Wittingly or not, Baggies boss Tony Mowbray banged one large nail on the head when it came to Norwich's on-going flirt with relegation – goals. As in chronic lack of.
For as the one-time Town coach and skipper looked forward to sealing the club's return to the Premiership next Monday night with victory over Norwich's relegation rivals Southampton, so he cast his eye over events at Carrow Road on Saturday and, in particular, the contribution of his two midfielders, Zoltan Gera and Robert Koren to the Baggies' cause.
Gera lit up the contest for the 2,000-odd travelling West Brom fans when he punished Jason Shackell's half-cleared header with top-flight aplomb; 70 minutes earlier and Koren's reward for pushing on into the City box was the simplest of tap-ins after Roman Bednar had persuaded City keeper David Marshall to pop the ball out of his hands and onto his team-mate's toe.
“Gera's got ten this season; Koren's got ten this season as well now,” said Mowbray, speaking straight after Saturday's hard-earned success against a game, but ultimately punchless City side.
“So that's two midfielders on double figures – and Zoltan went on a Maradona-style run in the first-half,” added Mowbray, all too well aware that his star turn is out of contract this summer and, on Saturday's evidence, will have more interested parties than Baggies chairman Jeremy Peace beating a path to his agent's door.
But there was a bigger point here – one that rings ever more true in Norfolk as the Canaries are left with one mother of all home games this weekend against Queen's Park Rangers. For while Sheffield Wednesday and Southampton may have rather more on their plate points and fixtures-wise, the Canaries margin for error is almost nil.
“Every successful team have goal-scoring midfield players,” said Mowbray, with his title hopefuls now having racked up 85 goals from their 46 games this season.
“If you're relying on just one or two people to score you goals and they go off the boil, you are struggling.
“But today the two, goal-scoring midfielders won us the football match, so yes they're very important.”
Mowbray's thoughts clearly ring very true in this neck of the woods and as Canary chief Glenn Roeder embarks on his mammoth re-building programme this summer that thought will have long since crossed his mind. They have, after all, just 45 goals to their name from 44 games.
Thereby hangs the story of their season. Look at the next column along and the Baggies have actually conceded 54 goals, only one less than Norwich on 55.
Don't score goals, you don't win matches.
Take Messrs Cureton, Evans and Dublin out of the reckoning and Norwich's problems come even sharper into focus – for all else that skipper Mark Fotheringham brings to the party, he has just one Championship goal to his credit; Matty Pattison has yet to score; Lee Croft has one; Gary Doherty and Jason Shackell haven't got a Championship goal between them.
Darren Huckerby and Darel Russell have four apiece which is a start, but still way short of the double-figure haul that Gera and Koren have added to the Baggies' promotion party. And that's before you add Kevin Phillips 24-goal haul.
Mowbray is in danger of becoming the most popular ex-Town favourite in Norfolk if he can drive a large nail into Southampton's Championship coffin in front of the live TV cameras at The Hawthorns next Monday night.
After such a frantic spell of FA Cup semi-final trips to Wembley and Black Country derbies with Wolves, the fact that the Baggies have that extra 48-hours to prepare for the Saints visit should – in theory – put them in fine fettle for their final home game of the season. One point is all they need.
“We've got nine days till the next game,” said Mowbray, speaking at the weekend. “We play on the Monday night on the TV against a team who will be still desperate for points; Southampton lost today so they'll be requiring a result – and they've got some good players.
“So it's a game that we need to prepare properly for; we'll have a few days off now after the burden of six game in 18 days – three away games this week – so they will rest with their families and then we will start the preparation for Southampton. And, hopefully, gear ourselves [up] to try and finish the job at The Hawthorns in front of our fantastic supporters.
“But you're never there, till you're there.”
As for Saturday's game, Mowbray gave Norwich every credit for their spirited second-half showing. Bolt on someone with Gera's clinical eye for goal or Koren's happy knack of being in the right place at the right time and then, who knows….
“It became a little bit more difficult than we would have liked, but pleased – yes,” he said. “I thought first 20, 25 minutes the game could have been over if we had taken our opportunities. The second-half for whatever reason – and it was our sixth game in 18 days and we've played three away games this week plus credit to Norwich they came and had a go they needed a result and asked lots of questions of us in the last half-hour of the game.”
He, like Roeder, was left wholly bemused by the performance of referee Iain Williamson. Roeder and his No2 Lee Clark have now asked for a personal hearing with the Football Association to explain their thoughts on Andy D'Urso's efforts at Ashton Gate; neither manager went quite that far this weekend. Mowbray picked his words carefully re Ched Evans' 74th minute spot-kick that could have rocked the Baggies' promotion apple cart.
“I don't know what the best adjective is to describe the penalty – but an unusual penalty against us which added a little bit of pressure to the situation. It would have been a lot lighter if it had continued to be 2-0,” he said. “Amazing decision, to be fair. How a linesman can over-rule his referee from 70 yards away I'll never know…”
Ironically, Mowbray may well be back in Norfolk before the season ends. He has, of course, a free Saturday this weekend.
“I'll probably be watching QPR next Saturday, wherever they're playing…” said Mowbray, little realising where the London side were. He does now.
“Like I say, the job's never done and QPR is our next game after Southampton. So it's all about preparation and making sure we don't leave any stone unturned to try and get where we want to be.”
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