful first half the hosts upped the tempo after the break with Jerome Thomas dancing his way down the wing in the 55th minute with his cross only inches away from the outstretched toe of Luke Moore.  Moore stung the hands of Lewis moments later before Abdoulaye Meite headed over after Lewis had misjudged a Chris Brunt corner.  The Baggies were pushing forward for a goal and were rewarded on the hour mark.  Graham Dorrans led a fantastic counter-attack travelling from his own area to Peterborough’s box with the ball before slotting in Luke Moore.  The striker turned and shot in one movement with the ball thundering past Lewis to give Albion the lead. 

Moore played a major part in Albion’s second when his mis-kicked volley bounced high off the turf towards the Posh goal with Ryan Bennett heading into his own net under pressure from Graham Dorrans.  After Kiely had made a point blank block from Bait, Brunt fed Chris Wood who pulled his effort only inches wide as Albion finished the game on top.

After the match Di Matteo admitted he had to raise his voice at half-time after a disappointing opening period against bottom placed Peterborough.  The boss also considered making changes ahead of the trip to Glanford Park.

In the end he made only one enforced change with Marek Cech coming in for the suspended Joe Mattock to face Scunthrope United.  In Albion’s last game of the year, Jerome Thomas almost gave the Baggies an early lead with former stopper Joe Murphy making a smart save.  In tricky underfoot conditions it was Albion who threatened again through Thomas before the Irons missed a glorious chance to take the lead in the eighth minute when Garry Thompson dragged his shot wide when clean through.  Luke Moore had an effort disallowed in the 16th minute however Albion were ahead three minutes later when Graham Dorrans volleyed home through a sea of bodies following Cech’s cross. 

Despite controlling the majority of the game in the first half, Albion were pegged back moments into the restart when Rob Jones headed home from close range following a short corner.  After Andrew Wright had been sent off for two bookable offenses, Luke Moore had another goal ruled out following a Graham Dorrans free kick before the Scottish international was brought down following a driving run into the area.  The midfielder picked himself up to score Albion’s second in the 66th minute.  Albion were awarded another penalty in the 75th minute when Wood pulled the ball back for Moore who was brought down with Graham Dorrans stepping up for the chance of a hat-trick.  However Murphy guessed right and saved the spot-kick.  The visitors did manage a third though in the 86th minute when Gianni Zuiverloon broke into the area and smashed home with the outside of his foot.

Roberto Di Matteo praised his players for keeping their heads at Glanford Park and commended Jonas Olsson on his performance – despite suffering with a cold.  The victory saw Albion heading into the New Year in second place having played 23 times and achieved 45 goals. 

The past twelve months again felt like déjà vu for Albion fans.  Despite hope in the New Year and towards the end of the season the club were again relegated from the Premier League.  Although only by three points in the end, a lack of investment, poor purchases, baffling tactics and mystifying  team selection all combined to Albion’s downfall.  After the disappointment of relegation Tony Mowbray let a large majority of fans down when he left the club for Celtic – despite claiming his players should show loyalty to the club after relegation.  The appointment of Roberto Di Matteo saw another new era begin at The Hawthorns with his short reign successful for the majority of the time.  Only time will tell if the Italian can fulfil his potential and take Albion to the Premier League again...