Harty on Albion’s draws away to Derby and QPR

Dale Stephens was on target at QPR. Picture by Angela Brinkhurst
Dale Stephens was on target at QPR. Picture by Angela Brinkhurst

BACK-TO-BACK draws in two big away games at Derby and QPR threw up far more positives than negatives for the Albion.

A questionable penalty at Derby cost the Albion all three points but, even so, the overwhelming majority of supporters would have taken a point from the trip to the East Midlands even before a ball was kicked.

The soirée into West London on Tuesday evening was a little bit different. After getting into a 2-0 lead early in the second half, two huge factors which could have a bearing on the outcome of the whole campaign were there for all to see.

Quite simply, Charlie Austin in a blue and white shirt from January would be the difference between automatic promotion and the play-offs.

For all his rumoured baggage, he is a proven finisher and illustrated this at Loftus Road on Tuesday.

Clearly, Tony Bloom, who was at Rangers on Tuesday night, before flying out to Australia for Christmas, has sat down with Chris Hughton and drawn up a transfer strategy in time for the opening of the window. Only a few people will be party to this list but, as a fan, I’m genuinely excited about the start of the window.

The Albion have never really been in this position in domestic football as we know it today – on the cusp of promotion to the Premier League, all dependent on the right acquisitions at the halfway stage of the campaign.

For what it’s worth, I think Austin will go to a Premier League club next month. West Ham, after a good start, need goals but the rumour I’m hearing, from not just one source, is that he will end up on the south coast at Bournemouth.

Eddie Howe arguably got the best out of Austin during his time at Burnley and, as a result, Glenn Murray will end up returning to the Albion on a permanent basis.

I pinned my colours to the Gus Poyet mast a long time ago but Murray represents his biggest mistake in management. It was ultimately a falling out that cost the Albion promotion to the top flight three years before this season.

The other facet of Tuesday night was indiscipline. Like Poyet, I’ve always been a big fan of Lewis Dunk, even when it appeared he fell out of love with the Albion and looked set to leave.

However, his tackle and subsequent sending off on Tuesday night, possibly cost the Albion all three points, which would have kept us at the top of the Championship. It’s something I’m sure Chris Hughton will privately be re-iterating to him.

This Saturday, sees the mouth-watering top-of-the-table clash at the Amex with Middlesbrough, with a lunchtime kick-off live on Sky Sports.

Even with the game being televised, I would hope, given the significance of the match, we get the biggest Amex crowd this season. If you’re still wavering, the ticket info is at the bottom of the column.

And, finally, it has been said that live football on the television will end up stopping the crowds going to matches. Not so and, hopefully, Saturday’s attendance against Boro will prove this.

However, Network Rail might have a good stab at it. Tuesday night’s trains to and from West London can be summed up in one word...farcical.