WEST BROMWICH ALBION 3MIDDLESBROUGH 0
Three consecutive home league wins and a first ever Premier League double – West Bromwich Albion are certainly experiencing a change in fortune and it is just because of the arrival of their new striker.
Marc-Antoine Fortune made a telling debut after completing his loan move from Nancy as Albion followed up their only league away win of the season at the Riverside by again putting Gareth Southgate’s side to the sword.
The French Guyana forward may have opened his account in fortuitous circumstances and Albion certainly enjoyed a rare rub of the green, but they thoroughly deserved this victory, which lifted them temporarily off the bottom of the Premier League, the lower reaches of which are now extremely cluttered.
All season, manager Tony Mowbray has been lamenting the lack of a killer touch and has recruited Fortune and Arsenal youngster Jay Simpson to add a cutting edge to his side’s impressive build up play.
Both players received standing ovations from The Hawthorns crowd as they were withdrawn in the second half and they were thoroughly deserved.
Simpson, who had a superb opportunity to score his first Premier League goal in the first half when he raced away from the Boro defence but was denied as he tried to go round keeper Ross Turnbull, troubled the visitors with his pace and trickery, while Fortune proved to be a cunning foil with his excellent link play.
He may have only scored 59 goals in his career, but it took only 54 minutes for the 27-year-old to go about trying to open his account.
Fortune played a neat one-two with Robert Koren whose goal-bound shot deflected off the back of Fortune’s legs and past Turnbull – officially the goal has been credited to the Slovenian, although the new man is attempting to claim it.
However, it was his all-round contribution that pleased Mowbray the most.
“We signed Marc-Antoine Fortune this week and people questioned his goalscoring record but you could see today the benefits of having a centre forward who has awareness and can get hold of the ball, see runners go past and play them in,” Mowbray said. “That is why I signed him.
“I sign good footballers and Marc falls into that category. He is a good footballer who plays centre forward. He allows midfield players to go past him and get into goalscoring areas.
“Kevin Phillips did that for us last year. He would get into good areas and allow midfield players to run past, and midfield players can score goals off the back of good centre forwards.”
Midfield players certainly did as Chris Brunt opened the scoring after just four minutes when he seized on Tony McMahon’s poor defensive header and his deflected shot crept beneath Turnbull.
Then Koren, who was in superb form, wrapped up the win in the 67th minute when Brunt picked out his burst from midfield with a delightful pass and the Slovenian slipped the ball beneath Turnbull.
Albion did not have it all their own way and Boro certainly had their chances but £12?million striker Afonso Alves missed three golden opportunities, even hitting the bar with a simple header from eight yards out.
Boro’s cause was not helped by the straight red card shown to Didier Digard in the 62nd minute for a two-footed tackle on Borja Valero, but it was Albion’s day and there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
Scorers: Brunt (4), Fortune (54), Koren (67).
WEST BROMWICH ALBION (4-4-2): Carson; Hoefkens, Barnett (Pele, 39), Donk, Robinson; Koren, Valero, Greening, Brunt; Simpson (Moore, 77), Fortune (Beattie, 69). Substitutes: Kiely, Cech, Kim, Teixeira.
MIDDLESBROUGH (4-4-2): Turnbull; McMahon (Bates, 70), Wheater, Riggott (Huth, 36), Taylor; O’Neil (Mido, 57), Digard, Shawky, Downing; Alves, Tuncay. Substitutes: Jones; Emnes; Johnson; Bennett.
Referee: Mark Halsey (Lancashire).
Bookings: Middlesbrough – Shawky, Huth (both fouls)
Sending-off: Middlesbrough – Digard (serious foul play).
Albion man of the match: Robert Koren.