West Brom will know from experience by now that they are going to have to find all sorts of ways to win this season if they are to win promotion back to the Premier League this season.
Valerien Ismael’s side squandered a number of chances to make this a more convincing win throughout the course of the 90 minutes, something which ultimately left them having to see out a nervy finale to the game, something they showed the spirit of promotion to do, and end an unbeaten start to the season for a Blackburn side who may be wondering how different this game might have been, had they not been hit by a sucker-punch at either end of the first half.
Following their 4-0 thrashing of Sheffield United on Wednesday night, West Brom will have come into this one brimming with confidence, and it didn’t take long for them to build on that.
With less than a minute on the clock, Matt Phillips broke down the West Brom left, pulling the ball back to Jake Livermore in the area.
Although the midfielder saw one shot saved by Rovers ‘keeper Thomas Kaminski and a second deflect back off the post, the ball was worked back out to Phillips, whose second cross found Alex Mowatt on the edge of the area, and the summer signing produced a stunning volley into the top corner to give the visitors the advantage within 60 seconds.
Blackburn would nearly respond within minutes, Ben Brereton-Diaz dinking a finish over Sam Johnstone and into the back of the net, only to be ruled marginally offside.
Speaking before the game, Blackburn manager Tony Mowbray had predicted a tight encounter with plenty of long balls forward between two sides and chances at a premium, and that certainly proved true in the first half-hour.
The openings that did come though, would go the way of the Baggies. Matt Clarke’s header across goal narrowly evaded the diving Karlan Grant, before Kaminski had to be at full stretch to tip over a dipping long range effort from Callum Robinson.
As the half wore on, Rovers would start to show glimmers of a fight-back, and went close to an equaliser when an excellent cross from on-loan Liverpool debutant Leighton Clarkson found Brereton-Diaz at the back post, only for the attacker to fire off target.
It would be the Chilean who continued to offer an outlet upfront, with the ball twice more finding its way to Brereton-Diaz in the West Brom area in the latter stages of the first half. Both times however, the attacker was unable to get his shot away, the latter after a bizarre decision given against the Rovers man by the referee, after Brereton-Diaz had held off his man to bring the ball down on his chest.
But having ridden out that pressure, West Brom would hit their hosts with another sucker punch with the final kick of the half.
Once again, the threat came from the Baggies’ left, Karlan Grant breaking down that side of the pitch before pulling the ball back to Matt Phillips at the back post, and just moments after heading a cross against the bar from six-yards, the attacker couldn’t miss as he tapped home to double the visitor’s advantage.
After the break, West Brom would go close to another strike early in a half, Grant doing brilliantly to skip away from Hayden Carter and make space in the area for a shot, only to fire straight at Kaminski.
But just moments later, Rovers would find a route back into the game, courtesy of one of West Brom’s biggest weapons so far this season.
Darnell Furlong’s long throws have been key for the Baggies during the campaign up until now, but this time, Blackburn were able to counter from one of the right-back’s launches into the box. As Clarkson looked to find Brereton-Diaz down the middle, Johnstone came rushing out of his area in an attempt to avert the danger, only to hit his clearance straight into the Blackburn attacker. He was able to bring the ball under his control before rounding the ‘keeper and tapping into an empty for his third of the season to reduce his side’s deficit to one.
Rovers would enjoy a spell of pressure after that, but having failed to fashion much in terms of a chance, the momentum would soon swing in the favour of the visitors again, and Kaminski would have to be at his best to deny first Grant and then substitute Grady Diangana in quick succession to keep his side in the game.
Next up to go close for the Baggies as the game entered the final ten minutes was Furlong, with the full-back crashing a header against the post from a Conor Townsend cross.
But as the game entered its final ten minutes, West Brom being increasingly content to settle for their one-goal win, something which, despite Furlong having to head clear one goalbound effort from substitue Harry Chapman, they were able to do to make it three wins on the bounce.