West Bromwich Albion's Neil Clement earned a share of the spoils in the Black Country derby at the Hawthorns last night with a precision equaliser that denied Wolves a record sixth consecutive away win. A point was still enough to take the Molineux side back to the top of table, which, given the nature of the game, Wolves are likely to be content with.
The traditional hostility between the sides is fervent. Given the ultra competitive nature of the First Division this season a dozen sides are within two wins of the coveted automatic promotion places the game was even more important than usual. One radio show host in the build-up said that Glasgow, Liverpool, London, Rome and Milan might have derbies, "but this one has really got claims to be the most intense of all." With both self-proclaimed "sleeping giants" feeling that this will be their year, you'd expect nothing less.
The crowd were rewarded with a high-speed opening 20 minutes in which Scott Dobie, the home side's prolific £150,000 summer steal from Carlisle, threatened constantly with his pace. With the Wolves back line often defending as far as the near edge of the centre circle, they were susceptible. On the early occasions he did beat the offside trap, however, his finishing let him down. Bob Taylor, Dobie's partner in attack, suffered a similar fate.
Wolves led in the 22nd minute following a disputed free kick on the right. Kevin Muscat laid a long ball into his opponents' half, where Larus Sigurdsson rose to nod it out. Instead it fell to Colin Cameron, who slipped a pass back into a confused box where Nathan Blake stole through to score.
Sigurdsson had a chance to make amends within a couple of minutes, but his header, from a Des Lyttle cross, landed on the roof of the net.
It was the calmer and patient approach of the visitors who saw the best of the rest of the first half's chances. Lee Naylor, after a run down the left, whipped a ball towards the near post that had Russell Hoult in the West Brom goal worried. It flew just into the side netting as Hoult flew into the upright. Then Shaun Newton, on the cusp of half-time, required Hoult to make a decent save to prevent his team going into the break two down.
West Brom lost Dobie injured, early in the second half. He will, apparantly, need stitches in an area described by his manager Gary Megson as "delicate".
Blake misdirected a volley from 20 yards, but there followed sustained pressure at the other end. A free kick from the right by Clement was sent curving a foot wide of the left post. Taylor then saw a low drive go even closer before parity was restored in the 69th minute. The Baggies won another free kick, 25 yards out, and Clement thundered it over the wall and home.
West Bromwich Albion (4-4-2): Hoult; Lyttle, Sigurdsson, Gilchrist, Clement; McInnes, Appleton, Johnson (Fox, h-t), Moore; Dobie (Quinn, 49), Taylor. Substitutes not used: Jensen (gk), Cummings, Chambers.
Wolverhampton Wanderers (4-4-2): Oakes; Naylor, Lescott, Butler, Muscat; Newton, Cameron, Rae, Kennedy; Blake (Rousell, 90) Branch (Proudlock, 69). Substitutes not used: Murray (gk), Robinson, Connelly.
Referee: J Winter (Stockton-on-Tees).Reuse content