West Bromwich 2 Hull City 0: Hartson hammers Hull as Gera pulls the strings
Sunday 06 August 2006
For a manager who has just suffered relegation there is no better way to show that you do still know your stuff than when a player you have bought scores the winner.
That was the case here as John Hartson, brought to West Bromwich Albion by Bryan Robson for £500,000 after his five-year spell with Celtic, scored both his side's goals. The Wales international proved that after so long in Glasgow he can still notch up important goals south of the border.
Hartson was not the only player making his West Bromwich debut. He was followed in making a good first impression by Chris Perry, the central defender signed on a free transfer from Charlton this summer. Playing alongside the highly fancied Curtis Davies, now made captain to try to ensure his loyalty in the face of Premiership interest, Perry showed Davies is far from the finished article. Underlying Perry's consistency, Robson said of him: "I can guarantee before every game that he will get a seven out of 10."
The Baggies' strength was apparent early on when they could have overwhelmed Hull City, thanks mainly to the efforts of Zoltan Gera. The Hungarian international was injured for most of last season as they dropped out of the Premiership, but despite having a transfer request turned down last month he showed he is not in a sulk.
Within 20 minutes he had spurned two chances of his own and set up two others which also went begging. Every touch of his came infused with technique and danger. Robson's counterpart, the newly appointed Phil Parkinson, may have needed to hand out headache pills at half-time for his suffering back four.
Parkinson had been posed several questions by Albion's approach in the first half. However, he appeared to have answered them after the break when Hull not only nullified the hosts' threat but should have taken the lead. Sam Ricketts hit the post from a cross and then Darryl Duffy missed two clear chances in six minutes.
If Parkinson is not careful he will keep being reminded that a dip in attention at this level can be quickly punished, and so it was here. From a harmless high ball by Nigel Quashie after 57 minutes, Hartson turned his marker Damien Delaney with ease and calmly lobbed Boaz Myhill from 12 yards out.
Hull were then denied a penalty in the last minute when Junichi Inamoto brought down Ryan France although, predictably, both managers saw it differently. Just as predictable was Hartson's second, on the counter-attack, from Quashie's well-timed pass in injury time.
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