Five talking points from West Brom's draw with Norwich
Albion drew 1-1 with fellow promotion chasers Norwich at The Hawthorns on Saturday. Here are five things we learned from the match.
1 REKEEM HARPER IS THE REAL DEAL
It was a sink or swim moment for the 18-year-old, thrust into the limelight because Jake Livermore, Matt Phillips and James Morrison were unavailable. But the teenager didn’t even need any armbands.
A coming-of-age performance on his full league debut, Harper proved why he has leapfrogged Sam Field in the pecking order and why Albion have such high hopes for him. It’s time to get his contract sorted out because he could be the dynamic central midfielder the Baggies have been crying out for.
2 MASON HOLGATE TRANSFORMS RIGHT-HAND SIDE
Although Tosin Adarabioyo deserves credit for filling in out of position, that flank has been weaker than the opposite one this season. Against Norwich though, Holgate was a constant outlet on the wing and his aggressive runs forward and devilish crossing caused the Canaries all manner of problems.
As one promising loanee exits the building, another comes in. And while Holgate may not play in the same position as Harvey Barnes, Albion’s defence now has a top-tier feel to it. Time to rack up some clean sheets.
3 GARETH BARRY SHOWS NO SIGNS OF LETTING UP
Before 2006, the Professional Footballers’ Association’s official retirement age was 35. That’s when players used to be able to pick up their pension. Next month, Barry turns 38.
Thanks to Gareth McAuley, Albion have become accustomed to Peter Pan players, but the way Barry controlled the midfield in a promotion six-pointer still beggars belief.
No wonder his team-mates are so in awe of him. He’s due to play his 800th career game this season and remains one of Albion’s key men.
4 DARREN MOORE NEEDS TO BE MORE DECISIVE WHILE AHEAD
When Albion are behind, Moore is not afraid to change it, sending on double or even triple subs to try and affect games. And the Baggies have won a joint league high 17 points from losing positions.
But when his team are ahead, he is reticent to make changes. Sometimes it’s dangerous to upset the apple cart, but sometimes fresh legs and a different test for tiring opposition puts them on the back foot. Daniel Farke’s successful substitutions proved that and painted Moore’s inaction in a bad light.
5 THE CURSE OF THE SELL-OUT LIVES ON
Albion have had three complete sell-outs in just over a month and all three have finished in draws. They needed last-minute goals against Villa and Sheffield Wednesday but then conceded late on to Norwich.
Albion also lost to Bolton on opening day and tasted defeat on Regis Day last season and Astle Day in 2015.
They did beat Wigan on Boxing Day, when they had more home fans than any of these games, but technically there were still tickets left in the home end because the Latics sent some back.
Mind you, at least the ground is selling out regularly now...