West Bromwich Albion eased back to the top of the Championship table as they comfortably saw off managerless bottom-of-the-table Stoke City.
On-loan Grady Diangana was the supply line for both goals as Slaven Bilic’s men struck in each half, through Matt Phillips’ close-range finish and a Hal Robson-Kanu penalty.
Any hopes from Stoke fans that Friday’s sacking of Nathan Jones after less than 10 months in charge might provoke an immediate change in fortune took just eight minutes to evaporate.
Stoke’s flat-footed defence were sliced open by an exquisite one-two between Diangana and Jake Livermore. The home defenders stood like statues as Phillips materialised at the far post to drill home unmarked from five yards for his sixth goal of the campaign.
The rest of a poor first half produced little else worthy of note. But, to the credit of the Stoke players, led by the tireless Joe Allen, it took until the 69th minute before the Baggies wrapped it up from the spot.
Phillips’ square ball just inside the Stoke penalty area left Diangana in the clear only to be wiped out by a desperate last-ditch challenge from on-loan Spurs defender Cameron Carter-Vickers, who was booked for his concession of probably the clearest penalty conceded anywhere this season.
Substitute Robson-Kanu, who had only been on the pitch for six minutes, had to wait patiently while Diangana received treatment. But he then ran up very slowly, outfoxing Jack Butland by sending him the wrong way.
The Wales international should almost immediately have got a second goal, only to head against the foot of the post – and he was again denied by Butland late on.
Stoke fans fearful of the drop?
Older Stoke fans, in fact even some not so older ones, can recall the dark days of three decades ago when they last dropped into English football’s third tier.
It was 30 years ago this week that the Potters sacked Mick Mills and put another former England international in charge. But the late Alan Ball failed to save them from the drop in May 1990.
And the almost tangible feeling of apathy amongst the home fans already suggests a fear that the same might happen again, unless someone can come up with a quicker fix than Ball managed.
Admittedly, Stoke were up against a talented Albion side who already look like they might be the best side in the division this season.
But, whoever comes in to take the reins from caretaker boss Rory Delap and his henchmen Kevin Russell and Andy Quy has got a real job on their hands.
This is a club still seemingly on a downward spiral.
West Bromwich Albion head coach Slaven Bilic told BBC Sport:
“We started brilliantly and ended quite comfortably, but it was not like that until we scored the second goal.
“You can’t be happy with just controlling the game when you’re only one up. So, in that respect, we’re not happy.
“Momentum is everything in this league. They did not look like a team who should be bottom.
“But they had some players who haven’t played for a while, so we looked the fitter side by the end.”