This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
West Bromwich Albion face a trip to Hull City this afternoon as they look to continue their spell at the top of the Championship table.
Slaven Bilic’s men currently have a two-point cushion over a trio of teams in second place, including Leeds United, who are the only team to put a loss on the Croatian’s record this season.
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The Baggies will want to extend the gap at every opportunity, and on Monday, they showed they are more than capable of thriving despite the pressure of needing three points.
Goals from Matty Phillips and Hal Robson-Kanu secured a 2-0 win at managerless Stoke City, and one man highlighted his increasing worth to the team.
On the Chalkboard
Conor Townsend has been very much a forgotten man in the west Midlands at times this season.
Former Arsenal left-back Kieran Gibbs began the season as Bilic’s first choice in the role before his injury saw versatile starlet Nathan Ferguson switch from the right-hand side.
He has impressed since breaking through into the first-team from the academy, so much so that he’s been linked with moves to Juventus, Atletico Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur.
Against Charlton Athletic, he showed signs that he still has a lot of maturing to do as his horror challenge on Chris Solly saw him pick up a red card and a subsequent three-match ban.
In his absence, Townsend has quite remarkably stepped up to the mark, as seen on Monday night.
Per SofaScore, the 26-year-old recorded two interceptions, one tackle, and one successful dribble while contributing to only their third clean sheet of the season.
As the more natural left-back, it would make perfect sense for him to continue to operate in the role until anything significant happens – even on Ferguson’s return.
Townsend hasn’t just impressed against the Potters, as fans noticed with his game-changing impact in Albion’s draw over Barnsley a few weeks ago.
Ferguson should have to fight to regain his place amongst the Croatian’s starting line up as a lesson for such recklessness, especially as summer signing Darnell Furlong has been more than astute at right-back.
He has averaged 1.7 tackles and 1.6 clearances per game, where he ranks third in the Baggies squad for both metrics.
It would just be too harsh to drop Towsend after his surprise rich vein of form – he had only played for 19 minutes on the opening day until featuring in three straight matches, per Transfermarkt.