West Brom moved into the top seven of the Premier League with a hard-fought 3-1 victory over Watford at The Hawthorns. The prowess of Tony Pulis' side from set pieces once again came to the fore -- they scored twice from these situations in the first half to grab a decisive lead -- in what was a tight, scrappy contest that was high in effort but sometimes lacked in quality.
After an outstanding attacking performance in their previous home game against Burnley, this was all about West Brom's defence. While Watford didn't create many clear-cut chances, they certainly put the home side under pressure in the second half but West Brom's back four and goalkeeper Ben Foster more than stood up to the test. Matt Phillips' recent impressive form also continued, with another live-wire display that was capped off with a cracking individual goal.
West Brom were a bit more loose in possession than they've been in previous weeks, with some sloppy passing creeping its way back into their play on occasion. Salomon Rondon was his usual hard-working self but did seem to be struggling physically, particularly with some heavy-handed Watford defending. It's crucial that West Brom don't overwork the focal point of their attack over the busy Christmas period.
Manager rating out of 10
8 -- Pulis stuck with the side that has been successful in recent weeks and that faith was rewarded as his team battled to victory. His substitutions were in the main spot-on, as Chris Brunt and James Morrison were clearly tiring when he replaced them. Arguably could have introduced Hal Robson-Kanu in place of Rondon sooner.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Ben Foster, 8 -- Made one decent save in the first half but was outstanding in the second half, making a superb save from a Gareth McAuley header towards his own goal and dominating his penalty area at crucial times.
DF Craig Dawson, 7 -- Showed a good burst of pace in an over-lapping run to win the corner that led to West Brom's first goal. Struggled early on against Nordin Amrabat but improved defensively as the game went on.
DF Gareth McAuley, 8 -- He turns 37 on Monday but the Northern Irishman simply gets better with age. Relished the physical challenge posed by the Watford side and made two vital blocks in the second half to divert goal-bound shots.
DF Jonny Evans, 8 -- Grabbed his first goal of the season with a powerful leap and header from Brunt's corner. Led the defence superbly throughout, particularly in the second half when they came under pressure.
DF Allan Nyom, 8 -- Continues to be a revelation at left-back. Clearly had a point to prove against his former side: he was everywhere on the pitch, throwing himself into tackles and driving forward at every opportunity.
MF Chris Brunt, 7 -- Didn't see as much of the ball as he has in recent weeks but used the possession he had well and with minimum fuss. His quality from dead ball situations is crucial to West Brom, as demonstrated by his goal and assist.
MF Claudio Yacob, 6 -- Another who thrived with the physical style of the game and the backs-to-the-wall performance that was sometimes required in the second half. Sometimes ruined his good defensive work by then giving the ball away immediately after winning it back.
MF Darren Fletcher, 7 -- Tried to push the team forward in the second half to re-apply some pressure to Watford. Made a couple of good interceptions and was still getting forward at the end, providing the assist for Phillips' goal.
MF James Morrison, 6 -- It wasn't a game that really suited the Scot, whose best work for the team came in defensive positions. Was at the heart of a couple of neat pieces of play but West Brom couldn't get him on the ball enough to have any real impact.
MF Matt Phillips, 9 -- Has been in good form in recent weeks but this was a different level entirely. Was the biggest attacking threat on either side throughout. Capable of beating his full-back on both the inside and outside. Provided several moments of quality in the final third, none more so than the left-footed shot that secured the win.
FW Salomon Rondon, 6 -- It was a thankless task for the forward against an imposing Watford defence that somewhat bullied him for much of the game. Some of the service was poor, clearly better when receiving the ball to feet or in the channels rather than looking to win flick-ons.
MF Nacer Chadli, NR -- Couple of tidy pieces of play as he helped West Brom retain possession late on, easing him back into action after the recent injury.
MF James McClean, NR -- The former Wigan man always has an impact on the game, this time being at the centre of the scuffle that resulted in Roberto Pereyra seeing red for Watford late on.
FW Hal Robson-Kanu, NR -- Little time to make an impact when he replaced an exhausted Rondon.