Watford 2 - West Bromwich Albion 0
Albion rotate, albeit through 360 degrees.
No doubt pulled in one direction by his already expressed need to rotate in his bit-part players over this three-games-in-a-week period, and in the complete opposite direction by a more recently expressed need to not take Watford too lightly, our manager chose to stick with an unchanged, opposition-stifling, play for a point away from home, 451, for the mid-week fixture of those three.
Perhaps that decision was also informed by the knowledge that in the reverse fixture, Albion had had more of the posession but had suffered a home loss as a result, although, with Watford lining-up in a matching formation, it was perhaps set up as a contest to see who could have the least posession and so run out winners?
Albion would have the first two opportunities of the game, with Chadli getting two bites of the same cherry after cutting in from the left, however Gomez got his angles correct, for both the initial save, and then in leaving Chadli with no other option but to play the rebound across the six-yard area, an area devoid of Albion players up in support of his attacking run.
On thirteen minutes, Chadli's opposite number, as it were, Niang, although the latter looked, throughout the game, to be more of a dedicated wide player than our doing-a-job-out-wide man, would cut inside in a similar fashion from our right or, depending on your viewpoint, would be shepherded inside by Dawson, towards our usually crowded central area, however, we didn't quite get the usual crowd density ahead of Foster and Niang was able to curl a powerful shot around MacAuley and into the far side-netting to give the home side an early lead.
Some twenty minutes later, Brunt, would make a break forwards out from our three-man defensive shield, and broke into their box, but his second touch didn't allow him to build on the first ,which had taken through the Watford back line, and the chance went a-begging.
Five minutes before the break that saw the Albion well ahead in the least possession wins the game stakes, 29-71%, but behind in the game albeit by the one goal, Chaldi would hit a 25-yard out, central free kick onto the outside of the post, although that would not be the final offensive act by the Albion, McClean's Beckhamesque kicking out at a home player after a decision had gone against him, earning him a yellow card for his troubles.
It was perhaps with one-eye on the boil-over in the reverse fixture that Pulis decided to remove McClean from the action as the sides returned for the second half, a withdrawal that allowed Phillips to return, although had it not been for McClean getting fired up, the choice of change, for a "pace and width" manager, would surely have been Chaldi for Phillips.
Five minutes after that half-time change though, Deeny, who had won the central header from a long ball that had set up Niang's goal, would once again get the better of a long ball right into the centre of our usually dependable defence, a ball, from Niang, under which Evans got the flight all wrong, allowing Deeny to control it and advance towards the spot within the space that Nyom had been able to get across to close down. Despite Foster doing his usual man-of-the-match best to come out and narrow Deeny's angles, the latter had more than enough time, space and target to aim at, and poked the ball past our keeper.
Pulis responded, to going two-down, almost straight away, by taking off MacAuley for Morrison, although with Dawson moved to the centre, Nyom swapping full-back sides and Brunt going, as if to echo the soon to start cricket season, back and across, to left-back, it seemed to merely be a slight tactical switch from 451 to 4411, although it would be Brunt, finding himself centrally advanced two minutes later who would scoop a ball over the Watford defence that Chadli, now operating on the right, only managed to steer off-target despite a clear sight of goal.
With half-an-hour to go, Livermore's two fouls in quick succession and resultant yellow may have made the difference in him being the player removed to make way for Rondon and the Venezuelan made an immediate impact, in getting Britos sent off, via a second yellow as the two tried to exchange shirts whilst running after the ball.
Despite having a man advantage for nearly half an hour, the best Albion could manage, and indeed their second best as well, would come deep into the five minutes of stoppage time, firstly when Nyom ghosted in at the back post but could only shoot straight at Phillips, the one player between him and the goal, and then, right at the death, when a loose ball fell to Mozza on the egde of the area, but fell to his wrong side and he could only slice his left-foot shot embarrassingly high and wide.
Albion, of course, remain in eighth, by virtue of a seven point margin in either direction, and having seemingly come for an away point will no doubt have travelled home only really having lost one.
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