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MATCH REPORT

PUBLISHED
16:51 19th November 2011

SHANE Long completed a fairytale return from injury by firing Albion to their second home win of the season.

The Ireland international had been sidelined since the win at Villa 28 days ago but sealed a deserved Baggies victory with a perfectly-placed 56th-minute header - his fourth of the campaign.

Jerome Thomas had earlier fired Roy Hodgson's side ahead with his first league goal of the term in the 16th minute.

But his afternoon turned sour five minutes later when he conceded a penalty for the second Hawthorns game running, which Ivan Klasnic coolly converted.

The spot-kick award, for an alleged foul on Fabrice Muamba, was debateable to say the least but the Baggies weren't to be denied the win their dominant second-half display warranted.

If Thomas and Long were the match-winners, Zoltan Gera was the architect of the success, producing a performance full of graft and invention to earn the man-of-the-match vote.

Fourteenth entertained 18th as both teams returned to domestic action after the international break.

Long completed a remarkable four-week recovery from a serious knee injury, passing a late fitness test to lead the Albion line in placed of the benched Simon Cox

Youssouf Mulumbu and Nicky Shorey also earned recalls, with Graham Dorrans and Billy Jones making way.

An unchanged Bolton line-up featured former Albion stalwart Paul Robinson, who was making his second Hawthorns return since moving north in the summer of 2009.

Gera was granted an incredible pre-match welcome by the home sections of a sell-out crowd as he made his second home debut after rejoining the club in August.

The game started at a breakneck pace and Bolton were first to threaten when, in the second minute, Chris Eagles spun Mulumbu from Robinson's throw-in and sent a dipping 20-yarder just over.

But Albion soon seized the initiative.

James Morrison's quick free-kick found Thomas in the box and, but for a better cross, which Joe Riley cleared easily, Long would have had a simple tap in.

From Chris Brunt's ensuing corner, Jussi Jaaskelainen did well to get above a crowd of players and claw away Jonas Olsson's towering header.

Albion kept pressing and when Bolton only half-cleared their lines, Morrison volleyed wide from the edge of the box.

With only six minutes on the clock, it was Wanderers' turn to go close, Gary Cahill seeing a downward header from Eagles' corner cleared off the line by Mulumbu.

But Albion had started brightly and Gera, whose every touch was cheered, sent an awkward volley just wide from Shorey's left-wing centre.

After a surprising lull in the action, the lively Morrison sparked a Baggies counter-attack. Long had plenty to do when he was slotted in by Thomas and his 15-yard drive was deflected wide by Cahill - although the officials gave a goal kick!

But, on 16, Albion grabbed the goal their early play had warranted.

After a spell of keep-ball on the edge of the Wanderers box, Gera dissected Bolton's black-and-yellow defensive line to put Thomas clean through and the ex-Charlton ace rounded Jaaskelainen before slotting into an empty net.

The Trotters regrouped and Ben Foster had to take evasive action by rushing to the edge of his box to punch clear and prevent Nigel Reo-Coker getting on the end of Kevin Davies' diagonal ball.

But Albion's lead lasted just five minutes as Thomas conceded a debateable penalty for the second successive home game.

TV replays showed that the winger was harshly adjudged to have fouled Muamba as they came together in the Baggies box - but referee Neil Swarbrick pointed to the spot.

Foster correctly guessed Klasnic's intentions from the penalty spot but still could not get near the Croatian's well-placed left-footed effort which nestled in the left-hand corner.

Goalmouth incidents were suddenly at a premium but you still couldn't take your eye off the action and Foster had to be alert on 35 to clutch an opportunist volley from Klasnic, who had dispossessed Gareth McAuley.

Foster had to pull off a much better save to keep his team level four minutes later when he blocked Mark Davies' fierce 15-yarder after the Bolton man had surged across the edge of the box.

There was still time for Albion to threaten once more, with Gera planting a firm header straight at Jasskelainen from Shorey's centre.

The second half got off to a somewhat scrappy start with both teams struggling to keep possession.

But it was the Bolton keeper who was called into action first, pushing over an awkward Steven Reid centre after a terrific run by the right-back.

Albion kept up the pressure and Thomas saw a goalbound effort blocked in a crowded goalmouth.

Moments later, he went much closer. Thomas latched onto Gera's pinpoint pull-back and fired inches over from just inside the box.

Albion were finally back in front on 56.

A terrific move which started deep in the Baggies' half and involved Morrison, Brunt and Thomas resulted in Shorey clipping over a sublime cross and Long directed a superb header in off the far post.

Bolton had barely been near the Albion goal as the game reached the hour-mark and, when they did get close, Kevin Davies was off target from Klasnic's set-up.

Albion were soon back on the attack but Mulumbu was off target with an ambitious 25-yard drive.

Hodgson's men could've been 3-1 up in the 63rd minute when Shorey set up a great chance for Thomas after a brilliant by-line run, but the former Arsenal player slotted straight at Jasskelainen from 12 yards.

Albion continued to look a threat, although McAuley failed to get enough purchase behind his header from Morrison's centre and Jaaskelainen gathered easily.

The hosts kept plugging away for a killer third goal and Gera wasn't too far away with an acute 18-yard effort.

Foster did not have another save to make until the 78th minute and it was hardly a testing one, comfortably grasping Klasnic's 25-yard grass-cutter low to his left.

Albion stayed in control for the rest of the game and they almost got the third goal their dominance warranted when Mark Davies' challenge on James Morrison inside the Bolton box resulted in the ball ricocheting just wide of the left-hand post.

ALBION (4-4-1-1): Foster; Reid, McAuley, Olsson, Shorey; Brunt (c), Mulumbu (Cox 90+1), Morrison, Thomas (Dorrans 80); Gera; Long. Subs not used: Fulop (gk), Fortune, Tchoyi, Dawson, Jones.

BOLTON (4-4-2): Jaaskelainen; Riley, Cahill, Wheater, Robinson; Eagles (Petrov 69), Muamba (Kakuta 81), Reo-Coker, M Davies; Klasnic, K Davies (c) (Ngog 69). Subs not used: Bogdan (gk), Tuncay, Knight, Pratley.

GOALS: ALBION - Thomas (16), Long (56). BOLTON - Klasnic (pen 21).

BOOKINGS: ALBION - Thomas (foul 27).

REFEREE: N Swarbrick (Lancashire).

ATTENDANCE: 26,221.

ALBION STARMAN: Zoltan Gera.

    Data provided by Press Association

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