West Bromwich Albion 2 - Nottingham Forest 2
Frustrating one that and probably 2 points dropped because when we got into our groove we were miles better than them and should’ve put the game to bed.
We started very well again and pressed them high but Forest were far more compact than the teams we’ve played recently and in Watson had one of the few players in the league to pass through our press.
As a result they were a threat on the break and probably should’ve taken the lead from a free header.
We were not as fluid as recently through a combination of niggly fouls slowing us down, the elements and one or two of our players not moving the ball quick enough - I thought Krovi was guilty of that a bit, slipping into his old habits a bit although he still put a shift in and kept up his new found aggression. He couldn’t get Robinson into the game quickly enough though.
Pereira was the best player in the first half when he wasn’t rolling around of having tackles left on him and he created the first by ghosting in to rob the ball high up in the centre before releasing Robinson with a perfectly weighted pass - and Robinson despatched it confidently.
We sparked to life and were well on top before we gifted Forest a goal right on half time by not being strong enough or doing enough to block a cross from the right and Bartley/SJ both looked at fault to me as Bartley prodded the ball into his own net. Not sure if he got a shout but if you trust your keeper you don’t go for those.
The second half we were so dominant. We moved the ball quicker, got shots off quicker and penned them in. Eventually the dam broke with what looked like an og following great work from Pereira, Krovi and Livermore.
It looked like we’d get a third as the subs came and we battered the Forest goal - Robinson moving to centre forward and running the show, Grosicki and Phillips injecting pace and power. If anything we took the wrong options instead of putting the game to bed.
But with only one goal in it we conceded a great smashed finish into the top corner after failing to fully clear the ball on the edge of our box.
At the death we nearly won it but Bartley, who had been Forest’s best player for most of the game, ensured they got a point by first seeming to head clear Grosicki’s free kick from 5 yards before also blocking Robinson’s follow up. Apparently it was over the line and should’ve been given.
Still a decent point after a gruelling week and if we maintain that performance level we should be home and dry with games to spare.
First time this season seeing the Albion at home. What a windy day at The Hawthorns! We pretty well bossed the game in the second half after a great Robinson goal (Pereira pinching the ball) was cancelled out by yet another freak Bartley mistake (once is unlucky, twice is careless). Forest have been moaning about a non too obvious penalty shout, but their two bookings are a reflection of how niggly they were. Especially against Pereira.
So we had loads of shots, they made loads of saves..... and it took an almighty strike for them to salvage a point. Yes we were unlucky not to take all 3, but I haven't seen the Albion this positive in years. Credit to Bilic and all the team. Top scorers in the league, 4 points clear of second place.....7 points clear of third. Not a fluke, and as good an Albion team as I've seen in the past 30 years (Brown, Johnstone, Cunningham, Regis era).
That was definitely one that got away. Felt we totally outplayed them for most of the game and yes we probably got a break with the second goal but the goal definitely should have stood at the end. Bartley had a mare but I think Johnstone should have done more to help him on the first.
If we take the positives, when we're at it I don't think there's anyone in this league we can't beat. My only slight niggle was with Bilic and his subs at the end. When we are trying to keep the ball and run the game down I don't know why you would take your best two players at keeping the ball off? If they weren't injured it just seemed unnecessary and Phillips looked blown after 10 minutes. Anyway I guess that's why Bilic is payed the big bucks to make those calls but I definitely think our managing out games needs some work. To concede in 45th and 91st minutes has to be disappointing and it's not the first time this season.
Anyway I'm positive and we're still playing some great football COYB.
Forest thoughts: able to see the Wood for the TVs
Watched this on the screen next to the one showing the Soton Burnley game, along with the Burnley-supporting barman, and so was able to watch four no-longer-at-the-Albion strikers, Rodriguez, Wood, Vydra, and Long, plus another ex-Albion man in Ben Watson, and hear their names, as that was the TV that got the sound feed played at the back of the Inglewood front bar.
It'll be interesting to see whether the high-press is merely a tactic that Bilic employs under high-wind conditions or something he carries on with into the Spring, but it was in evidence once again and, once again, gave us a lot of possession high up the field.
Not clear whether that tactic gave rise to the space foe the cross for the free-header, six-yards out and central, that Forest squandered inside ten minutes, though but they really should have gone ahead.
Then again Albion should have gone ahead just before the half-hour mark but Bartley headed over, albeit not from quite as easy a chance.
Five minutes later and a rather clumsy challenge (perhaps we excuse it as say the challenge of a centre-back doing a job at full back?) saw Forest get a useful free-kick opportunity but, after Forest failed to capitalise on that, the game moved up to the other end where Pereira picked a pocket before playing in Robinson, who sidefooted nicely around the keeper from around the penalty spot.
With both televised games being subject to a period of five minute s allowed for stoppages, my Burnley-supporting barman's bet - Burnley to win and Forest not to lose - was looking a bit shaky, what with Soton having cancelled out Burnley's "direct from a corner into the near post" opener, but he perked up when Albion failed to stop a cross being delivered from our left and Bartley lunged at one that SJ might have been able to clean up ahead of the waiting Forest striker, and put it into his own net.
Twenty minutes into the second-half and Forest returned the favour in wake of a spell of play around the Albion area in which the referee ignored a foul on a Forest player, allowing us to move the game up to the other end and give us what looked like being the barman-bet-busting goal, but, in a kind of parallel to the end of the first-half we ended up under the cosh as extra time approached and our ball-watching left an attacker all alone on the edge of the box, which turned out to be even more of a failing when the ball landed at that player's feet and he then had the time to set himself before rifling, unimpeded, past SJ for the equaliser, albeit perhaps not from as high-velocity a rifle as ex-Albion striker Vydra had got his shot-off from, when giving Burnley their winning goal on the other screen.
Leeds apart, the later games seem to have ensured that what was, for me, a dropping of two points, hasn't really cost us much, but the fact that we've conceded two at home, allied to the fact for all the fine work HRK does, back to goal centrally and out wide when working it forwards for us, we're still not playing with a goal-scoring striker, Robinson having scored after coming in off his wide-left role to make himself available for Pereira's pass, still has me worried that we could drop enough points to be caught, when, with a goal-scoring striker up there when Diangana and Gibbs on the left, and maybe even Hegazi at the back, return, I think we could walk it.
Indeed, as the Arsenal-supporting barman pointed out, it should almost be time to start thinking about who, from the squad that gets us to the verge of promotion, won't still be there at the start of next season!
For what it's worth, I'd have left HRK on to mop up any easy-out balls as Forest pushed for a leveller, rather than withdrawn him for a five minute cameo from Grosicki. Also interested to see if we keep both transfer window new-boys as "league players" or give them a run-out in the "FA Cup team"?
BAGGIES UNBEATEN IN FOUR AND SEVEN POINTS FROM PLAY-OFFS
Albion took the lead twice against Nottingham Forest at The Hawthorns, but each time the visitors pulled back level. The Baggies scored what appeared to be a valid goal in the dying seconds, TV replays showed that the ball had crossed the line, but it was disallowed by an eager linesman who flagged for offside.
Slaven Bilic picked an unchanged team after our two recent away wins.
The Baggies made a blistering start in the opening exchanges and continued to have the upper hand as the half progressed. It soon became clear that the visitors were targeting Matheus Pereira, with the skilful Brazilian ace being fouled repeatably, requiring long treatment after one particular assault. Nevertheless, in the 37th minute, it was he who robbed a hesitant defender and laid a perfectly weighted pass into the path of Callum Robinson who calmly stroked the ball past the keeper into the top right-hand corner of the net. We looked likely to go into half time with a one goal lead, before, in the 45th minute, a testing low cross from the left, was deflected by Kyle Bartley, at full stretch past a stranded keeper for the equaliser. Forest were level, despite failing to have a shot on target.
In a strange twist, Albion were to equalise with a remarkably similar goal to Forest. In the 65th minute, possession was gained deep in our half and moved forward swiftly through Robinson, Pereira and Krovinovic. He fed Livermore in the penalty area, who turned and crossed from the right and with Robson-Kanu waiting to pounce, Figueiredo intercepted, only to plant the ball into his own net. The Baggies continued to press and Samba, in goal for the visitors, made at least another two breathtaking saves to keep their deficit to one goal. Entering the last few minutes, Albion made the mistake of trying to use up time near the corner flag, instead of going for goal. Forest took advantage in the 91st minute, a cross from the right created havoc in Albion’s box and in the ensuing confusion, Matty Cash took charge and fired an unstoppable right footed shot into the roof of the net. The excitement was not over, in the final minute of added time, from a free kick wide left, the ball bobbled about until Robinson hit a shot from point black range. TV replays showed all of the ball had crossed the line, and nestled on top of a prostrate Bartley. Bizarrely, despite our player being in the back of the net, the linesman flagged for offside, and the referee who must have received a signal that a goal had been scored, upheld the decision.
There’s no doubt on the balance of play we deserved to win the game, the visitors scored with their only shot on target. The contribution of Pereira was immense, but he was upstaged by Callum Robinson who earns my man-of-the-match.
In 1892 Nottingham Forest were elected to Football League Division One, four years after Albion and Forest’s near neighbours Notts County became founder members of the Football League. Strangely, our first meeting on home soil, at Stoney Lane, on Monday 3rd April 1893, also finished 2-2, when Charlie Perry and John “Baldy” Reynolds, from a penalty, scored our goals. A year earlier we had met Forest in an FA Cup Semi-Final, which went to three games, two 1-1 draws at Molineux and a second replay at the County Ground Derby, which we won 6-2. Incidentally, famously, we went on to beat Aston Villa 3-0 in the 1892 Final at the Oval (always worth a mention)!
Overall, in league football, we’ve beaten Forest 52 times, losing just 40. There are only three clubs that we’ve beaten more times; Wolverhampton Wanderers 54, plus Burnley and Everton, both 55.
Team: Sam Johnstone; Dara O`Shea, Semi Ajayi, Kyle Bartley, Conor Townsend; Jake Livermore, Romaine Sawyers; Matheus Pereira (Matt Phillips 72), Filip Krovinovic (Rakeem Harper 90), Callum Robinson; Hal Robson-Kanu (Kamil Grosicki 84)
Subs unused: Jonathan Bond, Ahmed Hegazi, Darnell Furlong, Charlie Austin
Scorers: 1-0 Callum Robinson (37), 1-1 Bartley [OG] (45); 2-1 Figueiredo [OG] (65), 2-2 Cash (90+1)
ALBION FORMRATE: GOOD
MAN-OF-THE-MATCH: CALLUM ROBINSON
My run of attending consecutive competitive Albion matches, which began on 1st April 1991, now stretches to 1,412 games.
Of general interest may be the overall figures prior to the match at The Den:
Played 1409 Won 521 Drawn 367 Lost 521 For 1915 Against 1883.
You’ll notice that over a period of almost nineteen years, Albion have had exactly the same number of victories as defeats! Has all that support had no effect?
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