Stoke City 0-1 West Bromwich Albion: Baggies claim the points in local derby
(Photo: Getty Images/Conor Molloy)

Stoke City 0-1 West Bromwich Albion: Baggies claim the points in local derby

West Brom complete a convincing victory in their quest for promotion back to the Premier League at the first time of asking

Jack Groom

West Bromwich Albion beat Staffordshire rivals Stoke City 0-1 at the Bet365 Stadium as the Baggies looked to enhance their chances of promotion from the Sky Bet Championship.

A 25th-minute Dwight Gayle goal was enough to secure the victory for the Black Country outfit, the striker heading home after a Stefan Johansen free-kick was played back across the face of goal.

The visitors were well worth their win, and move up a place to fourth with the three points. As for their opponents, they stay in 17th position in the table.

Story of the match

Chances were at a premium early on as neither side truly demonstrated their offensive capabilities.

The best opportunity came for the hosts following an incisive break  - delivered by Sam Vokes and Tom Ince - which culminated in the ball falling neatly into the path of Peter Etebo. However, the Nigerian could only fire harmlessly over from just inside the area when presented with the opening.

Yet as the half unfolded, high-flying Albion began to look more assured and dangerous in possession.

Coordinated by the evergreen Gareth Barry, the visitors gradually began to dictate play, and looked a team that knew their roles within their system to a tee.

And soon after they were to break the deadlock.

A central Johansen free-kick was floated to the back post, met by the on-rushing Ahmed Hegazi.

The big defender was completely unmarked and thus had all the time in world to volley the ball back across goal, and straight onto the head of the similarly unmarked Gayle, who nodded home from six yards out for his sixteenth goal of the campaign.

The hosts came out sharper after the interval, with Tom Ince in particular looking more of a threat in the position just behind the striker.

Former Derby County winger Ince produced a barn-storming run almost the length of the Albion half, beating five or six men in the process, before dragging his shot well wide, yet this was impetus he - and his team - had failed to display in the opening 45 minutes.

The Potters had much of the territory and possession for the second period yet failed to make this count, unable to test Sam Johnstone in the Baggies' goal at all as the away side took the points. 

Takeaways from the match

Stoke not yet mastered the diamond

Potters boss Nathan Jones is renowned for his preferred 4-diamond-2 formation.

His Luton Town side were free-flowing, aggressive, but also defensively solid, such was the degree of knowledge that all of his players had of what was expected of them,  and it is clear that he has not been able to transmit this information to his current charges.

It is a hard formation to get right, but when it is perfected it is electric. City fans will be hoping they can reach this point sooner rather than later.

Baggies success built on solid foundations

The saying goes that strikers win you matches but defences win you leagues, and in West Brom's case it is clear that their success has been as a result of their defensive solidity.

Their trio of Craig Dawson and Hegazi in defence with Barry sitting just in front allows their more attack-minded colleagues to flourish, whilst also offering much-needed experience and know-how, which is crucial in such a ruthless division.

City must become a more coherent attacking unit

Too often when they won the ball in transition the Stoke attackers would not be on the same wavelength. 

Whether it be passing long after the striker has come short, failing to pick up second balls and knock-downs off Vokes or committing too many bodies into the same positions, they must start to learn the thoughts and intentions of those too in a red and white shirt.

Player of the match - Ahmed Hegazi

Central defender Hegazi was prominent at both ends in this hard-earned victory.

The Egyptian marshalled the potentially dangerous Vokes superbly well, repelling plenty of crosses into the box, whilst also popped up with an assist for their goal. A colossal display.