Nolan on target as Town shine at the Hawthorns
Town turned in arguably the best performance of the season against high-flying West Brom to share the points.
Blues had to recover from an early setback when Stefan Johansen’s free-kick was deflected in by the unfortunate Jonas Knudsen.
Bart Bialkowski produced some big saves to deny Jacob Murphy but Blues carried a threat throughout and Jon Nolan levelled the scores early in the second-half.
Kayden Jackson twice threatened a winner that Town’s play deserved but that elusive second goal wouldn’t come.
Matt Pennington and Flynn Downes both missed out through illness as Town made three changes from the side that went down against Reading last week, Cole Skuse, Gwion Edwards and Knudsen coming in.
There was ill-fortune on the pitch for Town as well after five minutes. Knudsen brought down Dwight Gayle after Myles Kenlock’s header had fallen short and Johansen’s free-kick from the edge of the took a massive deflection off the Denmark international to wrong-foot Bialkowski and spin into the net.
Town responded on the front foot, Teddy Bishop drove 40 yards before setting up Collin Quaner whose shot was straight at Sam Johnstone, Skuse and Luke Chambers fired over, then Edwards had his effort blocked.
Alan Judge pulled his shot wide after a surging run, Gayle almost on the end of Matt Phillips’ incisive pass, Bialkowski then off his line to punch clear from Gayle after Phillips crossed from deep.
Gayle curled a 25-yard free-kick wide as Albion looked to build on their advantage, Bialkowski at full stretch to deny Jacob Murphy, then Gayle went down in the box as Nolan challenged but referee Andy Woolmer didn’t give it a glance.
Town continued to have a big say in the game, neat interplay allowing Edwards space to have a crack that was just over, Bishop leading the charge from deep to force a corner, then Chambers deflecting the flagkick wide.
An excellent Nolan ball released Quaner in on goal just past the half hour but Johnstone’s feet prevented an equaliser, while at the other end Gayle hit the sidenetting after a flowing move with Jay Rodriguez the provider.
Bialkowski denied Murphy for a second time with a strong hand after great set-up play by Gayle, the Town ‘keeper in the right place to beat out a header from Tosin Adarabioyo from the corner, but Blues hit back, Johnstone forced into a low save from Judge.
A first-half where Town carried a real threat came to an end with Blues claiming a penalty for handball after Skuse’s shot was diverted behind but again referee Woolmer was having none of it.
Jackson replaced Quaner at the break, Gayle sending a free-kick wide as the second-half got underway but Town were level on 48 minutes, with Nolan heading in right in-front of the travelling Blue Army.
Chambers held firm in a one on one with Gayle, the Albion frontman firing over, Jackson almost getting in on a backpass, Johnstone coming to his side’s rescue, then Judge was just over from 30 yards.
Jonathan Leko replaced Phillips in Albion’s first change, Bialkowski doing superbly to keep out Gayle from close range, then it was Johnstone’s turn to come up trumps, the ‘keeper denying Jackson who had got free on goal.
James Morrison replaced Johansen, Simon Dawkins on for Bishop as both sides changed it up, Nolan pulling his shot wide after instigating a break as Town pressed for a second, then Jackson went clear but Johnstone prodded the ball to safety.
Dawkins was over from 25 yards and it was Town who looked the more likely to win the game but that second wouldn’t come, with the players leaving the field to a standing ovation from the Blue Army.
West Brom: Johnstone, Bartley, Johansen (Morrison 70), Livermore, Phillips (Leko 63), Townsend, Gayle, Rodriguez, Adarabioyo (Field 85), Dawson, Murphy. Subs not used: Bond, Brunt, Montero, Harper. Booked: Murphy, Field, Morrison.
Town: Bialkowski, Bree, Chambers, Knudsen, Kenlock, Nolan, Skuse, Bishop (Dawkins 70), Edwards, Judge, Quaner (Jackson 46). Subs not used: Gerken, Nsiala, Nydam, Dozzell, Emmanuel. Booked: Knudsen, Edwards.