With Valerien Ismael’s West Bromwich Albion side heading into Wednesday evening’s Championship clash on the back of a rather resounding 3-0 defeat last time out, the Frenchman will have undoubtedly been hoping for a more positive result when Hull City visited The Hawthorns.
And, while the Baggies’ overall performance left a lot to be desired, Karlan Grant’s fourth goal in five games was enough to ensure that the 46-year-old’s side ran out 1-0 victors against the Tigers – a result which saw West Brom keep the pace with Fulham in the race for second.
However, while the spectacle may not have been overly enjoyable for the Albion fans in attendance, there was one positive to come out of the fixture – the performance of Taylor Gardner-Hickman on his league debut for the club.
With Darnell Furlong missing Wednesday evening’s fixture as a result of his red card against Fulham last weekend, Ismael placed his trust in the 19-year-old to fill in at right wing-back, and the youngster certainly did not disappoint.
Indeed, over his 90 minutes on the pitch, Gardner-Hickman enjoyed 66 touches of the ball – the joint third-most of any player to feature in the match – completed 24 passes, made one key pass and attempted six crosses and five long balls.
The right-back’s attempts to make things happen for his side was further highlighted by the fact he lost possession of the ball on 18 separate occasions – something that is usually viewed as a negative statistic.
However, when considering that Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold lost the ball 16 times against Atletico Madrid on Wednesday night, a fixture in which the right-back created two big chances and ended the game with two assists to his name, it is clear to see that the lost possession statistic can also reflect how creative a player is attempting to be for his side.
Although, it was not only going forwards that Gardner-Hickman impressed, with the teenager also helping his side keep a clean sheet, in addition to making one clearance, two tackles and winning six duels against the Tigers.
These returns saw the man who Sam Allardyce suggested could become an “important” player for the Baggies earn a very respectable SofaScore match rating of 7.0 – not bad for the first league start of his career.
As such, while Furlong will likely return to his starting berth when Middlesbrough visit The Hawthorns on Saturday, Gardner-Hickman undoubtedly proved against Hull that he is more than capable of stepping up for his side when required – something that will delight Valerien Ismael.