Deadball specialist continues to post outstanding figuresALBION’S first Barclays Premier League goal of the season came late on to earn a point from a tough fixture at Craven Cottage at the weekend. Here, the statisticians over at WhoScored.com review Saturday's draw and the input of one standout performer in particular.
The relief was plain to see as Gareth McAuley and his Baggies team-mates celebrated an end to the team's 360 minute goal drought with an injury-time header to cancel out Steve Sidwell's earlier strike.
The Northern Ireland international has made a name for himself in the top flight as a serious threat from set-pieces, his sizeable frame and extraordinary leap giving him an advantage in the air over plenty of players he comes up against.
McAuley has become a favourite amongst fantasy football followers as a defender capable of scoring a goal or two, although while his ability in the air makes him a threat, he wouldn't get those chances if it was not for the delivery into the box of compatriot and Baggies skipper Chris Brunt.
Few in English football can boast significantly better ability from set-pieces than the midfielder, who put the corner in for McAuley's goal but also has a mean strike of his own from direct free-kicks.
Brunt leads Albion’s rankings for assists over the past four seasons with 20, a tally eight greater than any other Baggies player has managed, and which puts him in the top ten in the whole Premier League over that time frame, only 11 behind assist-leader David Silva (31).
A great deal of that success is a result of his fantastic technique and crosses into the danger area. In fact, only Chelsea's Juan Mata (9) has more assists from dead balls since the start of the 2010/11 Premier League season than Brunt (7).
He is way ahead of the likes of Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard (both 4), and is up there alongside Silva and Robin van Persie, all of whom have been playing for teams that have scored more goals than Albion in recent years.
His assist and overall performance on Saturday earned him a WhoScored rating of 7.6, the second best on the pitch behind Sidwell.
He was a constant menace for the whole match, creating three chances while also attempting four shots of his own, and his 57 touches made him once of the Baggies’ most involved players.
*WhoScored.com is a unique website and one of the fastest growing in the sports industry, specialising in the in-depth analysis of detailed football data. Provided with unique stats, they compile and create comprehensive analysis on the major European divisions, including live match stats and player ratings. Follow @WhoScored and their editor-in-chief @alitweedale on Twitter.