West Bromwich Albion 2 - Newcastle United 3
I can't have been the only person who was a little disappointed with the number of changes we made in a winnable cup tie at home - feels like an opportunity missed.
My vantage point was right behind the home dugout in the West Stand and I thought we started brightly enough creating decent openings.
However as the game really got into flow our tactics began to look questionable. Brunt, rather than sitting deep with Barry 10 yards in front of the back four and pinging early forward passes as he had done, instead seemed to be leading the midfield press. Basically he isn't quick enough to do that, it knackered him out and as a result when he did get the ball he was tired and careless with it.
Barry was an even bigger worry. Without Brunt right next to him he had too much ground to cover and was often a sitting duck.
We got away with a couple of big chances and Newcastle hit the bar before it looked like we'd managed to ride the storm a bit - but then they scored from a goal that epitomised Barry's physical limitations.
We pressed quite well and, upstairs, Barry completely read where the ball was going and darted in to snatch it, but his legs let him down and despite knowing exactly where the ball was going and their player falling over he couldn't get there - suddenly they were through us with no protection. O'Shea was naively square, Harper didn't bust a gut enough to come and cover the space and Almiron was too quick for Bartley as he was played in to finish well.
We rallied a bit and had some decent moments again ourselves before conceding a terrible goal right on half time to effectively end the tie. I'd say it was most of the team at fault - playing like the whistle had already gone and then getting in they way of each other when it was too late.
I was amazed Barry came out after half time and his 'participation' in that cycle of warm-ups they do in the cones when they come out looked like his lower body hadn't bothered to leave the dressing room.
It was little surprise that we conceded again right away - Newcastle were walking through us at times.
Bilic made the sensible call to withdraw Barry, drop Brunt into the deep role and get Krovi on and the change was immediate. Brunt continued to find Krovi with forward passes and he once again showed how great he is at receiving the ball on the turn and linking play - getting Edwards into the game a lot more and creating chances including an effort from the edge of the box himself.
We began creating chances and good situations but unfortunately Austin was nowhere near up to speed and missed the opportunity for a couple of six yard tap-ins as the ball went across the box. He made way for Zohore who looked understandably rusty but began putting his body about effectively even if he could have worked a bit harder.
Edwards by now was showing real threat hitting the bar and then setting up a sitter of a header that was cleared, before sending the same cross over for Ken to cushion nicely for a Phillips smash.
In the last 20 minutes we probably created enough chances to win the tie but our finishing wasn't sharp enough and Newcastle managed to clear things off the line and just about sneak through. What might have been.
There were some positives in the match but I'm gutted we're out. If we don't win on Saturday that'll turn anger quite quickly!
Strange game. The lineups showed that Newcastle wanted it more than us but I actually think it was still there to be won. They looked a very average Championship standard side. As lots of people have already said unfortunately it was a game to far for Barry and perhaps Brunt as well and Austin isn't far behind them.
If we take the positives I think both Harper and Edwards are growing into really good players and O'Shea looks more composed week by week. It was good to see Gibbs back, he just needs a few games. Once Krovinovic came on there was pretty much one side in it but the goals came too late. Going forward we need to hope Robson-Kanu stays fit because there's nothing to replace him here. Harper and Edwards should be making the bench at least every week ahead of the usual suspects.
So we move on hopefully with the promotion push and if Newcastle and West Ham are the standard of the lower half of the premier league then I feel more confident about our survival should we get there.
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