West Brom got back to winning ways at the expense of lowly Southampton as Peter Odemwingie notched a double on Monday night.
Albion recorded their fifth home win of the season- and fourth clean sheet- as they swept aside the Saints, who were easy on the eye when in possession, but did not offer too much, surprisingly, in the way of an attacking threat.
Steve Clarke was able to recall on crucial duo Claudio Yacob and Shane Long for the encounter, both having impressed early on this season but having picked up injuries in recent weeks. Billy Jones also appeared at right back, while Gabriel Tamas dropped to the bench. James Morrison missed out with a slight niggle and the game came too soon for Jerome Thomas and Steven Reid.
Nigel Adkins reintroduced record signing Gaston Ramierez after the winger had spent a spell on the sidelines over the past few weeks, the former Bologna star replacing Jason Puncheon in the starting XI. Paulo Gazzaniga started ahead of Artur Boruc in goal, as the Saints' goalkeeping rotation continued.
There was a high tempo to the game, no one team able to stamp their authority in the early stages of the match. Mark Halsey refereed the intriguing fixture in front of an expectant Hawthorns crowd, the visitors also bringing a respectable following from the south coast.
Ultimately the away side started the better, Rickie Lambert's snapshot from the right hand side of the area held by Foster. Up the other end, Peter Odemwingie delivered the hosts' first real chance, cutting inside from the right and shooting into a melee of players, Zoltan Gera turning the ball over the bar from close range.
As the first half wore on, the Baggies grew into the game, threatening the Saints' defensive anxiety further when Mulumbu attacked the defence and played in Long, who curled over wildly. The four forwards of Southampton, Lallana, Lambert and summer signings Rodriguez and Ramierez were yet to combine and work an opening.
Albion were getting closer, firstly Yacob shooting harmlessly wide then Olsson headed down a Dorrans free kick, only for Long to be denied by a faint opposing touch. Ramirez crossed for the dangerous Lambert, but his header was straight at Foster. The goalkeeper was then able to set his side away, eventually Odemwingie shooting just wide of Gazzaniga's left hand post after no approach from a red shirt.
The home side finally broke the deadlock on 36, the outstanding Mulumbu having too much time on the ball, and he was able to lay the ball onto Odemwingie, the Nigerian's shot flying past Gazzaniga via a deflection off Yoshida. There was, however, more than a hint that the ball may have been handled by the Albion winger in the build up.
Despite there only being a matter of minutes left before the half time whistle, the Baggies looked to increase their lead immediately, Ridgewell finding Long in space. The Irishman wriggled away from a challenge and attempted to chip the ball over the onrushing Gazzaniga, but the ball fell to Odemwingie whose shot was blocked. Odemwingie had the final chance of the half, again coming in from the right wing, but his shot flew over the bar.
The visitors could not take advantage of a slice of fortune early on in the second period, Gareth McAuley's clearance rebounded into the path of top scorer Lambert, his side footed effort curling onto the bar.
The hosts had a chance soon after to double their lead, good interplay from Gera and Odemwingie resulted in Jones flashing a dangerous ball across goal which evaded Long. They did make it two on the hour mark, though, when Long raced away down the left, before delivering a delightful ball into the area which Odemwingie simply had to head past the helpless Gazzaniga, once again the Saints' defensive frailties being exposed.
They did look to reduce the deficit immediately, good pressure around the area following set pieces going unrewarded as the Baggies' defence held firm. A member of that defence, McAuley, powerfully headed over a Gera corner at the other end as West Brom showed their intention to score further goals.
Substitutions began to take place, Dorrans making way for the return of captain Chris Brunt, while Shane Long received a standing ovation as he exited the field, Romelu Lukaku taking his place. Nigel Adkins made changes of his own in an attempt to rescue something, the largely ineffective Jay Rodriguez being replaced by Emmanuel Mayuka while Gaston Ramirez's return to action lasted 76 minutes before Guly do Prado came on for him.
Albion's subs nearly combined for a third goal shortly after, Lukaku taking the ball away from the oncoming Gazzaniga, the Belgian proceeding to clip the ball to the back post for Brunt, but the winger's volley flew just wide of the far post. Luke Shaw replaced Danny Fox and scorer Odemwingie's departure saw Marc-Antoine Fortune come on.
Late on, Foster dived to the feet of Lallana to secure a clean sheet. The army of Saints' fans were nevertheless fantastic all night, and showed their support to their leader Adkins. The former Scunthorpe boss has been questioned in the national media this week, but the following support sang his name, which was clearly appreciated.
Match ratings: WBA- Foster 6, Jones 7, McAuley 7, Olsson 8, Ridgewell 6, Yacob 7, Mulumbu 9, Odemwingie 8 (Fortune 5), Dorrans 6 (Brunt 5), Gera 7, Long 8 (Lukaku 6)
SOU- Gazzaniga 6, Clyne 6, Yoshida 6, Fonte 6, Fox 6 (Shaw 5), Schneiderlin 6, Davis 6, Ramierez 5 (Guly 5), Lambert 7, Lallana 7, Rodriguez 5 (Mayuka 5).