44 min: Derby do look bright down the right flank through Bogle. That was where that early chance, whereby O’Shea blocked from Holmes, stemmed from. But other than that Derby have so far struggled to penetrate West Brom’s defence.
42 min: And now Austin almost picks out Grosicki with a sumptuous through ball – but a Derby defender gets there in the nick of time to nip it away. West Brom have looked supremely comfortable going forward and, as of yet, have not been truly tested defensively. Meanwhile Holmes is going to have to come off.
40 min: Austin lays off Livermore on the edge of the box after some slick interplay between Grosicki and Pereira – they have a telepathic understanding – but the West Brom midfielder gets his angles wrong and it skews wide.
38 min: Sawyers threads through Grosicki, but Austin cannot rise to meet his cross. Derby only half-clear the ball and a dancing Pereira causes havoc with his quick feet. West Brom win a corner. Pereira will take …
37 min: “At this time I’d like to thank David Moyes for not taking Diangana back in the last transfer window. Last season it stunk when Whispering Claude Puel took Barnes away,” emails J.R in Illinois. “Also, I think that goal was better than you let on. The pass was excellent but Diangana had to stretch to control it and then had to shoot with his next touch because the angle had closed down to almost nothing. The only way to score from there was to put it off the post and that’s what he did.”
35 min: West Brom are stroking the ball about – they’re in the box seat. This game feels preposterously big in their push for automatic promotion. Bartley, Ajayi and Townsend are patiently passing the ball around in search of an opening.
33 min: Max Bird goes to ground. Holmes is also still struggling.
31 min: Grosicki seems to be biding his time to make that killer pass out on the left flank. He did so a couple of times on Sunday, when he was the beneficiary of a wonderful Pereira pass. Derby have been a little sloppy in defence.
26 min: Duane Holmes is clutching his hamstring. Doesn’t look good.
24 min: Drinks break … in the pouring west Midlands rain.
22 min: Shinnie is booked for a lunge on Pereira, who is West Brom’s go-to man. That will do nicely for West Brom. Moments earlier, Rooney tried to seek out Bogle with a long diagonal free-kick, just inside the Derby half but it was cleared by Grosicki.
17 min: That goal has certainly settled West Brom down. Pereira is growing in influence. Now, what can Derby do about him? He’s a fabulous player. But Derby have a few of those, too.
15 min: Matheus Pereira curls a left-footed effort wide! Jake Livermore did superbly to steal possession on the edge of the box, seizing on an overcooked pass by Craig Forsyth. Livermore got hold of the ball, rolled in Pereira, who spun on the ball before switching on to his left foot. But his effort bobbles wide.
13 min: How that strike may just calm the nerves, because West Brom had begun a little jittery and Derby were up and at them, as they say, in their faces. West Brom had not really settled but that opener will do wonders for their confidence.
GOAL! West Brom 1-0 Derby (Diangana, 11)
West Brom lead! Derby switch off defensively, Diangana angles his run and ghosts in off the right flank to latch on to a fine Grosicki through ball and slot it away. Matt Clarke, the Derby centre-back, raises his arm, adamant Diangana was offside – it was certainly tight – but West Brom wheel away in celebration.
4 min: West Brom block a big Derby chance! Derby flood forward down the right through Jayden Bogle and Louis Sibley, the 18-year-old midfielder, does brilliantly to cut a ball back to Duane Holmes in plenty of space. He is just inside the box but dallies ever so slightly, allowing Dara O’Shea to get a block in.
2 min: Grosicki trips the marauding Jayden Bogle. Intriguingly, the right-back is the only player starting here who also started last season’s play-off final.
The Wayne Rooney gets things started as Derby kick-off.
Essential pre-match reading, courtesy of David Conn:
Wednesday’s Championship action
Millwall 0-1 Middlesbrough (L)
West Brom v Derby, 5pm (BST)
Birmingham v Swansea, 6pm
Bristol City v Hull City, 6pm
Wigan v QPR, 6pm
Sheff Weds v Preston, 7.45pm
Slaven Bilic talks. “We didn’t start this mini-season the way we wanted to but the last couple of games, we were good, quite confident, we got that momentum back and of course we have to continue like this,” he says. Asked about Brentford cranking up the pressure by racking up six straight wins, he replies: “It makes it bigger when they play the day before us but because the prize is so big we have to cope with the pressure. We have to enjoy, we have to express ourselves and do our best. When we do all of that, we are in a good position to win the games.”
Meanwhile, Middlesbrough lead at Millwall courtesy of Britt Assombalonga, which, as it stands, means Boro are going to move two points clear of relegation zone. Defeat for Millwall would leave them five points off the play-offs with four games to play. But, and it’s a big but, there are still 20 minutes to play.
Victory would take West Brom top of the Championship – for 24 hours at least, with Leeds not in action until Thursday against Stoke. West Brom were both very good and very bad in a topsy-turvy win over Hull on Sunday and Slaven Bilic recognised his side need to raise their game if they are to get over the line:
The pressure is on us and Leeds. The teams below us are hoping. But we have to cope with it and we wouldn’t swap places with any of them. We have to be more brave, more relaxed but in a positive way. But we feel that pressure, more than we should. At times we played with fear.”
There is anything and everything riding on this one; a West Brom victory would edge them one step closer to automatic promotion with four giant games to go, and simultaneously shake off Brentford, who are breathing down their necks, and dent Derby’s hopes of nestling in the play-offs. Meanwhile a Derby win would see them move level on points with sixth-placed Cardiff, who squandered a chance to open up some breathing space after losing at home to Blackburn on Tuesday. What about if it’s a draw? Well, that would prove fairly unhelpful for both but a point could inch them nearer their respective targets. Oh, and goal difference could yet play a part, too, given the stakes. Glad that all makes sense …
West Brom: Johnstone; O’Shea, Ajayi, Bartley, Townsend; Sawyers, Livermore, Pereira, Diangana, Grosicki; Austin
Subs: Bond, Furlong, Peltier, Harper, Brunt, Phillips, Krovinovic, Robinson, Robson-Kan
Derby: Hamer; Bogle, Clarke, Evans, Forsyth, Shinnie, Bird, Holmes, Rooney, Sibley, Martin
Subs: Roos, Jozefzoon, Lowe, Davies, Knight, Buchanan, Whittaker, Brown, Hector-Ingram
Referee: Jeremy Simpson