Nobody seems quite sure which way Stoke City will turn in their next managerial appointment, but they arrived at West Brom aiming to make a point and that is precisely what they departed with.
The struggling Potters made the short trip to the Black Country to face a promotion-chasing Baggies side in their second game since axing Alex Neil.
Right-back Lynden Gooch found the net in the 12th minute with a wicked cross-shot which flew over Baggies goalkeeper Alex Palmer and into the far corner.
Whether or not he meant it was up for debate, but it did not matter as Stoke led, much to the delight of their raucous travelling support.
Carlos Corberan’s hosts equalised with a clinically-executed shot in the 35th minute from Brandon Thomas-Asante, yet neither side could find a winner as Stoke showed impressive spirit to keep Albion at bay.
Lynden Gooch (left) ensured Stoke City took a crucial point away at high-flying West Brom
Stoke are struggling in the Championship and are without a manager after sacking Alex Neil
They would have had all three points were it not for Brandon Thomas-Asante’s goal
The West Brom ace showed how clinical he can be by firing in the equaliser in the 35th minute
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Neil was axed after last weekend’s home defeat to Sheffield Wednesday and the Potters are under pressure to get the next appointment right.
All manner of names have been linked including Paul Heckingbottom, Nuno Espirito Santo and Slavisa Jokanovic but former Stoke midfielder and England Under-21s boss Lee Carsley appear to be the favourites.
The Potters have found life tough since their 10-year stay in the Premier League ended in 2018.
Five dismal seasons in the Championship have followed with respective finishes of 16th, 15th, 14th, 14th and 16th.
A club who under Tony Pulis and then Mark Hughes bloodied the noses of English football’s biggest clubs have become a byword for mediocrity and underachievement.
Whoever comes in to replace Neil will be Stoke’s fifth manager since their Premier League demise following stints in charge from Gary Rowett, Nathan Jones, Michael O’Neill and the deeply unpopular Neil.
Paul Gallagher was placed in interim charge for Tuesday’s 1-1 draw at home to Swansea and he fashioned an encouraging performance here at the Hawthorns.
Fellow strugglers Sheffield Wednesday, Rotherham and Huddersfield picked up points yesterday, so this derby clash had taken on added importance for Stoke.
The Baggies are serious promotion contenders and they asked plenty of questions of their visitors during the opening 45 minutes.
In the eighth minute, Grady Diangana beat Stoke midfielder Wouter Burger and crossed to the far post where the Jeremy Sarmiento volleyed over the crossbar.
Albion’s neat football began to pin Stoke back but the visitors scored out of nowhere in the 12th minute when the ball was worked out to Gooch on the right flank.
He appeared to be crossing to the far post but his delivery was overcooked and flew over Palmer and into the top left-hand corner of Albion’s net.
That poured confidence into Stoke, who threatened on the counter-attack two minutes later when Burger found Ryan Mmaee and his low shot was deflected out for a corner.
But Albion remained largely dominant and Potters goalkeeper Jack Bonham made a superb save to keep out Sarimento’s curling right-foot shot.
The Baggies continued to up the tempo and were rewarded in the 35th minute when captain Jed Wallace’s neat pass played in Darnell Furlong inside the 18-yard box.
Stoke desperately need to get their next managerial appointment right – but this was positive
His low cross from the right-hand byline found Okay Yokuslu and, although his shot was blocked, the ball fell invitingly to Thomas-Asante and he rifled in a superb shot from 12 yards which flew into the net.
Albion generally held the upper hand and in the 66 th minute Wallace’s hit a fierce shot which looked destined for the top corner before Stoke defender Michael Rose made a superb headed clearance.
Seven minutes later, Rose produced a superb saving tackle to deny Baggies substitute Tom Fellows after he broke clear inside the visitors’ penalty box.
Potters captain Josh Laurent then hit a powerful right-foot shot from 18 yards which Cedric Kipre diverted for a corner.
With eight minutes remaining, Laurent had another chance but blazed over from inside the box when he should have done better.
Stoke will now hope they can use their gritty display at the Hawthorns as a springboard
Albion almost won it in the 85th minute when Wallace’s inswinging delivery was flicked goalwards by Thomas-Asante, with Bonham making a fine save to repel his deft touch.
Moments later Albion defender Kyle Bartley headed in another Wallace cross at the far post but he was stood in an offside position and the home celebrations were quickly ended.
Bonham then excelled himself in the closing stages when he kept out Pipa’s left-foot strike from 12 yards out, with the visiting fans clearly delighted at the final whistle with their side’s showing.
Sophie Anderson, a UK-based writer, is your guide to the latest trends, viral sensations, and internet phenomena. With a finger on the pulse of digital culture, she explores what’s trending across social media and pop culture, keeping readers in the know about the latest online sensations.