Baggies guarantee top-flight football in 2015/16
ALBION mathematically secured their Barclays Premier League status for a sixth successive season with a 1-1 draw against Newcastle at St James’ Park.
The point in the north east took the 13th-placed Baggies on to 41 for the campaign – seven clear of third-bottom Hull who have just two matches remaining.
Recalled striker Victor Anichebe opened the scoring with a well-taken header in the 32nd minute, his sixth goal of the season in all competitions, after Craig Dawson had earlier glanced against a post.
Ayoze Perez levelled for the Magpies shortly before the break to claim a share of the spoils, ending their run of eight defeats in a row and Albion’s sequence of three successive clean sheets.
Yet the Throstles could have secured all three points after the break when Chris Brunt struck the woodwork from close range.
Albion – now unbeaten in four matches - head into their final two fixtures against champions Chelsea and FA Cup finalists Arsenal aiming to get as close as possible to their record Premier League points tally of 49.
Anichebe was handed a starting berth as head coach Tony Pulis made one change from last weekend’s victory at Manchester United, Saido Berahino starting among the substitutes.
Moussa Sissoko rifled over the crossbar early on for the hosts but it was Albion who came closer after eight minutes as Dawson glanced Craig Gardner’s corner against the base of a post.
The encounter fell into a lull for the following 20 minutes as the majority of possession was played out in the middle of the park.
But all that changed in the space of just two minutes as, firstly, Sissoko saw his attempt from inside the area cleared off the line by the impressive Joleon Lescott.
And almost immediately at the other end Albion took the lead.
Gardner swung in a free-kick from the right and Anichebe rose highest to divert a great header past Tim Krul from 12 yards.
But Newcastle hit back after the opener - Sissoko shooting straight at Boaz Myhill and Emmanuel Riviere sending a sweetly-hit half-volley over the bar before Perez drew level just before the interval, firing low amid a crowd of bodies into the bottom corner from inside the area.
Albion made a positive start to the second period, Gardner finding the side-netting from Darren Fletcher’s cross.
Pulis introduced the fit-again James Morrison and Berahino off the bench in a bid to freshen up his approach.
And it was Albion who almost retook the lead in the 72nd minute as Dawson lobbed a ball across goal, Brunt saw his initial effort blocked but could only send the rebound against the woodwork.
Berahino fired an effort straight at Krul soon after before seeing another strike deflected safely into the hands of the Magpies ‘keeper.
And it was then Myhill’s turn to save well from Sissoko in injury time as the encounter ended all square and both sides went home with a point.
Albion: Myhill, Dawson, McAuley, Olsson, Lescott, Gardner (Berahino 69’), Fletcher, Mulumbu (Morrison 55’), Yacob, Brunt, Anichebe (McManaman 78’).
Subs: Rose, Wisdom, Baird, Ideye.
GOAL: Anichebe 32’
BOOKED: Dawson (foul 52’), Morrison (foul 82’), Yacob (foul 86’)
Newcastle: Krul, Anita (Abeid 90+2), Coloccini, Dummett, Gutierrez, Sissoko, R Taylor, Colback, Perez (Ameobi 85’), Riviere (Cisse 68’), Cabella.
Subs: Woodman, Satka, Aarons, Gouffran.
GOAL: Perez 41’
BOOKED: Gutierrez (foul 31’), Taylor (foul 79’)
Referee: Chris Foy (Liverpool)
Albion star man: Joleon Lescott