Wolverhampton Wanderers 2 - West Bromwich Albion 3
Well that was a lovely unexpected bonus.
I felt before the match we might have a chance of nicking something via a set play with Wolves struggling for goals, but seeing the squad so depleted filled me with dread. It looked threadbare and a bit desperate.
That said we started brightly, pressing high and earned the penalty we got - Wolves too stupid to allow us to run through and miss.
After going a goal up it was one way traffic as Wolves dominated midfield and their wingers took us to the cleaners. Honestly I felt if Jimenez was playing they’d be 3 or 4 up such was the ease in which they got through us in every attack.
Most frustratingly we did have great chances on the counter or winning the ball high but our first pass was woeful - Sawyers and Grosicki in particular but the others too. I felt only Snodgrass gave us that know-how we’ve probably been missing since Morrison’s body gave up. Just when to hold it and when to pass it, and the pass to make. One chance we did make forced a good stop point blank from Robinson.
For all that we looked to have weathered it before a couple of shocking set play lapses right before half time - soft soft goals that should’ve been avoided; Livermore on the front post a bit of an odd choice and Pereira at the back post strange too. Weak.
Somehow we got ourselves ahead quickly after half time - an identikit Semi goal from a basic set play/flick on and another clever penalty win from Robinson.
I thought again after that we got overrun for most of the half with Wolves missing a couple of great chances and it wasn’t until Robinson went wide left and HRK up top that we took a bit of sting out of it. At least we defended better in the 2nd half and at times passed the ball better to create/run the clock down.
A famous and unlikely victory but a stat that demonstrates our fortune is that we didn’t win a single corner all game. Madness but we’ll take it. Only a couple of points needed to avoid being the worst team ever. I’m confident we’ll get there!
Who saw this coming? With several key players missing, and after a bright start but being down 2-1 at half-time after some slack defending, I feared the worst. But fair play to the Samosaurus, he must have said something at the break which fired the team up.
I agree with Brendan that Gibbs and O'Shea were painfully exposed, but thanks to Bartley and Semi having one of their best games in an Albion shirt we somehow got through. Dinosaur Sam and the team are still facing extinction (or at least relegation), but at least the season now has a bright spot to remember.
It was striking that in his post-match comments Allardyce stressed the need for several new players. He understood that was a one-off. Snodgrass had a decent game, but is a journeyman pro. We need better than that if we are to get anywhere near a miracle. The Hammers on Tuesday will be a test.
Albion stop sinking, as the band plays on
An unexpected win in the Black Country derby appears to have thrown up more questions about our immediate future than it answered, but the points, and bragging rights, will be widely welcomed.
Watched this one on an outside TV with the sound off, presumably so that the piped sound of the country-focussed duo, who were the turn in the front-bar at the Inglewood that night, might entice a few more people in. Would it have been better to have been actually hearing the sound of an empty custard bowl instead of some country standards? We'll never know, I guess. "Stand by Big Sam" anyone?*
Rather surprised by the layout of the starting line-up, with our Polish international right-winger over on the left, presumably so that Snodgrass could be deployed on the right wing, although the question then becomes, has he been put there so that the experience he's brought to the club could help out O'Shea, a centre-back masquerading as a full-back, or has O'Shea been put there instead of Furlong because the right-sided combination of Snodgrass and Furlong looked a bit too dynamic for a Big Sam side, albeit less dynamic than one of Grosicki and Furlong?
Furthermore, why was the winger with all the experience not deployed up against Trarore, clearly the biggest threat in the home side's XI?
You do have wonder too, what Slaven Bilic must be making of a manager with the reputation of Allardyce bizarrely playing his best player in behind his striker. Not too hard to imagine him saying. "Hmm: I could have done that. Oh hang on: I even did just that, just the season before. What a nincompoop I am". (Assuming there is a word for nincompoop in Croatian, that is?)
Good bit of high up the pitch action in the early stages, although I didn't think the first contact, as Robinson received a sharp pass into feet on the edge of a crowded area, made it a penalty. VAR begged to differ. I'm still not convinced.
Having just finished reading "From Buzaglo to Balis" (great read Chris), and in light of our penalty debacle in the FA Cup, I was half expecting Gibbs to step up as the unknown penalty taker in waiting, but the faith kept in Pereira was rewarded as he sent the keeper the wrong way.
Not that my shout of "Get in" was all that well received by the on-stage duo, especially as it came in the middle of one of their renditions, but hey, isn't that why you perform in front of "live audiences"?!
If we did try to keep it tight after taking the lead then we're clearly not going to count on being able to do so, given the ease with which their wingers got up against, and then sailed past our full backs, indeed I was expecting to see that Traore, in a nod to a scene from one of the X-Men franchise movies, having the slo-mo time to rearrange Gibbs's bootlaces, so fast did he appear to go past him at times.
Odder still then, that the equalizing goal should come from the player now in a fight for our "most experienced journeyman pro" (to use Didcot Baggie's term) label with Snodgrass, in demonstrating so little of that experience in attempt to clear a ball. Did Livermore even get his head on it? Whatever: a couple of "unluckly bounces" in our box (Remember those?!) and a sharp backheel later, and the ball was in the back of our net.
The ball would get a chance to renew its fledgling acquaintance with stand-in goalie Button's bag a few minutes later too, after we failed to deal with another corner amidst all the pressure (Remember those too?).
Still time, well, still time allowed for stoppages anyway, for Gibbs to fail to hit the target from inside their box, which saw the home side take a 2-1 lead into the break.
So, what do you do when you can't send your centre-backs up for corners because your attacking play isn't generating any corners (not one as it turned out!)? Obvious really: you send all three of them (one is playing at right-back remember) up, for throw-ins instead and allow them to refute the "our defenders aren't getting us enough goals" claim. Here, it was O'Shea with the long throw, Bartley with the assist, and Ajayi with a well-looped header over and into the far side that combined for the equalising goal.
You might have thought that the Wolves defence might have discussed the first-half penalty at half time but, if they did, nothing they discussed stuck in their minds as Grosicki's sharp ball in to Robinson, this time clearly in the box, generated an almost carbon-copy of the one awarded before the break.
I didn't have the heart to interrupt the country duo with a ill-timed yelp yet again, so settled for getting another drink by way of celebration as Pereira sent the keeper the other way.
Found the "shut-up shop" subs a bit odd (Is Robinson really any better, defensively, than Grosicki?) although not the shut-up shop by resorting to three centre-backs approach. Then again, has Big Sam watched any of Bilic's attempts not concede by deploying three of the same centre-backs? He surely can't have thought it would work based on any of those showings.
Going to take a small exception to Brendan's player marks/comments, in respect of Grosicki and Sawyers, by using a common theme, to whit, when either have someone ahead to them play it to, they look a lot less worse than when there's no one one there. Small number statistics of course. And as for Pereria want to play the game at his pace, well maybe if some of our more experienced players has more than one pace, he'd look less of a fish out of water too. Guess it all depends in who you chose to build you team and approach around I guess though.
* For the record: I don't actually remember that one being in the set-list, but then I wasn't paying that much attention to their set: so just put it down to "artistic licence"!
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