Wolves wins and Derby defeat
We start a new series today culled from the pages of Albion News, featuring team photos from throughout our history, beginning with 2006/07...
For all that they 2006/07 season ended in ultimate disappointment as we were defeated by Derby County in the play-off final at Wembley – and much good did it do them – it will forever be remembered as the year in which we couldn’t stop beating the Wolves.
Five times did we play them and four times did we win. And not only did we win, we hammered them on aggregate as well, 10-3 across the season, scoring three in a game on three occasions and enjoying one of the finest FA Cup days in recent memory in particular when we went to Molineux one Sunday, sat in their South Bank, smashed them 3-0 and then, thinking years ahead to a time when plastic bags would be costly, were neighbourly enough to leave a load of them on their seats.
But let’s not view the whole campaign through an orange prism. It started as we were licking our wounds following relegation from the top flight and with Bryan Robson in charge of the team. A solid enough start to things was undermined by defeats at Sunderland and Preston North End and when a Kevin Phillips shot came back of the post to deny us a home win over Southend, the writing was on the wall.
After a brief period under the leadership of Nigel Pearson and then Craig Shakespeare, Tony Mowbray came down from Hibernian to take charge of the Throstles and to introduce an enthralling style of play to The Hawthorns, Albion playing the most exciting football we’d seen since the days of Ossie Ardiles or, before that, Ron Atkinson’s first Albion spell.
Having watched us at Ipswich Town and, in theory, at Crystal Palace though he couldn’t help getting involved, Mowbray took charge for the visit of Wolves – told you the season was all about them – as Albion swept them aside 3-0 at The Hawthorns with goals from Greening, Kamara and Hartson.
From there, well though Albion played as they adapted to a new manager, with the goals flying in from all angles, a run of bad luck cost us dear. Despite murdering Derby and Norwich in particular, we took just four points from the next seven games to drop us down to tenth place.
We ended that run by beating Derby 1-0 at The Hawthorns and that was the catalyst for a searing run that took us back into the midst of the promotion race as we settled into the Mowbray way and he settled upon the players he could trust.
We took 33 points from 14 games, putting five past Coventry, scoring four against Preston and threes against Leeds and Luton. Our FA Cup run got going too, beating Leeds 3-1, then winning that glorious cup tie 3-0 at Molineux. Premier League Middlesbrough were our fifth round opponents, Albion bringing the back to God’s country after Mowbray had made a sentimental journey back to Teesside and got a 2-2 draw. Albion played well against Boro, for whom a young James Morrison caught the eye, and the game went all the way to penalties only for us to lose 5-4.
That took its toll on the team and we lost three in a row thereafter, stumbling out of the running for automatic promotion as the erratic run continued. Gathering ourselves for the play-offs, we finished strongly, Kevin Phillips scoring a final day hat-trick as we demolished Barnsley 7-0.
And so to the play-offs and yet more meetings with Wolves. The gulf between the two sides had been apparent all season, but we re-emphasised the point in the first leg at Molineux with a 3-2 win that should, in all honesty, have been far more emphatic such was our superiority. It made the second leg a little too close for comfort, but it was a game we completely controlled, Phillips deciding it in the second half as we achieved a 4-2 aggregate win.
That was our 100th goal of the season, a remarkable achievement in the modern game and one that would surely stand us in good stead against Derby County at Wembley in the final? Sadly not, for as it turned out, we had spent all our goals already. We couldn’t get past the Derby rearguard, featuring the giant figure of Darren Moore, and at the other end, they pinched the goal that condemned us to another year of Championship football.
The media mixed zone after the game was full of players saying they were going to leave us after they’d failed to win promotion. Turned out to be their loss.