West Bromwich Albion 0 - Blackburn Rovers 0
I was really disappointed with the starting 11 tonight - no Grady or TGH and the 4–3-3. I guess we’re still in that place where us fans know more about the players than the new manager and he has to be cut some slack.
In a bit of a scrappy first half I thought Blackburn were better for the opening 15 minutes but then we got hold of it and really should have made our pressure count. We win plenty of ball and got up the pitch but we were lacking support for Carroll, pace and, through Grant and Reach especially, allowed really good opportunities to break down through lack of quality in the pass. There was a spell where they couldn’t get out but we couldn’t find any real threat and they managed to dig in and push us back before half time.
Second half they again started better and really had us on the ropes. It seemed like an age before Diangana came on and that at least got us up the pitch more but the most frustrating thing for me was he was again played in the right with Robinson moving left.
Why is it so hard for any coach to play him on the left? It’s not happened for 30 minutes in 30 games and is criminal- it’s the change I’d make now and keep him there on a 5 game run.
We got a bit of momentum out of it and possibly shaded the half but didn’t ever really look like scoring.
Overall it was a bit more encouraging in that we looked okay when we played the ball about, and that Blackburn are another average side in a poor division; they knocked it about nicely at times but good grief, there really isn’t much in this league in terms of quality.
I caught some of Bruce’s interview after the game and he questioned whether we have the players for 4-3-3. The answer is no but at least he’s asking it of himself - there is still time for him to get this right and get momentum for the play-offs although automatic promotion has been surrendered. That in itself with so many games to go is so damning of Ismael.
There is much to do but this was better than for a while. Green shoots of optimism maybe?
Not much to write home about in this one, although after a number of articles in the West Mids press in the last week all saying how Bruce wanted to get the best out of a player he once considered to be the best in the Championship, it came as a bit of a surprise to see Diangana dropped to the bench to make way for Robinson to play on the right of the front three, whilst Molumby was the enforced change for the suspended Livermore.
Both of those changes affected the right-hand side of the line up, even though everyone bar whoever is managing the Albion knows that the real issue is how little happens on the left. Go figure.
Albion's brightest spell came around the twenty minute mark, and lasted for about five minutes. It started off with a peach of a cross from the right by the much maligned Furlong which, no surprises here, Grant failed to get on the end of. Couple of minutes after that Carrol would find himself in the area of the pitch that Grant occupies and got off a shot, although, like a lot of Grant's shots, it didn't end in a goal. The bright spell ended with a breakaway, characterised by some really sharp passing, which evaporated when Reach fed Grant and the move ground to a halt.
Townsend got in on the full-backs getting high up the field act, that Furlong had looked much better than he has in a good while in the first half, in the first minute of the second, putting in a great cross that the big bloke we brought in up front specifically to get on the end of balls like that, got his head to, but then couldn't get any direction on and it sailed over.
Blackburn came into the game as the second half wore on and one sweeping move, created by Brereton-Diaz showing what creativity through the middle looks like, almost teed up the spare man at the back post, only for Furlong to track back and head the final ball clear of the danger. He'd be required to a similar last ditch clearance job on the ground later on, after a ball from right went through the legs of both Clarke and Ajayi.
Grant was finally pulled for Diangana just after the hour but Bruce's plans for getting the best out of the latter clearly don't mean that he'll play him in the position where we saw the best of him, because right-footed Robinson moved to the left and left-footed Diangana went onto the right.
Not much surprise that neither got in too many crosses that target man Carrol might have been able to use his experience to get on the end off, which left the lumbering giant to try and get on the end of long balls out from the back, a role in which he rarely brought any teammates into play either, although he did get fired up over one or two of the challenges. Well he does, doesn't he?
TGH got a run out for Molumby towards the end but nothing really changed, although Reach came the closest to scoring when heading a ball bouncing in the box wide of the Blackburn keeper, only to see it hooked clear by a covering defender just before the end of normal time.
A point each felt about right, even if the manner of it merely confirmed that neither of these two sides are looking likely to feature in the automatic promotion places, although given where we have fallen too, Bruce clearly has more to worry about, as regards a place in the play-offs, than Mowbray.
I still think a 4231 with Robinson in behind Carrol, and Diangana, not Grant, playing on the left offers up the best (only?) hope of us salvaging anything of the season, but even then it's a small hope.
On a night for memories of a time when we stormed the Championship with a manager whose motto was ' let me entertain you' sadly no mention of him here. I'm surprised, but I shouldn't be.
The year was 2008 at the end of a season when we scored over 100 goals with sublime football. Tony Mowbray brought a quality to The Hawthorns which has been missing for years now . He went around singing Frank Sinatra songs to himself and had his own unassuming charisma. And in his quiet way he has built a set-up at Blackburn capable of winning promotion and with an infrastructure that can consolidate on that.
In those days we had the likes of Zoltan Gera, James Morrison, Kevin Phillips and the rest. It was a wonderful team. And ( I almost forgot) we got to the semi final of the FA Cup before going out to Portsmouth in front of an 83,000 crowd at Wembley.
But we have become so used to the humdrum these days that it is now endemic and ingrained in the club. We don't do quality any more. It is very sad.
Best wishes Tony, and thanks for the memory.
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