West Bromwich Albion 0 - Swansea City 2

Date: Monday 28th February 2022 Live on Sky Sports
Competition: Sky Bet Championship
(4-3-2-1) Johnstone 4.3, O'Shea 3.7 (Furlong, 45 3.1), Ajayi 4.0, Bartley 3.5, Townsend 3.7, Molumby 3.2 (Grant, 77 2.1), Mowatt 2.6, Reach 2.2 (Castro, 65 3.6), Diangana 5.4, Robinson 4.8, Carroll 4.3
Unused subs: Button, Clarke, Kipré, Gardner-Hickman
Manager: Steve Bruce 2.0
Swansea City:
(3-4-2-1) Fisher, Cabango, Naughton, Manning, Wolf, Downes, Grimes, Christie, Piroe (Joseph, 94), Paterson (Ntcham, 77), Obafemi (Smith, 83)
Unused subs: Hamer, Fulton, Latibeaudiere, Burns
Scorers: Piroe (79), Christie (84)
Referee: Dean Whitestone (Northamptonshire) 5.5
Attendance: 20,209   Home Fans 3.8   Away Fans 5.8
Submit your ratings for this game by clicking here: Ratings submitted so far: 21

Brendan Clegg:

Another terrible offering all round from the players, coaches and manager has put the nail in the coffin of our season.

Sadly the writing was on the wall for me from the moment I heard the team on the drive over to the Shrine. The 4-3-3 again; Carroll in again with nobody likely to be near him but no wingers in natural positions to get crosses in; the same woeful midfield combination.

The first half was uneventful for us. Big Andy barely touched the ball as Swansea passed it around him for fun. Diangana showed brilliant flashes but - sigh - always ended up on his wrong foot on the right so couldn’t get shots off, Robinson showing the odd moment and hitting the post with a header he should’ve scored.

Midfield was the expected sideways and backwards or giving the ball away when we got it and Reach’s tone was set he came short for a corner in acres of space and the hit the first man.

Fundamentally the system and the ‘inverted’ wingers left us with no width, no where to go and outnumbered.

Swansea were little better but at least kept the ball well and, to be honest, worked O’Shea every time to give him a bit of a roasting.

We couldn’t get near them because Carroll couldn’t press and, with this being a must-win it was crying out for change at HT.

Furlong for O’Shea was understandable given his torrid time but everything else stayed the same and Swansea got more on top as we had no out ball and our passing got worse.

Eventually Castro came on for Reach (I’d have gone TGH here instead, but then I’d have started him too) and for 5 or 10 minutes we got momentum through just a bit of energy, Robinson skimming the post after a decent run.

With 15 to go Bruce seemed to go all in, bringing Grant on for Molumby and putting him on the left with Robinson behind Carroll in a 4-4-2.

Whilst I get it, I regrettably remarked to my son that we’d lose it 1-0... it could’ve been 4.

It was kamikaze coaching really; tactically it bore no relation to the game and smacked of chucking on players for the sake of it, and it left the inexperienced Castro- who had looked okay in advanced roles and actually got an attempt on target - as the last line defensively. He obliged by stupidly and lazily going to ground as Swansea broke and they got a free run and cross into our box to score.

The life was sucked out of us and they did the same moments later to make it two with very simple runs and crosses.

That was it and, certainly for me, condemned Bruce to be an even poorer manager than Pardew given the relative difficulty of opposition. I couldn’t care less if he went tonight. All the coaching experience he has and he can’t see that Reach isn’t good enough, that Diangana has to play on the left or that Carroll - hardworking and brave as he is - cannot run and his inclusion in the team has coincided with our total collapse not just in form but in creating chances.

Despite everything there was a top 6 squad here, maybe even a top 2 with Dike had we got him in the summer, but we’ve totally blown it like Bournemouth did last year. The remainder of this season should be not about quick-fixes for results but instead about the rebuild. What a total waste.

  • SJ - 6 Not great for the goals although little chance and kicking was woeful. Might as well play someone who wants to be here now.
  • O’Shea - 4 Got skinned and looked a long way off his best albeit with no protection.
  • Ajayi - 5 Just about passable but passing sloppy.
  • Bartley - 5 Same, had so few option though.
  • Townsend - 5 Regression continues but the 4-3-3 is so narrow he can either only okay a risky pass infield or hoof it.
  • Mowatt/Molumby - 4 Shuffle about a bit but no creativity.
  • Reach - 3 A couple of brave/skillful moments aside was abject again.
  • Grady - 6 Our most likely player but anonymous 2nd half.
  • Carroll - 4 Didn’t touch the ball in the first 20 minutes. Can’t fault the effort or desire but so so easy to play against.
  • Robinson - 5 A few good moments but powder puff.
  • Furlong - 5 improved us a bit, looked determined
  • Castro - 5 Bright early on but big basic error cost us.
  • Grant - Did he touch the ball?

Kev Buckley:

They're comparing us with the Seals

You know, I think Steve Bruce will eventually get there, after all, he finally decided to try a starting XI without Grant taking up space on the left-hand side for this one. Only trouble was, he obviously still hasn't played the tapes of the games that led him to claim that Diangana was the best player in the division, because if he had, he'd have seen Diangana deployed on the left. As it was, we ended up with another right-footer out there, in Robinson. But: little steps and all that.

You surely have to wonder, at times though, what the senior players at the club, and any coaching staff that are still there from the failed "Barnsley in the Black Country" experiment have been telling him too. Surely one of them must have said "Boss, have you thought about trying Grady on the left, and maybe trying a right-footed player on the right", by now. But again: perhaps they'd prefer he worked it out for himself.

It's got to the stage now where even Grady himself is clearly trying to drop huge hints as to what foot is his strongest, Witness the attempt to slice the ball with the outside of his left foot, so as to fashion a cross for Carroll, an attempt which failed, but ended up going straight to the keeper, and in doing so probably registered Albion's first shot on target: possibly our only one?

As matches between two mid-table mediocrity sides go, this was quite a contrast in styles, with Swansea so keen to keep the ball that they didn't seem to want to give it away by creating a shooting chance, and so rarely letting our midfield get a foot in, and the Albion looking to "go long" to Carroll, and so by-passing our three-man midfield to the point where you wondered if we even needed any midfield.

O'Shea, looking like he was still recovering from coming back too soon in the previous game, was involved in the two moments of note in the first half, although most of it passed him by: early doors where he might have been carded for a pull back, and around the twenty minute mark when he, being right-footed, crossed with his right foot from the right - sadly for Robinson and not Carroll - and so setting up a great heading opportunity from 6-yards out and central which Robinson could only steer onto the post. O'Shea would get pulled for Furlong at half-time.

Swansea's attempts to pass out from the back saw them cough it up to Diangana, central, around 56, although after he played Mulumby into space down the right, the shot was blocked.

After an hour of not that much else from either side, Bruce decided to change things, although like-for-like swap of Reach, playing on the left of our, pretty much bypassed by the approach of both sides, midfield three, with Castro, (Yes, he's still at the club. No: me neither) suggests that Brucie had liked what he'd seen enough not to try and change things too much.

Ten minutes later came the triumphal return of Grant, presumably though, when coming on for Mulumby, he was so desperate to show why he should not have been dropped, that he put in a typical neutrino-like performance out on the left of what now looked like a 4231, with Robinson going into the hole. Grady, of course, stayed on the right.

Maybe Bruce watches the games in bed and the matchplay on his tablet reflects off the mirrored ceiling: how else to explain it?

Funnily enough, just prior to Grant's introduction, Robinson, the right-footer playing on the left, had cut in, dribbled across the box and looked to steer a shot goalwards but, like his header, that too only found the post.

We can only surmise that Grant must have been warming up down in the opposite diagonal corner from that attempt, because the nature of it clearly didn't give the anonymous one any ideas as to what he might look to do when he came on into that position.

Then again, when you've probably been sent out with instructions to try and feed off knock-downs from Carroll, is it any wonder that KAH looked as ineffective as any Albion player on the night.

Swansea's go-ahead goal, on 78, in contrast to their slow passing game was a blur of pace, first as they broke away down the Albion right after we'd had the ball near the edge of their box, only for Castro to get sucked into to making a tackle that he missed completely, and secondly, as Swansea players swarmed upfield in support of their ball-carrier, with one marauding player arriving on the penalty spot so as sidefoot the pull-back through SJ's legs.

Five minutes later and another pull-back saw a step-over that left the second Swansea player unmarked and able to lash the ball past SJ.

As a result of gaining no points from this one, Albion remain in thirteenth, eight points off the play-off places, a position and margin that got mentioned in the commentary by reference to that being the same position and margin that the Seals found themselves needing to overcome a couple of season's back, indeed the season in which they had sacked Brucie, long before going on a ten-game winning streak, and of course, beating us in the play-offs and winning the play-off final.

It should be noted that the commentary team qualified any potential for co-incidence by saying that the Albion didn't like a team who could go on a ten-game winning streak, although as punditry goes, that's a pretty easy observation to make.

Another hole in the comparison appears when you realise that the eight points we are now adrift of sixth place, doesn't allow for the fact that the team in sixth place, and five of the teams between us and sixth, all have a game in hand, indeed, even Swansea, who have two games in hand, could now overtake us.

Expecting Bruce to tell everyone that he's not going to put up with these sorts of performances much longer, before picking a side to produce yet another one.