Robson revels in wonder of Wallwork

West Bromwich Albion 2 - Manchester City 0
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The Independent Online

The game perhaps should have been all about Shaun Wright-Phillips staking his claim for a starting role in Sven Goran Eriksson's England team. Instead, after his relegation-threatened side earned a deserved and much-needed victory, the talk was rightly about a first Premiership win as West Bromwich Albion manager for the former national team captain Bryan Robson.

The game perhaps should have been all about Shaun Wright-Phillips staking his claim for a starting role in Sven Goran Eriksson's England team. Instead, after his relegation-threatened side earned a deserved and much-needed victory, the talk was rightly about a first Premiership win as West Bromwich Albion manager for the former national team captain Bryan Robson.

That first victory has taken a little longer to arrive than Robson, 12 games into his reign, would have liked, but the quality on the ball, as well as the battling spirit without it, left few inside The Hawthorns in doubt that the three points had been earned. It came in the nick of time, too, with Crystal Palace and Southampton both victors hours earlier.

"It was very pleasing," Robson said. "We showed a lot of character and nerve. But we've got to keep our feet on the ground. Our performances of late have been very encouraging... They were very good goals and clean sheets are vital because you can build on that."

From the moment Kevin Campbell, making his home debut for West Brom after his transfer window move from Everton, announced his arrival in style by firing home a right-footed shot from 20 yards in the fifth minute, only one team showed the desire and hunger needed to win this kind of blood-and-guts duel.

Ronnie Wallwork doubled the lead nine minutes from time but, had Richard Dunne's quickly taken free-kick, scored without the go-ahead from referee Graham Poll (a similar kind of goal to the one that saw Thierry Henry open the scoring for Arsenal against Chelsea earlier this season), counted seven minutes from time, a few West Brom hearts may have skipped a beat in another tense finale.

The driving force behind Campbell's goal was the tall and nimble Martin Albrechtsen, whose right-wing cross was swept home by the much-travelled forward. Albrechtsen, with an all-action display in both attack and defence, was a handful for City all evening and his long balls provided a constant threat in snowy conditions.

The Danish international's pacy run and shot, after he had raced from one end of the field to the other, almost resulted in a second goal. The effort was deflected off the unusually hesitant Sylvain Distin and into the path of Ronnie Wallwork, who looped a shot over David James and, agonisingly, the crossbar. Albrechtsen also slotted in Robert Earnshaw, whose pace in attack was proving too much for the visiting defence, but a lack of accuracy wasted several opportunities.

Manchester City were outplayed throughout the opening period, fleeting runs from Wright-Phillips the only serious worry for the home side. The flying winger did create an opening for Antoine Sibierski, but the Frenchman snatched his shot wide from the edge of the area. Stern words from the manager, Kevin Keegan, at the interval stirred City. But they failed to create any significant chances.

The killer goal came with nine minutes remaining when Wallwork netted with a sliding headed goal to finish off a neat move he had started along with Jonathan Greening and substitute Geoff Horsfield. City thought a revival was on the cards when Dunne struck home, but Poll disagreed and the visitors went home with exactly what they deserved.

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