A goal from Miguel Almiron within 20 seconds set the theme for the afternoon, as Newcastle earned all three points against a Baggies side that really should have made more of their opportunities.
Slaven Bilic’s tactics were once again highlighted and criticised by the fans; his decision to play Matt Phillips at left wing-back raised eyebrows, as did the taking off of Conor Gallagher in the 80th minute – who was by far Albion’s best player on the pitch today and visibly had more to offer before the final whistle.
Bilic must have realised that he had set the team out rather weakly, because there were two changes at half-time: Kieran Gibbs on for Callum Robinson, with Phillips pushing forward to Robinson’s position and Gibbs assuming the left wing-back role, and Charlie Austin on for Karlan Grant.Embed from Getty Images
There was a glimmer of hope for the Baggies, however, as a floated cross from Matt Phillips was volleyed on the slide by Darnell Furlong, catching the Magpies off-guard and giving Bilic’s men some real confidence now that the score was level.
If only they had taken their chances…
Albion had a total of 13 shots in this game, with three on target and four off target (six were blocked).
Gallagher had a prime opportunity to put the Baggies in front when the ball fell at his feet on the edge of the box, but he side-footed it wide. It would have been his third goal in as many matches if it had nestled in the corner he aimed for.
And then, the inevitable happened…
Dwight Gayle was subbed on for Jamal Lewis in the 69th minute, and he was promptly targeted by Albion defenders as they attempted to mark him out of the game.
But a whipped cross into the area from ex-West Brom loanee Jacob Murphy met the head of Gayle – also an ex-Baggie, of course – and the ball rattled off the underside of the bar into the goalmouth.
There was a subdued celebration from Gayle, likely out of respect for his former team, but the goal was salt to the wound.Embed from Getty Images
And as the full-time whistle blew, every West Brom player on that pitch knew that they really should have come away with at least a point, but would now have to head back to the midlands with none.
Match Ratings: Johnstone (7); Ajayi (5), Ivanovic (5), O’Shea (6); Furlong (7), Gallagher (7), Sawyers (6), Phillips (7); Krovinovic (6); Grant (5), Robinson (5). Subs: Gibbs (6), Grosicki (5), Austin (5).
West Brom: Johnstone; Ajayi, Ivanovic (C), O’Shea; Furlong, Gallagher (Grosicki 80′), Sawyers, Phillips; Krovinovic; Grant (Austin 46′), Robinson (Gibbs 46′).
Subs (not used): Button, Kipre, Livermore, Diangana
Booked: Furlong (35), Ajayi (69), Ivanovic (88)
Newcastle: Darlow; Krafth (Murphy 80′), Hayden, Clark, Lewis (Gayle 69′); Almiron (Yedlin 86′), S. Longstaff, Shelvey, Ritchie; Wilson, Joelinton.
Subs (not used): Langley, Hendrick, M. Longstaff, Carroll
Booked: Lewis (35), Wilson (90+5)
Referee: Darren England