NEW boy Craig Dawson believes competition for places at Wanderers can bring out the best in everyone ahead of the crucial Championship run-in.
The 22-year-old centre-back put in a man-of-the-match display on his Whites debut as Dougie Freedman’s men recorded a first league victory of 2013 against Lancashire rivals Burnley at the Reebok.
But the England Under-21s international knows his performance level must remain high if he is to keep his place, especially with defensive duo David Wheater and Matt Mills on the comeback trail from injury.
And after making his first start, he believes his fitness after just three games for West Brom this season has already improved.
The ex-Radcliffe Borough and Rochdale man is relishing first-team competition during his three-month stay with Wanderers.
Dawson said: “Having new faces makes everyone work harder and keeps everyone on their toes and fighting for a position.
“I’ve been here a few weeks so I’ve got a feel for the place and Dougie welcomed me into the squad.
“I’ve enjoyed the few weeks training I’ve had and I felt comfortable slotting in at the back. I’m still getting my match fitness and 90 minutes will help me next week.
“I enjoyed Saturday alongside Zat (Knight). Zat’s got great experience so it was great to work with him and we did well together and, hopefully, we can continue.”
The only blot on Dawson’s impressive copybook in the weekend’s 2-1 win was the lack of a clean sheet thanks to David Edgar’s opener.
But with more fortune, it could have been Dawson who got a defender’s goal at the other end in a first half in which he latched on to some accurate set-piece deliveries from another loanee Jay Spearing.
The Baggies defender admits, however, his primary job is to keep things tight at the back.
He added: “Jay Spearing put some great deliveries in there and maybe, on another day, we could have had a goal, but it wasn’t to be. It’s always nice to chip in with a goal, if you can, but as a defender you have to keep them out at the other end and that’s the most important thing.
“It was a bit of a strange goal to concede and the chances weren’t dropping.
“They scored but we showed good spirit to get back into the game and the subs really made an impact on the game.
“We’ve got a great squad here and you could see that when the subs came on and changed the game. We just have to keep building and keep pushing.
“The win has definitely taken a bit of pressure off and it’s given us confidence to take into the next game.”