Football: History repeats for Baggies; COCA-COLA CHAMPIONSHIP.
West Bromwich Albion 3 Wolverhampton Wanderers 0
Bryan Robson had just left The Hawthorns the last time Wolverhampton Wanderers suffered such a comprehensive Black Country derby caning in December 1981.
Bizarrely, 25 years later and a month on from Robson's latest departure from West Bromwich Albion, it was once again 3-0 to the Baggies. And this performance was all about the men he left behind.
When Wolves manager Mick McCarthy referred to Robson's successor Tony Mowbray as "a very lucky young man", it was an appreciation of the talent the new Albion manager now has at his disposal.
And, although it might also have taken the sort of soul-searching in the dressing room inevitably sparked by a change of management, the one difference between Robson's Albion of a month ago and what Wolves ran into yesterday lunchtime is confidence, plain and simple.
Albion were not three goals better than Wolves in terms of overall quality, but their standard of finishing was.
Last season, Diomansy Kamara couldn't hit the proverbial cow's backside with a banjo. Jonathan Greening's lack of ability to hit a barndoor from ten paces was also a regular subject of conversation in Robson's Monday morning post-match debriefs when he would marvel about both players' ability, then almost go down his knees in prayer for either player to score.
How ironic a smile will Robson have had on his face when he watches the highlights of this one then.
Not only did the on-fire Kamara net his sixth goal in four games, but Greening actually hit the target with the sort of screamer that Robson used to insist he saved only for the training ground.
Forget the John Hartson spot-kick with which Albion rubbed Wolves noses in it late on. That was never a penalty.
But it was Wolves' failure to take their chances as clinically as Albion did, twice inside the first half hour, which effectively decided the outcome. That and the space created by Wolves' understandable decision to double up on Jason Koumas.
This is an Albion team that, even missing the injured Kevin Phillips, has plenty of other attacking outlets.
But when Koumas menaced on 11 minutes it led to the opening goal. Too many Wolves defenders went with him, leaving Greening unmarked on the edge of the box, and, although generally a good bet to put it in the crowd from that sort of range, this one screamed in past the helpless Matt Murray.
Wolves did conjure up the chance of an almost instant equaliser when Jay Bothroyd's speculative left-foot shot forced Albion keeper Pascal Zuberbuhler to parry. Darren Potter was first on the rebound but Zuberbuhler this time made a second, more accomplished save.
It was to prove vital. With their next effort on target, Albion doubled their lead. Martin Albrechtsen made a storming run down the right, floated over an excellent cross and Kamara arrived to plant home a free header.
The confident Kamara then almost scored again a minute later, only for his shot to be deflected wide, and Greening fired straight at Murray after a weak clearance by Gary Breen. But, knowing that if they could score the next goal, then they might still have a toehold in the contest, it was Wolves who were closest to scoring before the break, when the tricky Rohan Ricketts cut in from the left and sent a right-foot shot into the side netting.
It was only to be expected that no team managed by Mick McCarthy would take it lying down once they had face the wrath of their boss at half-time. And so it proved as Wolves came out fighting after the break.
But, when they did get chances, they were all squan-dered. Seyi Olofinjana contrived a lovely flick to set up a shooting chance for himself but, from almost the same spot that Greening had scored, this volley did disappear into the crowd.
Ricketts then had another great run in from the left, only for his shot to be blocked. And when Zuberbuhler's handling is as poor as this, any team has got a chance. He twice more fumbled from Bothroyd and Olofinj ana, but when Bothroyd did get clear in the box, the Swiss keeper managed to hold onto this one. Then Jamie Clapham presented Bothroyd in the box again with his best chance late on, but Wolves' top scorer could only manage a miserable finish.
Even though Wolves had been the better side after the break, Albion had continued to carry a threat.
Albrechtsen's left-foot angled drive flew just across the face of goal, Greening ripped a half volley just over for a corner from which he had another shot blocked and Murray had to save from Nigel Quashie.
But this was a day when the ball was running Albion's way. And so it was confirmed when, with his first touch, young substitute Mark Little conceded the penalty from which the Baggies made the scoreline particularly flattering.
Little toed the ball away from Kamara, only to look rightly astonished when referee Howard Webb not only pointed to the spot, but booked him too. Hartson grabbed the ball to complete the party by netting for his first goal in more than two months.
West Bromwich Albion captain Curtis Davies says that it does not really matter who's managing the Baggies, such is the team's level of form and confidence. After leading his side to victory in the first Black Country derby for five years, Davies said: "We've got such quality in the squad, the team is still shining whether it's Bryan Robson, Nigel Pearson or Tony Mowbray in charge. I said last week at Ipswich, I could have managed us!"
After four successive wins, Albion have the familiar figure of Dave Jones in their sights as they give chase to leaders Cardiff City. With the psychological advantage they hold over him, given how Jones' Wolves threw away an 11-point lead over Albion with seven games left five years ago, for Albion to be only four points adrift is chicken feed.
"We never wanted Cardiff to get too far ahead," Davies said. "Luckily they lost at Norwich on Saturday, we've won, the gap is now down to four points and we just want to catch them up as soon as possible. I don't think anyone can match our first XI. Just look at the bench and the fact that someone like Ronnie Wallwork was left out and that shows what a tough team this is to get into."
While extolling his own team's virtues, Davies acknowledged that Wolves' willingness to trade blows and not shut up shop worked in Albion's favour. He said: "Most of the teams who have come here early doors, like Southend and Colchester, had just come looking for the draw, but Wolves would have been slaughtered if they'd done that and that allowed us the time and space to exploit that."
Scorers: Greening (11), Kamara (27), Hartson (pen, 84).
WEST BROMWICH ALBION (4-4-2): Zuberbuhler' Albrechtsen, Curtis Davies, Perry, Robinson' Gera (Watson, 86), Greening, Quashie, Koumas (Chaplow, 74)' Ellington (Hartson, 66), Kamara. Subs: Steele (gk), McShane.
WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS (4-4-2): Murray' Edwards (Little, 83), Breen, Craddock, Clapham' Potter (Craig Davies, 72), Henry, Olofinjana, Ricketts' Bothroyd, Johnson (Clarke, 63). Subs: Ikeme (gk), Wheater.
Referee: Howard Webb
(Merthyr Tydfil). Bookings: Albion - Greening, Gera, Albrechtsen (fouls)' Wolves - Craddock, Little (fouls).
Albion man of the match: Jonathan Greening - brought his shooting boots with him for once.
Wolves man of the match: Rohan Ricketts - always lively, the visitors' main attacking threat.
Diomansy Kamara leaps in front of Rob Edwards to head home Albion's second goal. It was the in-form forward's sixth goal in four games' John Hartson tucks home Albion's third from the penalty spot' Jonathan Greening (left) battles with Seyi Olofinjana Pictures/TIM EASTHOPE
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|Publication:||The Birmingham Post (England)|
|Date:||Oct 23, 2006|
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