Baggies enjoy overdue change of Fortune
West Bromwich Albion 3 Middlesbrough 0
Monday 19 January 2009
Early though it is, West Bromwich Albion are seeing something from the strikers they have had to beg, steal and borrow this month that Middlesbrough are struggling to extract from one who cost them £12.7m last January.
Afonso Alves has been putting few defenders to the sword other than those in the Blue Square Premier League with Barrow and continues to bemuse with his wastefulness. No side, least of all one now without a win in 10 top-flight games, can afford to spurn four openings of the quality he did.
How the Brazilian must have envied the easy and fortuitous manner in which goals came at the other end in a game which left these sides level on points.
While Middlesbrough's looks a troubled camp, with key players wanted by other clubs and the manager, Gareth Southgate, admitting he is stretching the patience of his famously loyal chairman, Steve Gibson, Albion have new hope as well as new forwards.
Three successive home wins, a first-ever Premier League double and a biggest victory of 2008-09 have opened the door to possible safety and confirmed the season-long belief of their manager, Tony Mowbray, ironically a Teesside legend, that all they needed was another goal or two.
Jay Simpson is showing the dash and class that mark him out as another Arsenal star in the making and, on Saturday, a second loanee provided much promise only two days after arriving from Nancy.
Marc-Antoine Fortune got lucky with the in-off from Robert Koren's shot that established Albion's comfortable lead but was a mobile operator in an attack previously exposed as pedestrian.
"I could see in his first two days that he's got lovely appreciation of the ball," Mowbray said. "He uses his body well and has been finishing well in training. I like good footballers and this kid is a good player. We tried to bring him in last August but it didn't quite happen."
Like Cyrille Regis, who 32 years ago also scored his first league goal for the club at home to Middlesbrough, the 27-year-old is from French Guyana. And he was not the only Fortune they had.
Just how much this was Albion's day was underlined by the fact their first goal, from the former Middlesbrough youngster Chris Brunt, was both offside and deflected. The third, by the excellent Koren, was unblemished, albeit soon after Didier Digard had been debatably red-carded for lungeing in on Borja Valero.
Manchester United are the next Hawthorns visitors but West Bromwich are back in touching distance of so many sides they might have lost contact with. Among them are these latest victims, who should have led at the interval and who have now lost four successive away matches.
"We were halfway up the table seven or eight weeks go," Southgate said. "Now there is a loss of confidence. It may sound ridiculous but we are not that far away from a decent run of results. To read 3-0 in print is a nightmare, but it doesn't reflect the game."
Goals: Brunt (4) 1-0; Fortune (54) 2-0; Koren (68) 3-0.
West Bromwich Albion (4-4-2): Carson; Hoefkens, Barnett (Pele, 39), Donk, Robinson; Koren, Valero, Greening, Brunt; Simpson (Moore, 77), Fortune (Beattie, 68). Substitutes not used: Kiely (gk), Cech, Kim, Teixeira.
Middlesbrough (4-4-1-1): Turnbull; McMahon (Bates, 70), Wheater, Riggott (Huth, 36), Taylor; O'Neil (Mido, 57), Digard, Shawky, Tuncay; Downing; Alves. Substitutes not used: Jones (gk), Emnes, Johnson, Bennett.
Referee: M Halsey (Lancashire).
Booked: Middlesbrough Huth, Shawky.
Sent off: Digard (62).
Man of the match: Koren.
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Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes
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