Any notion that West Bromwich Albion's solid start to life under Steve Clarke's management might be faltering after two defeats in a row can be discounted for the moment after two goals by Peter Odemwingie last night provided a restorative victory that lifts them back to fifth place in the Premier League table.
For Southampton, eight defeats in 10 matches so far paints a bleak picture for their prospects of survival. They managed to string together some spells of possession that will give manager Nigel Adkins a small measure of optimism but the truth is that Albion's counter-attacking game picked them off all too easily.
After leading them to two successive promotions, Adkins, whose popularity with the Southampton fans has not shown any signs of weakening, still insists that his approach to life at the top level is the right one, but the Premier League can be an unforgiving place. The return of Gaston Ramirez, the club's £12m record signing, offered some hope of improvement, although the Uruguayan's lack of sharpness after a five-week absence with a thigh injury almost cost his side when Youssouf Mulumbu dispossessed him in midfield and released Shane Long on a dangerous run through the inside-left channel after 21 minutes. However, Long spurned the chance.
Albion were stronger in midfield and more threatening in attack and it seemed only a matter of time before they would take the lead against a defence that looked disjointed. They rode their luck twice, as Zoltan Gera sidefooted over the top from close range and Peter Odemwingie fired a low shot only narrowly wide.
They had given the Nigerian far too much space to measure his target but the lesson was not heeded. He sliced his next attempt horribly wide but, when Mulumbu cut the ball back from the right on 36 minutes, Odemwingie was unmarked again and this time punishment was duly meted out. The shot took a slight deflection off the centre-back Maya Yoshida but the lead was no less deserved for that.
Albion, for whom James Morrison cried off late through injury, probably ought to have been further in front at half-time after the visitors, despite being forewarned by Adkins, were repeatedly stretched by the pace of the home side's counter-attacks.
They might have rued those missed opportunities had luck favoured Southampton early in the second half, when Rickie Lambert hit the bar after a cross by Jay Rodriguez, half-cleared, hit Ramirez and dropped at the striker's feet.
It was at least encouragement for the Saints, who had begun the second half stronger in the tackle and with a little more conviction in their build-up work. But then they were caught again and fell further behind as Long broke down the left at pace with Odemwingie racing simultaneously through the middle. Long steadied himself and delivered a superb cross to the near post and Southampton were still chasing back when Odemwingie's head thumped the ball past goalkeeper Paolo Gazzaniga.
The second goal enabled Clarke to take off Long, just back from injury, and bring on Romelu Lukaku, having already replaced Graham Dorrans with Chris Brunt, presenting Southampton with two more fleet-footed forwards to worry about. Indeed, within moments they almost extended Albion's advantage, Lukaku hooking back a cross from the right on to the left foot of Brunt, whose volley missed the far post by only a whisker.
The visitors, who withdrew Rodriguez and Ramirez in the last 15 minutes, enjoyed plenty of possession as Albion were content to sit back and absorb pressure but rarely looked likely to do much with it.
West Brom: FOSTER, JONES, McAULEY, OLSSON, RIDGEWELL, GERA, MULUMBU, YACOB, DORRANS, LONG, ODEMWINGIE
Southampton: GAZZANIGA, FOX, YOSHIDA, FONTE, CLYNE, LALLANA, S DAVIS, SCHNEIDERLIN, RAMIREZ, LAMBERT, RODRIGUEZ
Scorer. West Brom: Odemwingie 36, 60
Substitutions: West Bromwich Brunt (Dorrans, 65), Lukaku (Long, 71), Fortune (Odemwingie, 83). Southampton Guly (Ramirez, 76), Mayuka (Rodriguez, 76), Shaw (Fox, 81). Booked: West Bromwich Jones. Southampton none.
Man of the match Odemwingie. Match rating 7/10.
Possession: West Brom 48%. Southampton 52%.
Attempts on target: West Brom 6. Southampton 5.
Ref M Halsey (Lancashire). Att 25,635.Reuse content