West Bromwich Albion 2 - Queens Park Rangers 1
Well that had a bit of everything but it’s the result that matters.
We were poor and good. Unlucky and lucky. Played well but couldn’t score, then seemed to be going nowhere and then won the match.
The lineup was a slight surprise- I thought Robbo would start.
QPR scored with their first attack but via a tactic they tried all night - a deliberate hoof long into the channel to try and beat our press and get our CB turning or a quick long switch to expose our wing backs if they push on. Our defence and keeper made a hash of it and Gray passed it home easily. Other teams have threatened to do this so it’s not a surprise that we conceded.
For the rest of the half we dominated it and, had we had a striker on with any instinct, would’ve probably gone in ahead. We passed it well enough and worked great situations but fluffed openings, bottled chances or put the ball into perfect areas but nobody was there. Reach’s point blank header might’ve been the worst - he had to score.
I thought the HT boos were harsh as we’d been much better than recent weeks.
Second half was a bit more frustrating as QPR got out the Pulis manual on game management and, despite our efforts, we couldn’t get the tempo up.
I felt the subs weakened us and were too much too soon again. I have to agree with the crowd - taking Diangana off seemed crackers.
And we were going nowhere, lost control of it, looked like we might concede a 2nd before Grant got that but of luck we needed - their keeper allowed his tame effort to creep in.
As it always does, that momentum shift got us going again and we pressed for a winner which finally arrived late after great pressure from Livermore resulted in the type of goal that probably Big Val sits watching on loop all day. We won high, moved it quickly and cleverly and Grant slammed it home.
Did we deserve it? Probably but more so in the first half.
Is Val a genius? Maybe but we were going nowhere before that fortunate goal and I think 9/10 times those subs fail.
Overall I preferred the approach - Pulis in our third, scrap in the middle, play in their third and the attempts to build moves from SJ’s throws were encouraging.
My, how we need a striker though. We’d probably coast the league.
I think Big Val got away with one here but it was an enjoyable game and if you’re going to win a match, doing it at the death like that really is special.
Wot? No away strip ? Stripes 2 Hoops 1
A pretty dreadful game to watch saw Albion end up with all three points as a result of the kind of slick passing move that had been lacking throughout much of the rest of the game, and that after yet another shot that didn't really trouble the keeper somehow ended up in the back of the net.
Not clear why, after Diangana's showing on the left in the previous game we were back to the front three of Diangana on the right, Grant on the left and right-winger Phillips through the middle, but back to that three we were.
Not clear either, why QPR passed up on the opportunity to run out in their "away kit" which saw the navy-blue and white stripes go up against the blue and white hoops. Be interesting to see if Albion do the same in the reverse fixture later in the season.
After the kick-off set-piece variation that sees the ball go all the way back to Johnstone, as opposed to one of the back three, so that it can be lumped forwards with the back three pushing up to the edge of the centre circle, we were completely undone when the ball was played back via two quick passes down our left wing and into the space between our back three and Johnstone, and the QPR striker was free to run half the length of the pitch towards the Albion goal. Faced with a one-on-one inside 40 seconds, Johnstone chose to come out an try to narrow an angle being created by the full width of the pitch, thought better of it, and ended up in the left front corner of his area as Gray calmly slotted it past him and into the net from outside the box.
Other than Diangana popping up all across the width of the pitch and Furlong looking to make things happen, the rest of the side had looked pretty anonymous until the 20th minute when Mowatt should have been booked for a clattering challange on Willock, the latter being yet another player, apparently, in the "I had a loan spell at West Brom but didn't really get a game" group, whilst he'd been on the books at Benfica.
Five minutes later and Phillips puts in a great cross that Reach six-yards out, can only head straight at the keeper on the line: not the first, nor the last, effort on goal that didn't require much from the QPR keeper other than to not move out of the way.
Eight or so minutes into the second half and it was time for the usual substitions: Diangana, the most influential player in an Albion shirt up until then, got pulled off for Robinson to come on and play down the right, whilst Phillips made way for Hugill, leaving Grant on the left.
Bit of a scare for the Albion around seventy minutes after QPR, who had looked about as likely to add to their lead as Albion had looked to remove it, saw a player out-muscle Robinson in the centre circle and then gallop away upfield towards Johnstone, however this time the shot, in keeping with many of the shots in this game, went straight at our keeper.
Couple of minutes after that came the turning point, when the QPR keeper, having easily got two hands onto another Grant effort down near his right post, somehow managed to turn the ball into his own net as one of those hands bounced up off the turf and made enough contact with the ball to flick it backwards up and over his other arm, and over the line.
This piece of good fortune seemed to wake up both the home side and the home fans, and all of a sudden you got the feeling that the players had got the feeling that doing just a little bit more than going through the motions within the system might actually see them win the game, and so it proved, after a sharp pass, along the ground down the inside-right channel found Hugill, who flicked it behind him and into the centre, where Robinson crisply moved it across to Grant, who then got off a left-footed shot that was, for once, both powerful and well-directed enough to beat the keeper and nestle into the far-side netting.
Given how different the finish was to all of his previous efforts, it was perhaps no surprise to see him immediately "pull up lame" and make way in a shut-up-shop swap as we entered stoppage time.
It'll be very interesting to see how the euphoria of pulling this one out of the fire now feeds into the starting selection for the next game: might be that neither Diangana nor Phillips start?
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