• The growing worth of Super Sam Baldock

    Over the course of the last six months or so, Albion number nine Sam Baldock has gone from strength to strength, adding goals to his intelligent and selfless running - finally winning over a large percentage of his erstwhile detractors in the process.

    Whilst his movement and work-rate have always been fully appreciated by his manager and team-mates (his strike partners especially), some of the fan base were less prepared to see past a modest contribution to the ‘Goals Scored’ column. “What does he even DO?” they would ask? – refusing to accept the value of the aforementioned attributes = goals win games, not ‘clever movement’.

    It is a truism of course – that goals DO win games – it's just that goals don’t happen by accident, (unless you’re Mo Diamė). As this wonderful season has progressed, and the strikes he’s deserved have started to fly in, there’s been a collective realisation of his huge worth to the team – none more so in fact than when he’s been absent.

    Chris Hughton’s policy of sticking with just two central midfielders, often against three, only really works if a) those two are willing and mobile, and b) one of the forwards is able to perform a dual role – adding pace and movement, and running behind centre-backs when attacking, but also harrying the opposition, and defending from the front, when the ball is lost.

    With a more than respectable goal return now added to the above, Baldock’s confidence is sky-high, and as a result he’s simply striking the ball better than at any time with the club. He rarely scores an average goal – his 11 to date this term include rockets with both feet, and a terrific header to boot – something few knew he had in his armoury. He also has a golden knack of contributing not just good goals, but absolutely crucial ones. Not a single one of his contributions have been the icing on the cake of a comfortable win – he’s scored the opening goal in six games, an equaliser in three more, and the clinching second twice.

    If ‘Super’ Sam Baldock maintains his current form, for eight more games, he’ll surely play a major part in getting the Albion where they want to be.

    Below, a reminder of his goal-scoring contributions so far – (taken from the [Ir]relevant match reports[/I], in the case of the home matches):

    COLCHESTER (H) 09.08.2016

    Then, in remarkable contrast to the opening hour, the Albion distracted people from their chats and their phones, by suddenly producing not one, not two, but FOUR quality goals. The first a terrific team effort – a fifty yard cross field ball from Ince, into the path of Lualua, whose excellent first touch set him, to tee up Sam Baldock on the edge of the ‘D’. Baldock stroked a twenty yard curler into the top right corner - if only Championship defenders would agree to allow him five yards of space and all the time he wants, Sam would surely do this kind of thing every week.

    READING (A) 20.08.2016

    With the Albion a goal behind, Royals’ centre back Joey van den Berg inexplicably headed a corner at his own goal. Ali al Habsi would have rescued his team-mate’s blushes, had Baldock’s slightest touch, not deflected it past the Omani’s helpless grasp.

    SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY (A) 01.10.2016

    With the game scoreless, Baldock raced onto a beautifully Lewis Dunk chip, to lift the ball first-time over the out-rushing Kieron Westwood, into the far corner of the net, to set the Albion on course for an historic first Hillsborough victory.

    PRESTON (H) 15.10.2016

    With the side trailing at home to a catastrophic Preston opener, Baldock’s neat near-post clip, from Bruno’s low cross, capped a fine team move, to level proceedings.

    WOLVES (H) 20.10.2016

    14 minutes in, and the Albion had concrete reward for a busy start. A third in successive games for Sam Baldock, and a decent goal too. Skalak and Bong combined down the left. Skalak cut inside, and with the crowd urging him to shoot, pulled the ball back out wide, for the left back to swing into the box. Baldock, surrounded by giants, got himself ahead of his marker, to glance a powerful header past Ikeme, and in, via the underside of the bar. Scenes.

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