Norwich City 1 West Bromwich 2: Mowbray's buccaneers close in on just reward

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The Independent Online

Amidst the melee of this season's Championship somehow the class has managed to rise to the top as the division enters its endgame. West Bromwich Albion have lived with the tag "the Arsenal of the Championship" all season, but unlike the London club they have been able to deliver results when it matters most.

Back-to-back away victories have moved Tony Mowbray's side to within one point of automatic promotion on account of their superior goal difference. If results go their way they may even be promoted by the time they play their next fixture a week today at home to Southampton.

If anything, West Brom's game will be more suited to the Premier League than the chaos of the Championship, and although they remain focused on getting the point they need to get there, they're understandably looking forward to bringing their brand of football back to the top flight.

"It's good for football if a team which plays the style of football we try to can do well," Mowbray said. "If we get to the Premier League everything changes because we're not going to win it. The targets will change but the beliefs and the philosophy will remain the same."

Mowbray saw his side take the lead in just the second minute when Robert Koren stabbed into an empty net after Norwich goalkeeper David Marshall spilled the ball after initially saving from Kevin Phillips. They then threatened to run riot, but failed to get the second goal their dominance deserved.

Darren Huckerby should have equalised for Norwich on the stroke of half-time, and Jamie Cureton missed two second-half chances before Zoltan Gera finally gave the visitors a two-goal cushion in the 71st minute. The Hungarian volleyed past Marshall from 20-yards to cap a personal display which bore all the hallmarks of a Premier League player.

Norwich got back into the game four minutes later when assistant referee Ian Bentley spotted a handball from Leon Barnett, and Ched Evans sent Dean Kiely the wrong way from the resulting penalty. Glenn Roeder's side need four points to be technically safe from relegation, while West Brom look to cement their reputation by not only securing promotion, but winning the division outright.

"Are we the best team?" Mowbray asked. "That's a tag other people have put on us. We've just tried to win this league and win football matches. In my opinion Arsenal are one of the best teams in the world and yet they've got criticism and abuse because they've won nothing this year. If I was an Arsenal fan watching them week in week out the enjoyment that they've given is fantastic. Is that a weakness though, because ultimately it's all about winning."

Goals: Koren (2) 0-1; Gera (71) 0-2; Evans pen (75) 1-2

Norwich (4-4-2): Marshall; Otsemobor, Shackell, Doherty, Camara (Russell, 84); Huckerby, Fotheringham, Pattison, Gibbs (Chadwick, 74); Cureton (Dublin, 63), Evans. Substitutes not used: Pearce, Velasco.

West Brom (4-4-2): Kiely; Hoefkens, Barnett, Clement, Robinson (Albrechtsen, 69); Gera, Koren, Greening, Morrison; Bednar (Miller, 65), Phillips (Moore, 65). Substitutes not used: Danek (gk), Brunt.

Referee: I Williamson (Berkshire).

Booked: Norwich Fotheringham, Doherty, Shackell, Dublin; West Brom Robinson

Man of the match: Gera

Attendance: 25,442.

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