It remains to be seen whether this turns out to have been Keith Downing’s only match as West Bromwich Albion’s caretaker manager, but if it was, he at least got one big call right.
Downing, in temporary charge at the Hawthorns a week after Steve Clarke’s sacking, sent on substitute Matej Vydra in place of Stéphane Sessègnon with 21 minutes remaining and was rewarded with the Czech striker’s first Premier League goal which rescued an unlikely draw with four minutes remaining.
Vydra, on loan from Udinese, hit 20 Championship goals for Watford last term but had not scored in six substitute appearances under Clarke, yet made no mistake from close range after Shane Long, who nearly joined Hull on deadline day, and fellow substitute Zoltan Gera set him up. It spared Albion a fifth League defeat in a row and “stopped the rot”, in Downing’s words. “After the difficult week we’ve had, it is a big boost,” he added.
Albion’s lack of confidence highlighted why chairman Jeremy Peace is keen to have a new manager installed in time for the Boxing Day trip to Tottenham, even if Downing is already planning for that fixture. “I am taking it on a daily basis, I am conscious the club is looking for a new manager.” One rumour was that Peace had contacted Paul Clement, brother of former Albion defender Neil, who coached at Chelsea with Carlo Ancelotti before following him to Paris Saint-Germain and now Real Madrid. Whoever comes in faces a battle to arrest the slide – Albion have won three of their last 21 league games.
They looked destined for defeat when Jake Livermore – “the outstanding player”, according to Hull’s manager Steve Bruce – struck on the counterattack after 28 minutes. Danny Graham picked up David Meyler’s long pass forward and fed Livermore, who drilled a low shot under Ben Foster. The keeper, on his first appearance after suffering a foot fracture in August, kept Albion in the match in the second half with a fine double save from Tom Huddlestone and Ahmed Elmohamady before Vydra had the last word.
West Bromwich (4-2-3-1): Foster; Jones, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell (Gera, 79); Mulumbu, Brunt; Sessègnon (Vydra, 69), Morrison, Sinclair (Berahino, h‑t); Long.
Hull City (3-5-2): McGregor; Chester, Bruce, Davies; Elmohamady, Livermore, Huddlestone, Meyler, Figueroa; Graham (Boyd, 80), Sagbo (Fryatt, 89).
Referee: Jonathan Moss.
Man of the match: Livermore (Hull)
Match rating: 6/10