Semi Ajayi celebrates at the final whistle during the Sky Bet Championship match between West Bromwich Albion and Birmingham City at The Hawthorns(Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)
Karlan Grant scored a late winner as West Bromwich Albion beat Birmingham City to go top of the Championship table at The Hawthorns on Friday night.
Grant’s long range strike fifteen minutes from time was enough to earn Valérien Ismaël’s side a 1-0 win in what was a tightly contested and largely scrappy West Midlands derby.
Lee Bowyer will be disappointed and feel his side had done enough for a point after frustrating the home side for much of the game, but tonight’s result means 16th place Blues have now gone six games without a win and five without a goal.
Conor Townsend: It was an uneventful first half at The Hawthorns and West Brom struggled to create any clear cut chances but Albion’s left full-back was the one player who was really causing problems for City in the first period.
Townsend was a threat down Birmingham’s right side all night, and he almost broke the deadlock with a long range effort in the first half. He also recovered well to make a vital tackle on Tahith Chong in the first half to deny the Dutch winger getting a shot on goal. The standout player on derby day.
Karlan Grant: The match winner. It wasn’t Grant’s best performance in a Baggies shirt but he grew into the game in the second half and produced a moment of real quality with a rocket of a strike to secure all three points - it was certainly a finish worthy of winning a West Midlands derby.
Matija Šarkić: A night when the Blues goalkeeper didn’t deserve to be on the losing side. The former Aston Villa and Wolves keeper made a very good stop to deny Townsend’s long range effort in the first half, and also produced a stunning save in injury time to deny Kyle Bartley from just a few yards out. Didn’t stand much of a chance with Grant’s winner.
Gary Gardner: Perhaps this is a bit harsh on Gardner who didn’t produce a particularly bad performance, but he should have got closer to Grant for the winning goal.
Birmingham’s attack: Blues once again struggled to create many clear-cut chances. Jutkiewicz saw his glancing header go just wide of the post in the first half and Scott Hogan came close to getting on the end of a cross by Jeremie Bela early in the second.
Hogan did well to find a pass for Ivan Šunjić who should have done better with his effort, but Bowyer’s men didn’t test Sam Johnstone all evening and they’ve now gone five games without a goal.
Ivan Šunjić: The Croatian midfielder worked hard to frustrate West Brom this evening but he had a good chance to break the deadlock in the second half. Hogan found the Croatian unmarked in the penalty area, and Šunjić’s effort clipped the top of the cross bar, but he had to at least hit the target.
West Brom: Johnstone 6, Clarke 6, Ajayi 7, Bartley 6, Townsend 8, Livermore 7, Mowatt 6 (Molumby 62; 6), Furlong 6, Robinson 5 (Hugill 45; 6) , Phillips 6, Grant 8 (Reach 90)
Birmingham: Šarkić 7, Roberts 6, Sanderson 6, Colin 5 (Bela 47; 7), Šunjić 5, Gardner 6, Pedersen 6, Friend 6 (Graham 83), Chong 5, Hogan 6 (Aneke 78) Jutkiewicz 5.
What’s next for both clubs?
West Brom travel to South Wales on Wednesday to take on Swansea at the Liberty Stadium, while Lee Bowyer’s men will be looking to end their poor run away to Huddersfield Town at The John Smith’s Stadium the same evening.