Urged by their manager, Gary Megson, to "ignore the doom-mongers" who have claimed their promotion challenge is on the verge of collapse, West Bromwich Albion came up with the desired response to notch their first League win at home since mid-October when goals by Jason Koumas and Geoff Horsfield settled last night's derby at The Hawthorns.
Horsfield's first goal in five matches since his £1m move from Wigan made sure Albion closed the gap between themselves and the First Division leaders Norwich to two points. But a late injury to Koumas, who was stretchered off 13 minutes from the end, took some of the shine off the result.
Beaten 4-1 at the Bescot Stadium on the opening day of the season, Albion had set their sights on revenge against their West Midlands neighbours.
Paul Merson, returning from injury, pulled the strings in midfield as Walsall tested the home side twice in the opening 10 minutes. He initiated the move which resulted in Darren Wrack going close and then set up Gary Birch for a header that had Russell Hoult stretched.
But Albion's more direct approach was more productive. Twice, Artim Sakiri fed inviting through passes to Scott Dobie, the first of which was snuffed out only by the goalkeeper James Walker's brave intervention.
Horsfield then landed himself a yellow card for diving as the home crowd bayed for a penalty against Ian Roper. Just before half-time Horsfield missed the best opportunity of the half. Intercepting Roper's careless pass, he had only Walker to beat but delayed his shot long enough for Walker to narrow the angle and block.
The away side began brightly in the second period, keeping possession well but without having an end product.
Still smarting about not being awarded a penalty in the first half, the home side did enjoy some good fortune when they took the lead after 62 minutes. A 20-yard free kick struck by Jason Koumas took a meaty deflection off Vinny Samways to find its way past Walker.
Ten minutes later, the points were effectively Albion's. The substitute Lloyd Dyer used his pace to reach the by-line and delivered a splendid cross to the far post. Dobie met it with a solid downwards header which might have crossed the line in any event but Horsfield was perfectly positioned to apply the finishing touch.
West Bromwich Albion (4-4-2): Hoult; Haas, Gaardsoe, Moore, Robinson; Sakiri (Dyer, 70), Gregan, Clement, Koumas (O'Connor, 77); Dobie ( Hulse, 89), Horsfield. Substitutes not used: Murphy (gk), Gilchrist.
Walsall (4-3-1-2): Walker; Bazeley, Roper, Ritchie (Emblen, 80), Vincent; Osborn (Aranalde, 84), Samways, Wrack; Merson; Leitão, Birch. Substitutes not used: Allaway (gk), Lawrence, Oakes.
Referee: B Knight (Orpington).Reuse content