STEVE Clarke was delighted Albion’s recent bad habit of conceding late goals did not return to haunt them as they secured their first Barclays Premier League away win of the season 2-1 at Wigan.
The Baggies boss, taking into account the opposition and his side facing a second game in five days, switched to a 4-4-2 formation for the first time this season – and made four changes in personnel.
And it paid dividends as James Morrison headed the visitors in front in the 31st minute on his return from injury before Billy Jones' shot was deflected into his own net by Gary Caldwell on 43.
Arouna Kone’s strike just before half-time gave the Latics a lifeline but Albion produced a battling second-half display that warranted the three points to keep them fifth in the table after 11 games.
“We’ve had a bad habit recently of losing late goals and dropping points and it was nice to hang on and get the 2-1 win,” said Clarke.
“The away win is long overdue.
“I think the away performances have been as good as the home performances.
“But it’s nice to finally get a win away from home.
“It’s not a monkey off our backs but it is something people will always cast up to you if you don’t end it sooner rather than later.
“So, it’s nice to do that, especially at such a difficult place, because Wigan are a good team in a good moment and I think it is a really good three points.”
Boaz Myhill replaced the injured Ben Foster (groin) in goal, and Peter Odemwingie, Graham Dorrans and Zoltan Gera were all dropped to the bench.
And Clarke once again hailed the strength in depth of his squad as he drafted in Romelu Lukaku, Chris Brunt and Morrison.
“I think the slow start may have been down to the changes I made to the team,” the Hawthorns boss added.
“We made one enforced change, which was Boaz Myhill, who made a really assured and polished performance in place of Ben, who unfortunately didn’t make it.
“The other three were tactical changes to give us fresh legs, and it just took us the first 15 minutes to bed into the game and get our distances right.
“We also slightly tinkered with the formation a little bit.
“Once we settled into the game I thought we were really good.
“I know that Wigan play a system that is slightly different to most teams in the league so you have to pay attention to that.
“I was a little bit concerned that if we only played with a lone striker we would be outnumbered three to one up front, and it’s difficult to cause the opposition a problem if you only have one up front.
“We decided to go with the two strikers and, fortunately for us, it worked.
“The options in the squad are good for me and gave me a really nice problem going into this game.
“We played well at home on Monday night but the way we play, and the intensity our attacking players use in the game, meant I was a little bit concerned the ones who played Monday night would be carrying a little bit of fatigue in their legs coming into this game.
“We’ve got a quality squad and I have to use that.
“They know they are all valuable in terms of the club and the group going forward, and they just keep making a great contribution every time they are selected.”
Albion now have 20 points but Clarke is still refusing to get carried away, with his only focus on preparing for next Saturday’s home clash with European champions Chelsea (ko 3pm).
“This week we’re happy where we are,” he said.
“We just keep working game to game.
“It sounds boring but that’s what we have to do.
“We have the European Champions next at home and we have to approach it in the same manner as we have every game this season.
“We’ll try to put on another good performance and we’ll try to get another three points.
“That’s as far as we want to look.
“I know the Premier League. I remember once as a player we were top of the league in November and ended up fighting relegation.
“It’s a league that comes back to bite you if you take your focus away from what you’re trying to do.”