MORE than 20 tonnes of salt and sand was spread around the Reebok to make sure Wanderers could cheat the icy conditions and host the Baggies on Boxing Day.

And it took more true grit from Owen Coyle’s side to hold out for only their second clean sheet of the season, lending more weight to the notion that they will challenge for a European spot in 2011.

They rode their luck against the Baggies, who could have run away with the game on a different day. But fortune sometimes favours the brave, and with Wanderers fully committed to the manager’s attacking philosophy, they made sure the visitors paid dearly for their profligacy.

With sub zero temperatures around Winter Hill, two sides who have developed a reputation for favouring the offensive to the defensive looked like a recipe to warm the cockles.

But until a moment of magic from Chung-Yong Lee, playing his last game before disappearing for the Asia Cup, both sides looked to have all the potency of a Christmas cracker without the snap.

Both Wanderers and West Brom traded wasteful finishes. Albion’s Nigeria international, Peter Odemwingie, got himself in a tangle after springing the offside trap, shooting hopelessly wide from eight yards out after running onto a clever pass from former Whites target James Morrison.

Somen Tchoyi was giving Gretar Steinsson a stern test on his return to the side, and it was only some superb defending by former Hawthorns man Paul Robinson that stopped Chris Brunt heading home the Cameroon winger’s cross at the far post.

Although Wanderers had done their utmost to pass the ball around, they only really clicked into gear once in the opening half hour. Chung-Yong instigated an electric counter attack, feeding Fabrice Muamba who, in turn, released Johan Elmander with a perfectly-weighted ball that had the Swede’s ninth goal of the season written all over it.

Unfortunately, while his connection was true, the striker’s radar was slightly off and his shot sailed a yard over Scott Carson’s crossbar.

Both sides struggled to find the killer pass until five minutes before the interval, when Chung-Yong showed exceptional balance to race around Carson, then pull a pass back from the touchline for Taylor to finish the move he had started with a deft flick.

It was his first goal since his double against Stoke in the latter stages of last season, and just reward for his selection ahead of Martin Petrov on his more natural left side.

West Brom showed when the two sides met in October that they have developed a considerably stronger backbone in their latest Premier League stint, so it was no surprise that they mounted a stirring comeback after the restart.

They had two chances to equalise inside the first five minutes, with Brunt heading a Tchoyi cross against the crossbar, and then firing narrowly wide of the post less than a minute later as Wanderers struggled to clear a corner.

And Morrison must have thought he had a tap in after racing on to Odemwingie’s through ball and rounding Jaaskelainen, only for the keeper to reach out and snatch the ball from his feet at the last second.

Steinsson succumbed to injury after an hour, giving Ricketts a chance to impress Gary Speed, back at the Reebok in his guise as the new Wales boss.

And he certainly had some defending to do, with West Brom now encamped in the Wanderers half.

Luckily, Odenwingie continued to look rusty in what was his first game since December 5, dragging another shot wide after getting the wrong side of Gary Cahill and Zat Knight.

At the other end, Elmander has been ever present for Wanderers but was having the type of game that we have seen so often in the past. Failing to react to Chung-Yong’s cross he produced an acrobatic volley with his second attempt, which sadly landed on the roof of Carson’s net.

Thankfully, things got better, and as West Brom slowly ran out of steam, the game slowly started to swing the way of the home side.

Elmander switched to the right after Klasnic’s arrival as sub and it was from the wing that he killed the contest off completely. Busting through a couple of Albion challenges, he worked his way into the box and tried to square unselfishly, but when his pass to Klasnic was blocked, he simply rolled the ball under Carson for his ninth of the season.

Poignantly, he ran to the bench to hold aloft a shirt with a message of support for Avi Cohen, father of Tamir, who is in a serious condition in hospital after a motorbike accident in Tel Aviv.

It might have been even better, with Klasnic seeing one goal ruled out for offside and Kevin Davies wasting a decent opportunity after catching Carson off his line.

But, taking into account Wanderers had been nowhere near their best, a 2-0 scoreline was more than a decent reward.

With Chelsea next up at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night, defensive resolve will be needed in bucket-loads if the Whites are to end 2010 on a high note.

But considering the way 2009 ended, you could argue that we’ve been spoiled already.