Match Report: West Brom march on to new heights as Martin O’Neill fails again

Sunderland 2 West Bromwich Albion 4: Steve Clarke's side prove far too powerful for Sunderland and seal a fourth win in succession

"And Fortuné has cut back and he's scored!" roared the radio reporter from the Midlands. "It's 4-2! West Bromwich Albion are third in the Premier League!"

He was not the only member of the travelling media at the Stadium of Light to get a bit excited. It felt thoroughly justified. West Brom have not started a season in the top division like this for 59 years. They have not won four top-flight games on the trot since 1980.

When Marc-Antoine Fortuné cut back, in the fifth minute of injury time, and produced the kind of finish that puts teams into the sort of esteemed company which inhabits the head of a division, the besuited Steve Clarke stood in his technical area, turned calmly to his bench and raised his fist. It was as animated as he got all afternoon.

He is keeping his head while others, understandably, are trying not to lose theirs. Such unexpected success can do that to people.

Clarke's manner certainly contrasted to the livewire, track-suited, jack-in-the-box figure five yards to his left. Martin O'Neill kicked every ball exactly where he wanted it to go. Unfortunately his team did not.

If there was a moment when the difference between a team with aspirations and a team fulfilling them was highlighted, it came in the 70th minute. Peter Odemwingie had, moments earlier, darted inside two Sunderland defenders and flashed a shot narrowly wide of Simon Mignolet's post. Shane Long had already scored a goal. But both players were removed from the game, replaced by Fortuné and the Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku, on loan from Chelsea. It was quality replacing quality. It is why West Bromwich Albion woke up this morning third in the Premier League table. Good activity in the transfer market gives such power to a manager's hand. Clarke admitted as much afterwards. He was asked if the start was beyond his wildest dreams.

"I don't dream too much," he said. "I'm a realist. I knew the squad of players I was taking over was a good squad. They had finished mid-table, mid-table, both seasons. We knew we'd added good players to the squad. We were hopeful we could have a good season.

"How do we keep it going? We stay grounded. We stay focused. We use the players wisely. We rotate the squad. We keep the players fresh.

"The players deserve every credit for what they get. In this league it is a big challenge to win four on the trot, even for the big teams. We have managed to do that and it tells everyone how good we are as a team. It would have been a travesty if we had not won it."

His team were ahead by the time he made the double substitution. Zoltan Gera scored a fine first after 30 minutes, bending a left-footed shot beyond Mignolet's outstretched arm after a mistake by Adam Johnson. The error was the goalkeeper's in the 44th minute, badly fumbling a Chris Brunt through-ball, allowing Long to tap into an empty net. Sunderland's first lifeline did not come until the 73rd minute, when Craig Gardner's 25-yard free-kick deflected off Fortuné, standing in the wall, to fly into the West Brom goal.

By then Lee Cattermole (knee) and John O'Shea (calf) had gone off. O'Shea will be out for at least a fortnight. With nine minutes remaining, Liam Ridgewell went down easily in the Sunderland penalty area under a needless challenge from Johnson. Mike Dean, unsighted, gave a penalty. O'Neill called it a non-penalty. Lukaku scored the non-penalty. At 3-1 Sunderland found a second lifeline, three minutes from the end of normal time, when Stéphane Sessègnon scored from close range after a Boaz Myhill save from Steven Fletcher. Under pressure, West Brom broke, their play was again incisive, and Fortuné put them third with their fourth.

"It was tough to take," said O'Neill. "We put in a big effort and there was a penalty that never was. I've come here and I try to give honest assessments. There was a lot to take out of the game. We looked like we can get a goal again now. That is very encouraging. It is a big game on Tuesday night against QPR."

Sunderland (4-4-1-1): Mignolet; Bardsley, O'Shea (McClean, h-t), Cuéllar, Rose; Larsson, Colback (Saha, 73), Cattermole (Gardner, 35), Johnson; Sessègnon; Fletcher.

West Bromwich (4-2-3-1): Myhill; Jones, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell; Morrison (Tamas, 90), Yacob; Odemwingie (Lukaku, 70), Gera, Brunt; Long (Fortuné, 70).

Referee: Mike Dean.

Man of the match: Brunt (West Brom)

Match rating: 5/10

Arts & Entertainment
The Honesty Policy is a group of anonymous Muslims who believe that the community needs a space to express itself without shame or judgement
music
News
Waitrose will be bringing in more manned tills
newsOverheard in Waitrose: documenting the chatter in 'Britain's poshest supermarket'
Life & Style
life
Arts & Entertainment
Back in the suit: There are only so many variations you can spin on the lives or adventures of Peter Parker
filmReview: Almost every sequence and set-up in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 seems familiar from some earlier superhero film
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
Jack Gleeson as Joffrey Baratheon in Game of Thrones
tv
Life & Style
Father and son: Michael Williams with son Edmund
lifeAs his son’s bar mitzvah approaches, CofE-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys he’s experienced in learning about his family’s other faith
Arts & Entertainment
Ian Anderson, the leader of British rock band Jethro Tull, (right) and British guitar player Martin Barre (left) perform on stage
musicJethro Tull frontman leads ‘prog rock’ revival
Sport
Gareth Bale dribbled from inside his own half and finished calmly late in the final to hand Real a 2-1 win at the Mestalla in Valencia
sport
Arts & Entertainment
Who laughs lass: Jenny Collier on stage
comedy... writes Jenny Collier, the comedian whose recent show was cancelled because there were 'too many women' on the bill
News
House proud: keeping up with the Joneses now extends to children's playhouses
newsLuxury playhouses now on the market for as much as £800
News
news
Life & Style
Stir it up: the writer gets a lichen masterclass from executive chef Vivek Singh of the Cinnamon restaurants
food + drinkLichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines
Extras
indybest
Arts & Entertainment
Ken Loach (left) and Mike Leigh who will be going head to head for one of cinema's most coveted prizes at this year's Cannes Film Festival
filmKen Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
News
The academic, Annamaria Testa, has set out on her website a list of 300 English words that she says Italians ought to stop using
newsAcademic speaks out against 'Italianglo' - the use of English words in Italian language
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit