A first Black Country derby in nine years, both West Brom and Wolves separated by eleven miles. Pre-match? Both in real need of a win. The result? A first win for Sam Allardyce as West Brom manager, only the second for The Baggies thus far, a first away win of the season too and arguably West Brom’s best performance since the start of the campaign.
A result and performance that should not be taken for granted, should not be seen as the moment West Brom are safe but can be seen as the perfect occasion to make a statement of intent. Black Country rivals beaten, a step in the right direction. The Baggies need more points. They are far from safe just yet, but could a local derby win be the turning point?
Look at the game itself. West Brom showed character to come from 2-1 down. The attacking quality is there and particularly in the second half you have to give the players credit for putting bodies on the line. The penalties were rightly given, the resilience from the team spot on and let’s not forget a perfect debut for Robert Snodgrass – an experienced player who fitted in perfectly.
The only negative was once again two poor goals that could have been avoided. West Brom still have the worst goal difference in the league, that could change and it has to change. Conceding too many goals gets you relegated, a fact that only the players can address and Sam Allardyce knows this. Cut out avoidable goals, continue to score yourselves and West Brom should be safe come May.
While the mad seven minutes before half-time would have been disappointing, the comeback showed that the team does have what it takes to survive relegation. You also have to take into account the starting XI. No Connor Gallagher because of suspension, David Button didn’t put a foot wrong between the posts, Kyle Bartley was rock solid, Dara O’Shea performed well and Callum Robinson led the line. With names missing they still managed to produce a decent performance.
Bragging rights and buoyancy after beating local rivals is always expected. A win is a win but to do it against fierce Black Country rivals will feel sweet. It is however only three points and as Sam Allardyce rightly said, West Brom are still ‘drowning’. The points tally is now in double figures, keeping pace with teams above them, including Wolves – the importance of not losing the game was imperative to both teams.
Looking ahead, a triumph over local rivals will only be worth it if West Brom can back it up. The season is almost at its halfway stage, West Brom have to produce more performances like we saw over the weekend starting with a trip to West Ham and many more games all the way to the final day of the season.
Sam Allardyce can keep West Brom up. The fans have to keep the faith. Sort out the defence, keep the goals coming and they’ll be safe. Games against fellow strugglers Fulham and rock bottom Sheffield United are coming soon and for sure Big Sam will relish the upcoming fixtures against title contenders. In previous games, for some you have to take the result out of the equation and look at West Brom’s performances against the ‘top six’ teams this season. Draws on the road to Manchester City and Liverpool, losing against Tottenham and Manchester United by a one goal margin with good performances – taking on the big boys will be challenge but one where West Brom can get points.
West Brom can stay up. The only factor that will prevent survival is conceding goal after goal. The attacking play is fine but shutting up shop continues to be the cause for concern. Plenty of games to go but for the moment a key victory away to Wolves seems to be an important step in the right direction.
On the other side of the coin, while West Brom look as if they’re on the up, the same cannot be said for Wolves. Big problems and big concerns for Nuno Espirito Santo. One win in their last nine games, no clean sheet since October and the prospect of a tricky away tie to Chorley in the FA Cup Fourth Round this Friday – the club need a solution to the problems they have and quickly.
The loss of Raul Jimenez is indeed a huge factor but where has been the cover? Diogo Jota moving to Liverpool a blow and while Fabio Silva has been impressive, scoring again (for the first time from open play), he is inexperienced. £16m striker Patrick Cutrone has been brought back but with a chance in the second half he could not take it. Silva will get better in time, but the options are lacking.
Defensively Wolves continue to concede from set-pieces something West Brom exploited with their second goal. Only Leeds have conceded more from set-pieces, Wolves being bad defensively has not been a description used frequently since promotion three years ago.
Connor Coady going off was interesting, how much can you read into that I don’t know. The problems also lie with no Jonny, who is yet to come back from injury and losing Matt Doherty to Tottenham – two influential wing-backs has meant a loss of energy going forward and a defence left weak.
Where has the sparkle gone? With no time set upon when Raul Jimenez will return, Wolves need a striker in the January transfer window and another defender. Unless results change then Wolves will definitely be dragged into the relegation picture, not enough for me to suggest that Nuno should lose his job but for the owners they don’t seem to be in panic mode just yet.
A Premier League season far from over, a Black Country derby that could go a long way to determine who stays or goes between two teams eleven miles apart. The last occasion was in 2012, Wolves relegated, West Brom in surviving comfortably in 10th. Of course West Brom finishing 10th again is very unlikely but could history repeat itself this season? In my honest opinion, nothing would please me more than to see both teams safe and secure for further Black Country derbies in the Premier League next season.
The next chapter at the Hawthorns comes in May. By then, who knows where both West Brom and Wolves will be in the table. Safe or both desperate for points to stave off the drop? That is still to come, but for now, the most recent installment of a Black Country derby has left both teams with contrasting emotions going forward in the fight for Premier League status.
featured image credit sky sports