Express & Star

Gareth Barry stakes a claim for regular West Brom slot

Gareth Barry has given Baggies boss Darren Moore food for thought after catching the eye against former club Aston Villa.

Gareth Barry. (AMA)

The veteran midfielder rolled back the years with an impressive performance in the derby last Friday – despite it being just his fourth league start of the season.

James Morrison missed that game with muscle soreness, and will be assessed ahead of this Friday's trip to Sheffield United.

Morrison has been an integral part of Albion's recent run of form that has seen them go five matches unbeaten.

But Moore was impressed by Barry's contribution at the base of midfield in their 2-2 draw in the derby.

"I thought Gareth Barry came in and did superb," said Moore. "Gareth's forward passing and reading of the play and the way he drove the team on – he can be delighted with his performance."

Moore will not risk Morrison unnecessarily, considering the long-serving midfielder has just returned from injury and there is a busy festive schedule coming up.

"James had real terrible muscle soreness," added Moore. "One thing I've learned, certainly in this league, when players are really struggling and you're tempted to throw them in you've just got to leave them.

"To be out of action for two or three weeks could mean missing five or six games. I'd rather they miss one game than more."

Barry admitted it was strange playing a derby against Villa, the club he spent 12 years with, but believes the mental fortitude to score in injury time will serve Albion well this season.

"There will be ups and downs," said the 37-year-old. "We'll need mental strength in the business end of the season when hopefully we'll be right up there challenging.

“To play in a derby game against Villa was slightly different. But football takes over and you get on with the game looking to get the win for the Albion.”

Moore was also delighted with Dwight Gayle's contribution in his first start for seven games – and the Newcastle loanee is expected to keep his place against Sheffield United after reaching double figures for the season.

"Dwight Gayle's was a predatory finish," said Moore. "He's got a lot of work to do, the way he's cushioned it in, he brings a calmness and composure to it."