West Bromwich Albion 4 - Bristol City 2
Absolutely crazy game. Difficult to sum up or mark because it was all over the place. Bristol could have scored in the first minute and could have been 3 up before we earned the penalty.
The same issues with playing from the back without a ball playing centre-half were still there and we caused our own problem.
Barry for Brunt was better when we had the ball - he managed to keep it but without the ball we had issues too as Bristol walked past him.
After the penalty, 2 quick simple throws to Barnes when he was deep from Johnstone and we were 3 up. Whereas Blues had clattered Barnes early on Friday night, every time he looked to run with the ball, Bristol let him get running and he ripped them to pieces.
Even at 3 nil it wasn't comfortable and when Bristol's changes gave them impetus and Barry's legs began to seize up completely they put us on the ropes, nicking another near post sloppy goal.
Thankfully Barnes got on the score-sheet to give us a cushion with a difficult finish he made look oh-so-easy and, despite another goal from Bristol we held on.
In the end, our quality in front of goal, mainly from our two loanees got us out of trouble but we still look very ropey. It's the total opposite of Pulis and at least we're being entertained. I do worry that we've already been worked out and anyone with half decent players or coaches will cause us damage - as some already have.
I wasn't happy with the bench again - surely Burke was worth a go? He can't be that bad.
First game I've been to this season and it confirmed all my hopes and fears after watching two or three TV games. Going forward we are looking really good and some of the football we're playing (the build up to the third goal in particular) is as good as I've seen in ages. I think the system playing 3 at the back really helps us get more of our attacking players on the ball further up the pitch.
BUT if we're going to play this system we need to find defenders who can carry the football out from the back and pick a pass. Bartley looks awful and Hegazi has gone backwards from when he first came in. Not only can't they play out, their defending is bad as well. The crowd is on tenterhooks whenever they get near the ball. I thought Dawson was just OK. I'd like to see Field and Adarabioyo given a try in there. It can hardly be worse defensively and at least they can play a bit.
Anyway rant over it was nice to see us showing some positive intent and in Phillips and Barnes we finally have players who are getting the crowd on their feet.
So....based on ratings, the weakest links are Hegazi and Bartley (link, or lack of link, being the operative word).
Barry rates nearly 7 but less from Brendan Clegg who correctly marks him down on mobility. So he is a "come on when the ship needs steadying" person.
We have a loanee centre back to ginger them up and cause a net improvement playing the ball forward so start him with Dawson and Hegazi. All this assumes we keep the wingbacks where Gibbs is excellent and Phillips is excellent going forward while making great defensive efforts. Losing either of them would cause a major rethink in shape. But for now the issue in defensive midfield is mobility laterally. Ergo... Field with Barry on the bench. Loved how Field sprinted on for his 5 minutes.
Field would be also be more mobile including some going forward. Thus maybe leave the rest as it is. Morrison can score and thinks "go forward", but not replace Barnes' speed, so he could be a Livermore replacement/sub. Or Hoolahan if that goes well.
Fascinating stuff and certainly a lot more fun than much of the last few stressful years.
Baggie Tone in Guernsey:
Well we have finally laid to rest the curse of the "B"s.
Contrary to last season when for most of the season we could only beat teams that began with "B" this year it reversed and we couldn't beat teams beginning in "B" - Bolton, Blues and 'Boro.
Long may it continue.
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