Semi Ajayi was West Brom’s hero on Saturday night as his stoppage time winner secured Albion’s fourth win in a row at Peterborough United.
What is it, they say? The best sides find way to win when things aren’t going according to plan. That’s Albion’s night at London Road in a nutshell, for they weren’t at their intense best for any extensive period of this game.
In fairness, that’s as much to do with the hosts, who gave as good as they got and executed their game plan to a tee.
The first half was a bit of a non event. Posh matched Albion up with their 3-4-3 system and didn’t give the Baggies any early sights of goal, as they looked to start quickly as per the current regime.
Matt Phillips did well early doors to roll his man and produce an opening for Karland Grant, but his shot was well blocked on the edge of the area. In the wide areas, Darnell Furlong and Conor Townsend were giving the hosts extra food for thought, and the latter combined well with Grant before the forward got his shot away – it was well saved by Christy Pym.
At the other end, Peterborough’s front-line of Jonson-Clarke Harris and Jack Marriott did ensure that Kyle Bartley and Ajayi in particular were in for a roughed-up evening but, bar one Marriott effort when he smartly lost Bartley on the turn and then fired straight at Sam Johnstone, they rarely troubled the Albion goal.
Albion applied more pressure in the second half, and certainly took a more direct approach. Adam Reach was introduced at half time, and then Ismael rolled the dice again ten minutes into the second period when he turned to new signing Jordan Hugill.
The big man endeared himself to the fans over the course of his cameo, without having too many chances, but that will come. This was a case of getting up to speed and to begin finding cohesion with his new teammates. He headed over one Phillips cross at the back post.
Posh themselves caused a few problems, and sparked nerves in the Albion back-line when Siriki Dembele was introduced, but Albion had the last laugh in stoppage time.
Phillips, the pick of the Baggies bunch here, collected possession on the right and burst forwards into the penalty area, holding off his man. His cross, low and hard, was swept home by Ajayi to spark delirium in the end behind the goal and along the touch-line, as Ismael and Adam Murray sprinted to join their players.
It wasn’t pretty, but Albion got the job done. They’ve now got 13 points from a possible 15 and have won four on the spin. Here are the player ratings.
A quiet first half for Johnstone, who had not too much to do aside from his sweeping duties. That got him into trouble in the second half, when he headed out a Posh attack and, upon retrieving it, was booked for perceived timewasting.
Was up in the final third of the pitch within the first couple of minutes, driving balls into the box from the right – one or two of them were rather inviting, too, though there was nobody waiting to meet them.
Drafted back into the side after Clarke’s injury. He’s a quick centre half himself, but Marriott’s pace, and then Dembele’s, caused him problems one or twice. Passing, particularly into the channels, was indifferent over the course of the evening, but what a finish at the end to seal the win.
Was given the slip by Marriott in the first half and was fortunate to escape without any serious damage. Bowed out at half time, after 45 minutes in which he found Clarke-Harris a handful.
Again, Albion’s best centre half. Does the basics very well, and matched Peterborough’s physicality. One dangerous ball across the face of goal he dealt with in a super cool manner. For a player who wasn’t sure on how much game time he’d get, he’s proven to be extremely important this season.
Not his usual self in possession. Linked up very well with Grant in one move to produce a shot on target for the forward, but he conceded the ball more than once and was left racing back towards his own goal. Shifted into the centre of the defence in the second half and applied himself pretty well.
Albion’s captain and midfield destroyer did a good job of breaking the play up throughout and is always ready for a scrap for the ball in the middle of the park against anyone. Did what was asked of him – the unfashionable stuff.
The midfielder’s set piece deliveries in the first half were poor by his standards, but his anticipation on the edge of the box to recycle the ball when Albion were on the attack, and to keep the move alive, is second to none.
Most of the good work, a little frustratingly, from Diangana came inside his own half in a defensive sense – especially early on. Combined once or twice with Grant and Townsend, but generally Diangana needs to rapidly rediscover his very best form.
A week after arguably his best display in an Albion shirt, Grant struggled in the first period. Nothing really came off for him on the edge of the box, where he was pick pocketed by Thompson. Tested Pym with one sharp effort. Marginally improved in the second with balls into the box, but Grant can improve again.
The Baggies centre forward gave it a good go without those efforts bearing any fruit. Bullied the Posh defence, though it was a tough effort in a 3v1 situation. Shifted out wide when Hugill came off and continued to cause problems with the ball at his feet. Outstanding run and pass at the last.
Reach (for Bartley 45) 5
Like Townsend, Reach struggled to make a significant impact on the left flank in the second half. Safe enough when defending, but not as threatening going forwards.
Hugill (for Diangana 56) 6
More to come, but this was a promising cameo from the new signing. Put himself about, will be an aerial threat to any side, and played a part in the best Albion passing move of the game.
Subs not used: Palmer, Snodgrass, Gardner-Hickman, Fellows, Taylor
Peterborough United: Pym; Burrows, Thompson, Kent, Ward, Butler, Norburn (Taylor 45), Grant (Knight 81), Szmodics, Marriott (Dembele 60), Clarke-Harris
Subs: Blackmore, Edwards, Tomlinson, Randall
Posh – ; Albion – Ajayi 90
The ref: Mr J Linington
Up next: Millwall (H) – Saturday, 11 September (3pm KO)