West Bromwich Albion travelled to Middlesbrough on Saturday afternoon looking to reinforce their position at the top of the Championship table.

They have already proven that they are capable of scoring goals and blowing teams away in this division but could they grind their way to a scrappy 1-0 victory on a cold and blustery day? Yes was the answer.

West Brom boss Slaven Bilic was forced into a change when naming his starting line-up with Matt Phillips missing the trip to the North East with a minor shin problem.

Filip Krovinovic was brought into the team to play in the number ten role with Matheus Pereira switching to the wing.

Boro lined up in a 3-5-1-1 system with Jonny Howson and Marvin Johnson the wing-backs while Marcus Tavernier operated just behind Britt Assombalonga up front.

The visitors began the game on the front foot with Diangana sending in a cross for Krovinovic but the Croatian’s shot was expertly blocked by Shotton.

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Austin then latched onto a loose back pass from Dael Fry but the former QPR man’s cross was cleared away to Pereira who shot over the bar.

However, the hosts then had a spell of pressure with Paddy McNair letting fly with a strike from 20 yards which a diving Sam Johnstone tipped over the bar.

Lewis Wing then fired over with the game becoming more even. At the other end, Diangana then picked out Livermore who scuffed his shot off target.

Albion had Johnstone to thank for keeping them level with the shot-stopper making a smart double save first from Assombalonga and then Saville.

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As the second half began, Diangana was once again proving a menace for the home side as he picked out Livermore whose shot was blocked by Shotton.

Middlesbrough again hit back and they arguably should have taken the lead just before the hour mark as Johnstone saved from Saville.

BIlic responded by switching Hal Robson-Kanu and Kyle Edwards for Austin and Krovinovic and the change almost paid immediate dividends with Pereira playing a pass that put Edwards through on goal but this was finely blocked by Johnson.

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Middlesbrough then had another good chance as they broke and Ashley Fletcher really should have scored but he instead fired high and wide.

That miss proved to be costly with Albion then opening the scoring in the 82nd minute when Sawyers and Diangana combined who crossed for Edwards who then saw his shot blocked which fell for Robson-Kanu who slotted home from a yard out.

Albion then saw the game out and ran out 1-0 victors and on this evidence they will take some stopping this season. They will be unable to score 4 goals every game but this showed they are more than capable of grinding out results as well.


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