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West Brom aim to escape Groundhog Day as striker sends a reminder

The Albion Q&A

West Brom were made to settle for a point against Preston on Saturday – it might’ve maintained their unbeaten run at the beginning of this season, but it’s not totally plain sailing.

Many fans – of which there were more than 3,200 of an Albion persuasion at Deepdale – have voiced their displeasure at the style of play and have shared concerns that other sides are quickly growing wise to the Baggies’ ways of working.

As always, we hosted a Q&A with Albion reporter Joe Chapman over on our Albion Facebook page on Monday to digest the most recent result, and always various other subjects that supporters wanted to discuss.

READ: Johnstone, Hugill, Clarke & the murmurs of discontent

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Deepdale analysis

It feels a little bit like Groundhog Day at the moment, writes Joseph Chapman. After catching the Championship off guard for four matches, the following four have suggested quickly that opponents are growing wise to the ways in which Albion approach. Worryingly, they’ve made it appear relatively easy to defend against this set-up – it’s a case of dragging the Baggies down to their level in the scrap.

Taking those four games as eight halves, seven eighths – all but the second period against Derby – have been ugly affairs. The chances appear to have dried up. Much is made of the press, or a lack of, in recent times but once again at Deepdale it was a case of Preston sitting tight, allowing Albion to dominate the ball and inviting them to break their defensive barriers down.

You can’t press effectively over 90 minutes if you have the ball yourself. Many of the goals scored by Albion this season – some of them excellent, like Callum Robinson at Bournemouth, Alex Mowatt against Sheffield United and Karlan Grant against Luton – have been as a result of winning the ball high and catching defenders off guard, as they struggle to return to their shape.

We’ve 38 games ahead of us – an entire Premier League season, that’d be – and Valerien Ismael must now correct what it is he views as a problem. Albion need to start scoring again.

READ: Ismael knows what isn’t quite working for Albion – now it must be addressed on the pitch

West Bromwich Albion head coach Valerien Ismael
West Bromwich Albion head coach Valerien Ismael

Morton on fire

It’s been a stop-start sort of 15 months for Callum Morton.

The striker caught fire in front of goal during his spell at Northampton Town, winning the League Two player of the month award in February 2020 with five goals in six games and helping the Cobblers to play-off glory at Wembley.

With parent club West Bromwich Albion promoted to the Premier League, too, young Morton was always likely to be handed another chance out on loan. It came, along with Alex Palmer, in the form of Lincoln City.

There was a return to Wembley with the Imps, but this ending was quite so fairytale. Neither was the season itself; while on loan at Braintree, Morton suffered a serious ACL injury which set him back months. Similarly, at Lincoln, he missed significant chunks of the season because of a ‘freak’ shoulder injury.

READ: 5 goals in three games for Morton

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What might’ve been

Many wonder what might’ve happened had West Bromwich Albion appointed Dean Smith in the summer of 2018, as some at the club at the time liked the idea of.

Albion eventually went with club favourite Darren Moore, who’d come all so close to keeping them in the Premier League weeks previous, but Smith had at the time appeared to be an ideal candidate.

Less than 12 months later, he returned to The Hawthorns and guided Aston Villa to the play-off final at the Baggies’ expense. The rest is history; Smith is in charge of his boyhood club and is presiding over a third successive top flight campaign.

West Bromwich born, how close did he become to being an Albion fan as a child?

READ: Dean Smith loved Bryan Robson – but he was always likely to follow Villa

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