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Terry’s Baggies Blog

BAGGIES HALT PILGRIMS' PROGRESS

03-03-2008

It was back to form for The Baggies who racked up a 3-0 win against Plymouth at The Hawthorns on Saturday. Even better, leaders Stoke slipped to their second straight defeat 24 hours later. Whoopee.

Goals win games and however they’re scored, the result’s the same. And for sure the Baggies first two wouldn’t be filed under a ‘great’ index column – although the second, to be fair, was a freakish collectors item.

1,500 Green and Yellow bedecked Plymouth supporters made the tortuous journey to the Hawthorns and as they left I couldn’t but wonder how they felt at the quality of their team’s defending.

But as Uriah Rennie blew the final whistle leaving Baggies fans very satisfied at winning what could possibly be termed an untidy game we weren’t complaining. The important thing was Albion were back on the winning track.

Team news. Filipe Teixeira, replacing Zoltan Gera, dropped to the bench, Ishmael Miller for Kevin Phillips and Chris Brunt, he of the magic left foot, replacing James Morrison.

The one name to cause trepidation? The ‘Man in Black’ (no, not Valentine Dyall, a familiar name for fellow ‘veteran’ BBC Radio listeners) but the quite infuriating Uriah Rennie.

How best to describe the early stages? Hmmmmm? Untidy, nervous, stuttering, or to sum up, not particularly illuminating.

Plymouth on the back of four straight wins looked composed, passed the ball with a fair degree of confidence, and with the Baggies defence at times looking a tad uncertain early on (nothing new there then) it was left to the ever improving Leon Barnett to win the vital aerial battles leaping high as high as a salmon swimming upstream.

Argyle were another team who if they felt danger threatened had no hesitation in taking the man before the ball.

A series of fouls culminated with Teixera being stretchered off in the 16th minute to be replaced by Zoltan Gera who in the game against Hull hadn’t had the best of games. To put in mildly.

That was Plymouth’s undoing. Determined to erase that memory it was the Magical Magyar who immediately began to dictate proceedings. “Here, there and everywhere" was his motto and it was he who gleefully opened the scoring on the stroke of half time following a Laurel And Hardy scenario involving Roman Bednar, ‘Tiny’ Miller and the Argyle defence.

A cross, a deflection, a missed opportunity from Miller but thankfully the ball fell to Zoltan who was able yet again demonstrate his acrobatic gymnastic skills with back flips the legendary Olga Korbut would have been proud of.

In truth that should have been the Baggies second as earlier Roman Bednar had set up Miller for a one on one with the keeper but agonisingly his shot went inches wide of the upright.

One of the highlights was the form of Chris Brunt. A player who relies solely on the left foot but for all that can his crosses must seem as manna from heaven for any of the chosen strikers.

Thankfully the second half was more reminiscent of Albion’s attacking potential with Miller taking centre stage in a frantic three-minute spell of all out action.

First a deflected shot landed on top of the net. Then another chance was tossed away as his effort hit the keepers legs and with the crowd being increasingly frustrated he somehow managed to score with what could only be described as a opportunist fluke goal.

A misplaced clearance. ‘Tiny’ seemingly off balance and more in hope than anticipation he hooked the ball over his head and in company with the crowd looked amazed at the lovely sight of the keeper back peddling frantically in a vain attempt to stop the ball snuggling in the back of the net.

Mission accomplished, off went Miller on came Luke Moore and without seeing to much of the ball he showed his pace will trouble opposition defences.

To all intents and purposes that was game over. The Baggies repulsed any Pilgrims’ progress, Dean Kiely was relatively untroubled and with the inspirational Gera twisting, turning, and tormenting the Argyle defence, a third goal wasn’t far away.

A cross from Jonathan Greening to the back post, and true to tradition, there was Zoltan Gera climbing high to nod the ball down to the feet of ‘goal machine’ Roman Bednar who calmly slotted home a ‘hallmark’ goal before running towards the Brummie Road fans to share in the celebrations.

Mission accomplished he was replaced by the diminutive Do-Heon Kim and the South Korean immediately demonstrated what every Albion fan realises when Tony Mowbray decides to bring a new signing to the Hawthorns.

He has to be comfortable on the ball, pass it with ease, and look completely at home wearing a Baggies shirt. But to the delight of the crowd he also proved he could showboat in style! Clever flicks and passes, probably wouldn’t be ‘allowed’ by the likes of Stoke in a tense battling game, but in a match already won they were a sight to behold.

Overall verdict? A solid defensive display, Albrechtsen, Leon Barnett and Paul Robinson snuffing out any potential threat. Carl Hoefkens raiding down the right flank to great effect. Zoltan Gera a truly inspirational playmaker along with Robert Koren and Jonathan Greening while Chris Brunt demonstrated his full range of passing skills.

Up front Roman Bednar demonstrated for the umpteenth time that apart from the ‘happy’ knack of scoring goals there isn’t a harder work at the club while ‘Tiny’ Miller again displayed all the traits of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

Make no mistake this was a vital win and much needed three points bearing in mind the results of our rivals. Bristol City and Charlton won their games but conversely Watford dropped two points while ‘Hurrah, hurrah’, Stoke slumped to a 3-0 hammering at Loftus Road so if the Baggies could win the two games in hand over the Potters the chance of an automatic promotion would be beckoning.

But that’s for the future because as Tony Mowbray says “All we can do is to take it match as it comes”.

Next up Sheffield Wednesday away on Tuesday (and Hillsborough isn’t one of Albion’s favourites in terms of successful results) and a victory would make the journey well worthwhile.

Following that comes the Sunday trip to Bristol Rovers where a win would take the team and supporters to Wembley for an FA Cup semi-final. Prospects? I don’t want to speculate bearing in mind the shock results already experienced by far more glamorous names than West Bromwich Albion.

Although no doubt there won’t be a single solitary Baggies fan who wouldn’t love to see the Stripes go marching on to Wembley to play in a semi final of the world’s most famous Cup competition - even if it did throw a possible/probable ‘spanner in the works of the more important promotion chase for a place in next seasons ‘Greed League.

We’ll just have to wait and see won’t we.

“ Come on you Baggies” .

Promotion or FA Cup Final appearance? What's your priority Baggies fans? Leave a comment on The Stirrer Forum.

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