McInnes lights up Baggies' centenary bash

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The Independent Online

West Bromwich Albion celebrated a century of football at The Hawthorns with a victory yesterday. However, it was not quite the fitting tribute to the skills of Laurie Cunningham or even Jeff Astle that it might have been.

West Bromwich Albion celebrated a century of football at The Hawthorns with a victory yesterday. However, it was not quite the fitting tribute to the skills of Laurie Cunningham or even Jeff Astle that it might have been.

After their worst start to a season in 40 years, the Baggies would have been grateful for a second successive win, although by rights they ought to have buried a Crystal Palace side so bad that their manager, Alan Smith, said his mother had turned off her television set at half-time.

She missed a fine recovery by her son's team, who twice hit the crossbar through Leon McKenzie and Neil Ruddock, although Smith, who had seen Palace almost claw back a three-goal deficit against Nottingham Forest on Bank Holiday Monday, took precious little comfort from it. "We have to learn to play a full game," he said. "My wages and theirs are paid over seven days, not just 45 minutes."

Money was not a motivating factor for Derek McInnes, whose goal in the sixth minute decided this contest. Having exchanged a life spent largely in Rangers' reserves for one of limbo in Toulouse, McInnes took a 60 per cent pay cut to come to The Hawthorns and yesterday was rewarded with a rare goal.

It was created by Lee Hughes, who usually cannot resist shooting in the area but instead turned to leave Ruddock, his head bandaged to protect a dozen stitches, on his backside before crossing for McInnes to drive home. There should have been many more.

The centenary celebrations may not have been up to much - there were less than 14,000 in the ground to see a pre-match firework display which looked like an exploding toaster had been left in the centre circle - but briefly West Bromwich's game rose to the occasion. Their manager, Gary Megson, thought it the best half-hour of football played since he came to the club.

It would have been fitting if Hughes, who once stood on the Smethwick End, had scored and twice he burst through only for his attempts to strike the goalkeeper's legs. Last season, when West Bromwich were losing £30,000 a week, many expected Hughes to be sold to a Premiership club and misses such as these probably explain why he was not.

Palace were repeatedly on the edge of being overwhelmed; Bob Taylor should have scored with a free header while Ruel Fox miskicked in front of goal.

The home side's dominance was snuffed out after the interval since Palace, who finally discovered some width to their game, could only improve. However, 100 years on there seem to be better days ahead at The Hawthorns, although you still have to squint hard to imagine Cyrille Regis or Bryan Robson out there.

Goal: McInnes (8) 1-0.

West Bromwich Albion: (3-5-2) Jensen; Butler, Chambers, Clement; Lyttle, McInnes, Jordao, Fox (Sneekes, 89), Van Blerk (Carbon, 65); Taylor, Hughes (Roberts, 90). Substitutes not used: Oliver, Adamson (gk).

Crystal Palace: (3-5-2) Taylor; Ruddock, Mullins, Fan Zhiyi; Pollock, Rodger (Smith, 70), Gray, Black, Harrison; Morrison, McKenzie (Harris, 70). Substitutes not used: Fullarton, Austin, Thomson.

Referee: A Leake (Darwen). Booking: Crystal Palace: Harris.

Man of the match: McInnes.

Attendance: 13,980.

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