Shropshire Star

Carlos Corberan delighted with key West Brom defender

Albion boss Carlos Corberan was pleased with the attitude shown by defender Semi Ajayi on his return to starting duty.

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The centre-back, 30, started his first game for the club in more than two months in Saturday’s late 2-1 home defeat to Leicester.

Corberan felt confident to introduce Ajayi for Kyle Bartley, who was left out as a precaution after some pain in his hamstring felt after the win at Cardiff last week, due to the former’s regular appearances for Nigeria.

Ajayi struggled with a couple of wobbles early on but grew into the contest. Corberan said: “I think it’s difficult when you are not playing with the team and come back to the first XI, especially in a game like Saturday.

“The fact that he has been playing with Nigeria in the first 11 gave me the confidence to play with him, because even though he didn’t have the game time with us here, he had the game time with the national team and he was ready to compete.

“But sometimes, first of all every game is different, Saturday was a difficult game. He made some mistakes, one with the ball and one without, but Semi is a player I like and a player who likes to face the situation with the mistake and improve.

“But sometimes when you don’t play for a long time sometimes a player can be more nervous in the beginning, maybe with less stability, but in general if you excuse those moments with the ball and one trying to anticipate the striker, he did well.

“I like when the players react well, in the second half I didn’t see any mistakes and this is a positive thing.”

Ajayi has been a regular for his nation and played – and scored his first Nigeria goal – in two World Cup qualifiers last month, despite being out of the Albion reckoning.

He has started in eight of Albion’s 19 Championship fixtures so far this term, emerging from the bench on four further occasions. The defender has been a threat from the back, too, and has two goals in victories at The Hawthorns against Swansea and Hull, the latter as a substitute.

His regular run in the starting XI came in the opening weeks of the season as Corberan operated with a back three and Ajayi featured with Cedric Kipre and Erik Pieters.

But Bartley’s return to the side in mid-September, where he has mostly since paired in a duo with Kipre, has resulted in an impressive return of clean sheets with Ajayi and Pieters having to bide their time out of the side.

Corberan, who is due to address the media today in his pre-Sunderland press conference, last said Albion would assess the fitness of Bartley and decide if he is ready to feature at the Stadium of Light on Saturday lunchtime.