West Brom secured their fifth home win in six games with a routine victory over Sunderland at The Hawthorns. It was an immediate return to form for Tony Pulis' side after their poor performance last week in the 4-0 defeat to Spurs, and the Welshman will undoubtedly be just as pleased to see his back four keep a clean sheet as he will be with the two fantastic goals from Darren Fletcher and Chris Brunt that gave West Brom the win.
With Jonny Evans still ruled out through injury, Pulis shuffled his pack at the back with Craig Dawson playing at centre-back alongside Gareth McAuley with Allan Nyom returning to the side in his more natural right-back position. It's far from the Welshman's first choice backline but they dealt comfortably with what is admittedly a lacklustre Sunderland side. Despite a glaring miss, which was glossed over by Brunt's outstanding finish on the rebound, Nacer Chadli looked to be getting back to somewhere near his best, getting into good positions and creating chances.
There was probably some disappointment in the fact that West Brom could not add to the two goals which they scored in the first half. This gave Pulis' side a platform in which they could sit back and exploit the gaps left by Sunderland as they pushed forward in the second half, but West Brom couldn't quite find the final ball to make a few promising opportunities count.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- Although Chadli started on the left wing, he was given far more freedom to drift and interchange with James Morrison compared to the previous game against Spurs where he was asked to play a more disciplined role. This extra freedom meant more players in and around Salomon Rondon, which also enabled West Brom to press higher up the pitch. With Nyom at right-back and Brunt at left-back, there was also more attacking threat from the full-backs than there is normally.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Ben Foster, 7 -- Totally untroubled in the first half, and despite more pressure from Sunderland in the second, not a lot more to do other than one fine tip over the bar after a deflected shot from the edge of the area.
DF Allan Nyom, 7 -- A willing runner going forward, always happy to go on the overlap past Matt Phillips although his final ball was found wanting on occasion. Defended well when called upon.
DF Gareth McAuley, 7 -- After a tough couple of weeks, a far easier task for the Northern Ireland international up against Jermaine Defoe with very little effective service. Took on more of a leadership role in Evans' absence and provided a neat assist for West Brom's opening goal.
DF Craig Dawson, 7 -- Played in his natural centre-half role and like McAuley, dealt comfortably with Defoe and then Victor Anichebe. His distribution from the back was much improved compared to when he plays full-back.
DF Chris Brunt, 8 -- Always calm on the ball, knowing when to play the simple pass and when to be more expansive. Fluffed an early chance on the volley but more than made up for that with a tremendous hit for West Brom's second.
MF Matt Phillips, 7 -- A constant threat from the very first minute. Always willing to run at his man, played a big part in the second goal and was crucial in relieving any pressure that was applied to West Brom by running with the ball and counter attacking.
MF Claudio Yacob, 7 -- A quietly effective game for the Argentine. Helped to marshal Anichebe when the former West Brom man entered the fray, broke up play in the middle of the park and kept things simple in possession.
MF Darren Fletcher, 8 -- The skipper's best game in quite some time. Led his team in pressing high up the pitch, used the ball quickly and smartly to get it into wide positions and produced a fantastic finish for the opening goal.
MF James Morrison, 6 -- Got himself into good positions without ever quite making the most of it, as he was sloppy in possession on a couple of occasions. Plenty of good movement and played his part in creating the second goal.
MF Nacer Chadli, 7 -- While Chadli still isn't performing at the level he was when he first signed, this was a much improved performance from the Belgian. Looked to be keeping up with the pace of the game far better, although he will be pleased that his glaring miss didn't cost West Brom anything.
FW Salomon Rondon, 6 -- Put himself about physically against a big Sunderland back three, holding up the ball and bringing others into play. Provided defensive cover chasing back in both the right and left-back positions at times.
MF Jake Livermore, n/a -- He's unlikely to be used in the No. 10 role he was brought on in. There was a couple of nice touches and strong play, missed a decent chance on debut.
MF James McClean, n/a -- One good run and cross down the left hand side to set up an opportunity for fellow sub Livermore, but not enough time to really make an impact.
FW Hal Robson-Kanu, n/a -- Unlucky to be limited to such little game-time.