STEVE Clarke paid tribute to in-form hitman Romelu Lukaku after his deadly double in today’s 2-1 win over Sunderland fired Albion to their first home victory in two months.
The on-loan Chelsea striker took his tally to 12 for the season and moved up to joint-sixth in the Barclays Premier League scoring chart, only behind Robin van Persie, Luis Suarez, Michu, Demba Ba and Gareth Bale.
Clarke was also pleased to see his fledgling partnership with Shane Long again bear fruit as the pair started a game together for only the fourth time.
But it was Lukaku who grabbed the headlines by opening the scoring from the penalty spot on 35 and forcing a second with his sheer power and strength in the 75th minute.
“Rom’s in a really rich vein of form,” said the Albion boss.
“I think it helped him today that we went two up top, which is not our normal formation.
“He and Shane have shown before they can be a decent partnership together and they certainly give the opposition defenders a hard time.
“He’s in a rich vein of form Romelu and I think you can see that with the second goal.
“When you’re in a good vein of form you get a little bit of luck and he closed the ball down well, he got the break and it shot into the net for him.
“Physically he’s a great specimen.
“He has good touch and quick feet for a big man.
“We’re just delighted he chose to come here and further his education in the Premier League.
“It’s been good for us and Rom, and I think it’s been good for Chelsea as well.”
Clarke was also pleased to see Peter Odemwingie return to the pitch for the first time after his January transfer window saga.
The Nigeria international came on as an 87th-minute replacement for Lukaku with the score at 2-1 and almost got his name on the scoresheet.
“At that time I was getting a little bit nervous thinking it was a 2-0 lead we were going to throw away,” Clarke added.
“I know with almost his first touch he had a great run and shot that went just wide – and he got good applause for that.
“I think the supporters would have been really happy to see that one slide into the back of the net to make the game more comfortable for everyone.
“I’ve always said I can’t make any comment on what the supporters are going to do.
“Peter is a part of my squad, he’s a valuable member of the squad.
“He’s a talented player and we’re going to use him between now and the end of the season.
“He was always going to come back into the squad at some stage.
“For me it’s finished.
“I don’t like talking about it, it’s an incident that happened.
“It seems to have been a long time ago and we have to move on from it.”