In their first match of September last year, West Bromwich Albion travelled to the Amex Stadium sitting in fifth place in the table, unbeaten so far this season, to take on newly-promoted Brighton and Hove Albion who sat in 17th place with just one point to their name.
The hosts took the points that day but few would’ve predicted that the clubs’ positions would be so different as we look forward to the return fixture. Starting with that match on the south coast, the Baggies have picked up just 9 points from 19 games, whereas the Seagulls have picked up 22 leaving the midlands’ Albion deep in the mire while the south coast version sit in the relative comfort of 12th place.
The Baggies finally managed to end their winless run last weekend with victory at Exeter, but the more important task is to end the wait for a win in the Premier League and, if they are to give themselves a fighting chance to avoid relegation, it must come this weekend. The win over the Grecians was essential and, while it was comfortable, it was not without its problems. The debacle over the taking of the penalty was ridiculous; Albion went so long without a penalty before the Arsenal game that they can scarcely have expected another one so soon, but there must be a designated penalty-taker and Pardew must take some of the blame for that. As for HRK’s spot kick, it was dreadful. Furthermore, had Jayden Stockley managed to convert the present Ben Foster handed him shortly afterwards, it could’ve been a very different game, and such mistakes will certainly be punished by a Premier League team.
Nonetheless, a win is a win and, just as Bryan Robson did in the Great Escape season, Alan Pardew registered his first win as Albion boss in the third round of the FA Cup. In 2005, Robson’s first league win game in the next home game, although the ’05 Baggies were defeated at Fulham in the match immediately after the cup win. Pardew and his team need to build on whatever confidence they gained from St James’s Park and ensure that they take all three points this weekend.
Being four points behind 18th-placed Stoke City, the Baggies can’t move up a place this weekend, but they need to bring themselves into the chasing pack. The match against Brighton is their only home game this month and, therefore, their best opportunity for victory. Three points would bring West Brom to within four points of Chris Hughton’s team, and it is important not to get adrift with tough trips to Everton and Man City to come this month. This match, plus the home games with Southampton and Huddersfield in February, will be key to Albion’s chances of survival this season.
It was good to see both Rondón and Rodriguez score last weekend, although Robson-Kanu’s penalty miss was yet another example of how weak our front line is this season, and we know how important it is to improve our attacking options this month. There has been lots of chat but no action so far this month, with the departure of Jonny Evans looking the most likely deal to be done.
I don’t think that there are any incoming deals that are close enough for comment at the moment; agents fill the media with stories of potential moves, but little can be believed. The fact remains that Albion need a striker and an attacking midfielder and, assuming Evans goes, I’d prefer to see a specialist a right back as a replacement.
I sincerely hope that the Baggies won’t be scrabbling around for signings in a fortnight’s time, but I fear that may be the case.
Turning back to Saturday’s match, Jonny Evans may well be fit while Craig Dawson should also be back in contention having been rested for the trip to Exeter. Pardew is hopeful that Matt Phillips and Kieran Gibbs will be fit but they remain doubts.
Former Baggies midfielder, Izzy Brown, is on loan at Brighton from Chelsea but suffered a season-ending knee injury in the Cup win over Palace on Monday evening. Their only other injured player is Steve Sidwell who may also be ruled out for the season after suffering an ankle injury in training; they’re unlikely to miss him, however, as he hasn’t made a single appearance since May.
It will be Brighton’s first visit to the Hawthorns since April 1993 when Andy Hunt scored a hat trick on his home debut. Their only victory at the Shrine was on their first ever visit in the third round of the League Cup in September 1976 on a day when Willie Johnston was sent off and Peter Ward scored twice for the Seagulls.
This will be the tenth league fixture between the Albions at the Hawthorns and the hosts have won five with four matches finishing all square.
The Baggies have to win this match and I have to believe that they will – the winless league run will come to an end on Saturday.
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All competitions; most recent game on the right
9 Sep 2017 – Premier League
Brighton & Hove Albion 3 (Groß (2), Hemed)
West Brom 1 (Morrison)
Last meeting at the Hawthorns
3 Apr 1993 – League Division 2
West Brom 3 (Hunt (3))
Brighton & Hove Albion 1 (Codner)
Albion’s Record against Brighton & Hove Albion
|Premier League Record|