West Bromwich Albion 2 - Charlton Athletic 2
Albion home games are certainly producing plenty of goals - 20 in the last four - but they're struggling to get wins right now. Having fought back to draw the last one, this time they took the lead twice - through Matt Phillips from a Matheus Pereira cross and through a spectacular Hal Robson-Kanu effort from 25 yards out - but gave it away twice, first through a Macauley Bonne header and then from the spot through Josh Cullen after Semi Ajayi was harshly judged to have pushed Naby Sarr in the box in added time.
But that dubious decision by referee Matt Donohue paled into insignificance compared to the red card he showed Grady Diangana for a challenge made by Nathan Ferguson with just over twenty minutes left. After Diangana refused to walk off and much discussion with officials and managers, Ferguson was correctly identified and left the pitch.
But again, the draw was more than Albion needed to stay top of the table, two points clear of Preston who beat Blackburn 3-2 - though two wins at home instead of draws would have put them way out in front.
A difficult game that. Charlton were a decent team who moved the ball quickly and caused us problems but the truth is we should’ve been out of sight with the 3 or 4 clear chances we created even discounting the decisions that went against us.
There couldn’t be really be any arguments with the starting lineup and having taken the lead with our first meaningful attack we should’ve gone on to control the game.
Unfortunately Livermore’s booking in the first minute for his tackle meant he had to tread carefully so he couldn’t risk getting a big foot in and I thought Phillips looked miles off being match fit.
Charlton had long spells on top and probably should’ve equalised but for poor finishing, one brilliant block by Bartley and decent saves from SJ.
Whilst Diagana was having another iffy game and Austin’s only decent work was when he was so deep it didn’t matter, Pereira was having a go and we should’ve been 2 up but Furlong heading his great cross wide at the end of the half.
Second half we started much better with wave after wave of attack and gaps appearing but Phillips, Diagana and Furlong all failed to score from chances as good as you’ll get at this level.
It seemed inevitable a goal would come but instead we conceded after some sloppy play, Charlton having a shot blocked from distance which looped up and with SJ already committed to the dive their striker nodded home.
Worse was to come as we tried to get momentum with Ferguson going in for a heavy challenge. Charlton’s team made a massive deal out of what looked a strong but fair challenge to me - unless we’re looking for a non-contact sport. They did the same in the first minute and probably got Livermore booked. This time in the chaos that followed the referee sent the wrong player off before correcting his decision - it said enough about his judgment and ability to spot things during the game.
Slav got Townsend and HRK on for Phillips & Austin and I thought we really took the game to them with 10 men, chasing them down and forcing them back. Sawyers showed incredible skill to take a pass, flick it over a terrible tackle and hit a volleyed pass out wide to HRK in mid air, and HRK carried it to the box, slowed everything down and then stepped inside to curl a beauty into the corner. A deserved reward for our bravery.
I thought we were absolutely going to hang on but Slav withdrew Diangana for Brunt and it just invited a bit more pressure without an outlet and deep into stoppage time Semi gave away a soft penalty and we threw 2 points away.
Feeling bitter but you can see why Charlton are doing so well. We need to hang in there at the top until January and get a striker in on the very first day. Until then? HRK just doesn’t impact games in the same way when he starts so perhaps we need to give Zohore a run of 5 or 6 games - I find it hard to believe he’d be less effective than Austin in a side that is otherwise gelling far better and creating many more chances than when he got games at the start of the season. Teams wouldn’t get away with the high line either.
Our defensive record is shocking too so Hegazi needs to start getting minutes.
Still plenty to enjoy and be positive about. This team has guts, desire and has had a serious injection of youth, energy and pace. Onto the next one.
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