WEST Brom boss Steve Clarke stopped short of conceding that Liam Ridgewell had cheated in gaining the penalty for Albion’s killer third goal against Sunderland on Saturday.
But the Scot wasn’t rushing to the defence of his left-back either in the wake of a spot-kick which effectively put the game out of the Black Cats’ reach.
Sunderland had pulled the game back to 2-1 when Ridgewell dropped to the turf as Adam Johnson thundered in with a misplaced sliding tackle.
The contact between the two players was barely there, but, to referee Mike Dean’s eye, it looked as though a foul had been committed in the penalty area and, within seconds, Albion had a 3-1 lead with Romelu Lukaku’s spot-kick.
“The contact might have been minimal,” sniffed Clarke.
“But no-one can tell me that we didn’t deserve to win that game.
“I thought, first half, we bossed and controlled the match.
“We had a lot of the ball, passed it well, create the chances and deserved to be in front.
“We scored goals when we had to and hung in when we needed to.”
Victory gave Albion their fourth consecutive top-flight win for the first time since 1980 and, with a third of the season gone and Albion accumulating an average of more than two points a game, the Baggies can begin to dream of a first top-half finish in Premier League history.
Clarke talked cautiously when it came to assessing his side’s chances for the remainder of the campaign, but he will know that eight wins in 13 games so far understandably brings expectation.
“It’s early in the season.” he shrugged a little shyly.
“We’re pleased with our points total so far and pleased to have won four consecutive games – that’s really something.
“But we will stay grounded and focused because we’ve got Swansea this week and we know what a tricky side they can be to play against.”
But, while the manager was in cautious mode, he couldn’t deny that his team have made a great start to the campaign – sitting in a Champons League spot with a third of the season gone.
“Do I dare to dream?” he smiled in response to one question.
“I’m not a dreamer. I’m a realist.
“I knew I was taking over a squad comfortable in the Premier League and we knew we’d added a few good players to the squad, so I was always hopeful of having a good season.”