After a two week international break, the games have returned thick and fast for the Baggies against tough opposition. Having lost to 8th-placed Wigan on Saturday they now face the sides currently in 5th and 7th inside four days at the Hawthorns.
Fifth-placed Derby County are the first of those on Wednesday evening fresh from a victory over leaders at the beginning of the weekend, Sheffield United. Rookie boss, Frank Lampard, has had a decent start at Pride Park with the stand out result, of course, being the victory on penalties over Manchester United in the Carabao Cup, although it is their home form that has lifted them into the top six. The Rams haven’t won away from home since the victory at Hull on 1st September, losing at struggling sides Rotherham and Bolton in that period, and face a Baggies team on a run of five successive home league victories.
For the Baggies, there has been much debate following the defeat at Wigan, but that needs to be put down as a bad day at the office not forgetting that the Latics now have the best home record in the division having not lost at the DW Stadium since Southampton knocked them out of the FA Cup in March.
As I mentioned in my article on Sunday, Paul Cook and his team should take a huge amount of credit for how they stopped Albion from playing on Saturday. Let’s not forget that better sides that Albion have been blunted by the Latics this year with Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City succumbing to the same result at the DW back in February.
We didn’t learn anything new from the defeat and Albion remain just one point off the top – there is no need for any knee-jerk reactions.
One added complication is that Jake Livermore’s red card means that he will be suspended for Wednesday’s game which means that Moore has a decision to make. Assuming there will be no change in formation, there needs to be a change in central midfield. Barry and Brunt have rotated of late, although Barry didn’t make the squad at the weekend due to a slight niggle, and we might expect to see Barry come in on Wednesday. Playing both Barry and Brunt would be a mistake in my opinion, and Big Dave must choose between youth in either Sam Field or Rekeem Harper, or experience in perhaps Wes Hoolahan, although Hoolahan is a very different type of midfielder to Livermore.
The line ups that Moore picked for the Carabao Cup might suggest that Harper is more likely to play in the middle of the park, but he has not featured in a Championship squad since the second game of the season. Field, on the other hand, has been in all but three of the league squads this season and made two late substitute appearances against Bristol City and Preston, so he would seem to be closer to a first team place.
If Field does get the nod, it will be a huge chance for him to show what he can do and, should he impress in the way he did in the four starts he made late last year, he will give more another viable option in that tricky central midfield area.
The continued absence of Matt Phillips is a concern and it is certainly limiting Albion’s options in attack. I thought it was an obvious change to bring Kyle Edwards on at Wigan, and I think Moore left it too late. The youngster was always going to offer something more from an attacking point of view, and he did indeed look dangerous when he did get his chance.
In some ways, you can understand the decision to persist with Mears given that Albion had still managed to score an average of three goals a game during Phillips’ absence before the Wigan match, but it was clear at the JJB that Mears’ lack of attacking threat was restricting Albion.
Should Phillips still be out on Wednesday, it may be time for Moore to give Edwards a chance from the start.
One other player that Albion fans are looking forward to seeing is new signing, Bakary Sako. It was expected that Sako would be on the bench at Wigan but there was no sign of him, and so far no explanation. His power and pace would certainly have offered something different on Saturday and he should be a useful option from the bench, once fit.
A further injury concern for Darren Moore is Craig Dawson who limped off just after half time in Wigan. Tosin Adarabioyo would likely deputise should the former Rochdale man not be fit, as he did while Dawson was left out of the squad after the summer shenanigans. It would be Tosin’s fourth league start of the season and his first since the defeat at the Riverside in August, although he played the whole of Albion’s Carabao Cup campaign.
One apparent piece of good news to come out at the weekend was a statement from Claude Puel that it is likely that Harvey Barnes will remain at the Hawthorns for the season – not a promise, but it certainly seems as if the England U21 midfielder will be Albion’s until next summer.
As fellow founder members of the Football League, Derby County first met the Baggies in September 1888 in a League fixture at the County Ground, home of Derbyshire Cricket Club, which Albion won 2-1. The Baggies completed the double at Stoney Lane the following month with a 5-0 victory thanks to a hat trick by Tom Pearson and goals from Billy Bassett and Walter Perry.
That remains Albion’s biggest ever win over Derby County although they came close to matching it 45 years later when four goals from Ginger Richardson and another from Tommy Glidden saw the Baggies win 5-1, their biggest win over the Rams at the Hawthorns.
County’s biggest win at Albion came in the short-lived Zenith Data Systems Cup in 1989 – Dean Saunders scored three with Paul Goddard and Gary Micklewhite also scoring as the visitors ran out 5-0 winners.
Derby have had most of their recent successes at the Hawthorns in cup competitions with only one of their five victories on Albion soil since the Sixties coming in the league. The Rams, of course, won on their last visit in the FA Cup last year but they haven’t won a league game at the Hawthorns since 1994 when Roy McFarland’s team beat Keith Burkinshaw’s team 2-1 thanks to a winner from Paul Simpson in what is their only league victory at the Shrine since 1969.
Albion are unbeaten in five league meetings with Derby at the Hawthorns, and have won nine and drawn four of the last fourteen.
The highest scoring meeting between the teams at the Hawthorns came in a Division One fixture in April 1935. Hughie Gallacher scored two for the visitors, one of the which was from the spot, with Arthur Groves grabbing a third for the Rams. The hosts, meanwhile, took the points thanks to goals from Harry Jones, Ginger Richardson, Tommy Glidden and Teddy Sandford.
Baggies to put Wigan behind them and get back to winning ways.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
7 Jan 2017 – FA Cup 3rd Round
West Brom 1 (Phillips)
Derby County 2 (Bent, Ince)
27 Feb 2010 – League Championship
West Brom 3 (Brunt (2), Cox)
Derby County 1 (Porter)
Albion’s Record against Derby County
Pictures courtesy of Laurie Rampling.