Roberts strikes to put Baggies back on track

West Bromwich Albion 1 Walsall 0
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Jason Roberts strengthened West Brom's Nationwide First Division promotion push with the vital goal that earned Gary Megson's high-fliers their first ever league success over neighbours Walsall.

Roberts, who wore a T-shirt bearing a picture of former Baggies centre forward Jeff Astle, who died on Saturday night, settled the issue four minutes before the break at the Hawthorns. Daniele Dichio nodded the ball down to Roberts who held off a challenge from the defender Ian Roper before lashing a superb shot past James Walker.

The goal earned Albion only their second league win in seven matches and left Walsall in the relegation zone. It was always Albion who held the edge and Roberts was denied in the 14th minute when Walker made a fine save to smother the striker's angled drive. The Albion defender Phil Gilchrist came close to getting his name on the scoresheet when he fired in a cracking shot that was finger-tipped over the woodwork by the hard-working Walker.

After the break Gary Megson's men continued to hold the edge and in the 57th minute Dichio headed inches over the target from a pinpoint free-kick by Neil Clement. Moments later the determined Roberts held off Carlos Andre before blasting in a shot that flew just wide of the far post. Walsall, with six points from a possible 45 on their travels, did little to trouble Russell Hoult in the Albion goal. The keeper did not have a single shot to save in 90 minutes and the closest Walsall came to posing problems for the Albion defence was in the 68th minute when Zigor Aranalde fired his shot high over the crossbar.

"It was a nice gesture," Megson said of Turner's T-shirt trick. "I didn't know Jason was wearing a T-shirt bearing Jeff's face." Of the match itself, Megson added: "It was a hard game because of all the effort Walsall put in – a real battle. But we had the better scoring opportunities and should have scored more than one goal.

"Roberts had a good game but it's important he follows up one excellent performance with another – not one in three. We've always looked solid in defence and our keeper did not have to make a single save. It was a tight game but we deserved to win."

The Walsall manager Ray Graydon said, "It wasn't pretty for either side. It was a real fight, a scrap. We became another Albion statistic – it's another 1-0 victory for them and I'm sure they will be delighted with it. But we didn't cause enough problems for their keeper. We were more difficult to play against and that is the one positive thing I can take out of the game."

Goal: Roberts (41) 1-0.

West Brom: Hoult, Sigurdsson, Gilchrist, Moore, Balis, Jordao (Adam Chambers 88), McInnes, Johnson, Clement, Dichio (Dobie 71), Roberts (Taylor 90). Substitutes: not used: Jensen, Fox.

Bookings: Jordao, Dichio, Roberts.

Walsall: Walker, Carbon, Holdsworth, Roper, Gadsby, Biancalani, Bennett, Andre (Leitao 69), Aranalde, Wrack, Angell (Herivelto 75). Substitues not used: Harper, Brightwell, Keates.

Booking: Andre, Roper.

Referee: M Brandwood (Lichfield).

Attendance: 20,290.

Man of the match: Roberts (West Brom).