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Championship: Why is West Brom's promotion push faltering?

West Bromwich Albion were one of the favourites to secure promotion from the Championship at the start of the season, but despite remaining in the hunt, their form has faltered over recent months.

The Baggies sit firmly in the top six of the standings and within touching distance of the automatic promotion positions, but current form would suggest an immediate return to the Premier League is looking unlikely.

There is still more than enough time for Albion to turn their fortunes around - they can be backed at 5/2 to end the season in the top two - but anything short of promotion would surely have to be regarded as a failure for Valerien Ismael and his team.

Early-season optimism has faded

Following last season's relegation, there was plenty of optimism surrounding WBA over the summer, with former Barnsley boss Ismael appointed as Sam Allardyce's successor as head coach.

Ismael made the move to the The Hawthorns off the back of guiding Barnsley to the Championship playoffs and he brought midfielder Alex Mowatt along with him.

Mowatt was one of four free transfer arrivals at the club in what was a relatively quiet summer, but Albion supporters were certainly feeling confident after key players such as goalkeeper Sam Johnstone remained.

The season started positively, as WBA were unbeaten in their opening 10 Championship fixtures, registering six wins and four draws before they were edged out by Stoke City at the start of October.

However, since that defeat at the bet365 Stadium, the wheels have come off slightly for the Baggies, as they currently sit 14th in the Championship form table, collecting a modest 13 points from their last 10 matches, leaving more than a few doubts surrounding their 11/10 hopes of being promoted.

Top of the Championship table

PositionTeamPlayedWDLPts
1Fulham27176457
2Blackburn Rovers28157652
3Bournemouth27147649
4QPR26145747
5West Brom27129645

Goals a problem for Ismael's side

It is clear to see where West Brom's main problem lies, as they boast the best defensive record in the division, but they have scored just 34 goals from their 27 matches.

To put that tally into perspective, Albion have scored less than half the number of goals of league leaders Fulham and only seven more as a team than the Championship's leading marksman Aleksandar Mitrovic (27) has netted on his own.

Albion's leading scorer is Karlan Grant, whose goal against Peterborough United at the weekend took his tally to a respectable 10 in 26 Championship appearances to date.

The problem is, Grant is the only Albion player in any sort of scoring form, with Callum Robinson, the club's next leading marksman with five goals, having only netted twice in the league since August.

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Away-day blues holding Baggies back

Another concern for Albion is their form on the road, as they have won just one of their last nine away fixtures, losing six of those matches and scoring just three goals.

That away record is far and away the worst of any of the teams currently in the top six, while they have taken just one point from their last three on the road, following up a draw and defeat at struggling Barnsley and Derby County with a loss at promotion rivals Queens Park Rangers.

WBA's away form is in stark contrast to their efforts on their own patch, as they boast the Championship's only unbeaten home record, winning eight and drawing five of their matches at The Hawthorns to date.

If Albion can sort out their away form, while maintaining their efforts on home soil, then maybe even a title push at 20/1 would not be out of the question.

Home form could prove key

Albion will be hoping their home form can stand up to the test over the remaining months of the season, as the majority of their fixtures against promotion rivals will come at The Hawthorns.

Preston North End are not one of those sides (barring an unprecedented late season surge from Ryan Lowe's team), but they are WBA's next opponents when they visit on Wednesday.

The Baggies are unbeaten in their last seven meetings with Preston, registering five wins and two draws, and they can be backed at 8/13 to claim the spoils again this midweek and are 12/5 to edge home by a single-goal margin.

Plenty of key matches to come

Following Wednesday's clash with Preston, Albion will face back-to-back away games, before they return to The Hawthorns to take on promotion rivals Blackburn Rovers, who moved into the top two by virtue of their 1-0 victory over Middlesbrough on Monday.

That match will come on Valentine's Day, while the Baggies will face five more promotion rivals on home soil before the end of the season, with Huddersfield Town (12th March), leaders Fulham (15th March), Bournemouth (5th April), Stoke (9th April) and Coventry City (23rd April) all set to visit.

WBA will then round off the regular season with another home fixture against Barnsley on the 7th May.

It is clear to see that maintaining their strong home record will be imperative to Albion's chances of earning promotion, but only time will tell if they will be a top-flight club once again come the end of the season.

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