City came to The Hawthorns on the back of a five-goal demolition of Charlton, and were all set to re-establish themselves as genuine European contenders, but they were rendered impotent and angry by a well-organised West Bromwich Albion team who shrugged off their unhappy record as the only Premiership side never to have won a top-flight game in December.
While Diomansy Kamara stole the show with a classy first goal, it was the back four that gave Robson the most seasonal cheer. "That was our best performance of the season and they defended really well," the West Brom manager said, after Kevin Campbell's header rounded off a win that saw them keep their third clean sheet in four unbeaten Premiership games.
"Neil Clement and Curtis Davies are starting to gel, and Robbo [Paul Robinson] wouldn't let England down," Robson said of the players who so frustrated Andy Cole that the City striker was sent off in the final minutes for elbowing Kamara.
Davies summed up West Brom's new-found defensive composure and he showed no signs of the jitters that initially followed a £3m move from Luton Town in August. "Their front two weren't as lively as they were last week [against Charlton]," the 20-year-old observed. "But maybe that's good on our defence's part. As soon as the first goal went in, I felt we were in control all the way."
City were never in the game, and their frustration was shown by challenges that looked like they had come straight from a wrestling manual. Cole should have been joining Ben Thatcher in the changing-room after the left-back clattered into Kamara with a raised forearm. "Other referees might have sent him off," said Robson. "His elbow was definitely raised with intent."
Stuart Pearce, the City manager, jokingly suggested that Robson has gone soft in his old age. "I remember playing alongside Bryan Robson and him encouraging me to win the ball fairly and put wingers in the stand," he said. "It's interesting to see that his opinion has changed."
In truth, it is just as well that Pearce has developed a sense of humour, as the old "Psycho" might have been tempted to give his mate a swift jab as punishment for West Brom's indecently polished performance.
Goals: Kamara (5) 1-0; Campbell (61) 2-0.
West Bromwich Albion (4-4-2): Kuszczak; Watson (Albrechtsen, 60), Davies, Clement, Robinson; Greening, Wallwork, Inamoto, Kamara (Carter, 89); Ellington (Campbell 38), Kanu. Substitutes not used: Kirkland (gk), Earnshaw.
Manchester City (4-4-2): James; Sommeil (Ireland, 59), Distin, Dunne, Thatcher (Wright-Phillips, 87); Sinclair, Barton, Reyna (Croft, 69), Sun Jihai; Cole, Vassell. Substitutes not used: De Vlieger (gk), Sibierski.
Referee: M Dean (Wirral)
Booked: WBA Wallwork; Manchester City Thatcher, Barton, Dunne, Cole. Sent off: Cole (87).
Man of the match: Kamara.
Attendance: 25,472.Reuse content