Albion strike gold
Walker Stadium, Leicester
Saturday, December 8th
RAVAGED by injuries and suspensions and forced to field a makeshift defence, West Bromwich Albion defied all the odds to record a sparkling victory at Leicester City.
With nine players out, seven injured and two suspended, Tony Mowbray had to dig deep into his mine of Hawthorns talent - and he certainly struck gold.
He gave full League debuts to three players, Luke Steele in goal, Shelton Martis at right back and Jared Hodgkiss at left back. Pedro Pele was drafted in at centre half for only his third League start, alongside Leon Barnett.
And the manager was rewarded with gutsy performances from all of them.
Martis in particular revelled in his unaccustomed role, even taking the opportunity to support Zoltan Gera down the right and getting in a number of telling crosses.
Pele looked composed in his first Albion appearance as a central defender, making his mark with some excellent distribution from the back.
Hodgkiss was given his first League start on the left side of the defence instead of in his normal right back position. He hardly put a foot wrong, fully vindicating his pre-match comment: 'You have to be ready when your chance comes.`
Steele was unlucky not to claim a clean sheet on his debut. He produced a top class just before the break to keep the Baggies ahead, but was eventually beaten in controversial circumstances when Iain Hume crashed into him in the 75th minute and the ball ended up in the net.
Mowbray said afterwards: 'It was a very obvious foul to me. The fourth official was stood next to me and he had the same opinion.`
Albion went ahead on 31 minutes, Gera arriving at the far post to head home a deep cross from Chris Brunt, after bossing the first half.
Leicester came more into the game in the second half but Albion held firm, looking well organised at the back.
Craig Beattie, who replaced Roman Bednar after 73 minutes, scored the all-important winner, cutting in from the left before curling a delightful right-footed shot beyond the reach of keeper Marton Fulop and into the top corner.
It was a goal worthy of winning any football match, as Leicester boss Ian Holloway grudgingly conceded afterwards, describing it as an 'out-of-the-world goal`.
Leicester City (4-4-2): Fulop; Stearman, McAuley, Kisnorbo, Mattock; Kenton, Wesolowski (King 40), Clemence, Chambers (Hayes 59); Hume, Cort. Subs not used: N'Gotty, Sheehan, Odhiambo.
West Bromwich Albion (4-4-1-1): Steele; Martis, Barnett, Pele, Hodgkiss; Gera, Greening, Koren (Chaplow 78), Brunt; Filipe Teixeira; Bednar (Beattie 73). Subs not used: MacDonald, Tininho, Worrall.
Referee: Mike Russell (Hertfordshire).
Here, there and everywhere in midfielder, he also helped out his rookie defenders. A real captain's performance, leading by example.