West Bromwich Albion 4 - Barnsley 0
||Saturday 7th May 2022
||Sky Bet Championship
|(4-4-2) Button 5.8, Furlong 4.5, Ajayi 6.2 (Taylor, 62 5.9), O'Shea 6.2, Clarke 6.6 (Ashworth, 67 5.8), Phillips 4.8, Livermore 5.5 (Robinson, 71 5.5), Molumby 6.0, Reach 5.7, Diangana 5.6, Grant 5.8|
Unused subs: Palmer, Kipré, Castro, Gardner-Hickman
Manager: Steve Bruce 4.0
||Grant (37 pen, 60 pen), Reach (40 pen), Clarke (52 pen)
||Leigh Doughty 5.6
||21,515 Home Fans 5.9 Away Fans 4.8
Have to say I was underwhelmed with Bruce's selections again even with the absences. It would've been nice to see young Ashworth start at left back and Diagana get a full game on the left wing, with maybe TGH also getting in ahead of Reach. Despite the 'summer of change' rhetoric it was mostly the same old same old. At least we've finally gone to 4 at the back - something Bruce should've persisted with from the moment Livermore's ban was over and that ultimately cost us a play-off place more than anything else. I was not concerned for a moment about the result though as we were playing the youth and reserve team of one comfortably relegated. 4-0 was probably the minimum we should've expected.
But it wasn't great. We obviously dominated the ball in the first half but Grant couldn't make anything stick and his runs were poor, Diagana was in the wrong place, Reach has no pace, Furlong couldn't cross, Phillips was cautious and Matt Clarke played like a centre half at left back.
It took a very fortunate penalty - looked like a clean take of the ball to me - for us to get an attempt on target and open the scoring.
The second goal was a great finish from Reach to be fair to him but if a keeper can punt a ball the length of the pitch for Adam Reach to run in behind and flick home you know it's league 1 opposition at best.
Second half was a bit better in terms our passing and moving with both Grant and Clarke scoring well taken finishes following good moves. It should've been more with Grant hitting the post and missing a penalty, and others going close.
The subs were understandable when they did come and it did interrupt our flow. I couldn't really get too excited about any of it. The highlight of the game was probably seeing Zoltan Gera at half time.
A couple of weeks ago I genuinely found myself thinking about not renewing. The club's season ticket offers have changed my mind... credit to them for that and if nothing else giving me and countless other dads a way of 'entertaining' our kids for a season at such value.
I still have big reservations about Bruce. I think he's really gotten away with an awful record and it's criminal that candidates like Farke (would probably be my choice, has won the division the last 2 times he's been in it, on a budget, playing great football), Mowbray, Bilic, Dyche etc have not been sounded out. Those are just a few names - there are of course many more.
Some marks for the game and the season
- Button - 6 for the game and the season. Not outstanding but adequate and will do a job so we can spend money elsewhere. His kicks are less poser/more effective than SJ's.
- Furlong - 5 for the game and the season. Has got a lot of attributes but a good coach would've been drilling him on crosses not throw-ins.
- Ajayi - 6 for the game and season. Solid today. Clearly hated Valball and has looked pretty good under Bruce. A senior player for us now.
- O'Shea - 6 for game and 5 for the season. Injury was a blow, we missed his heart when he was out. Coming back nicely now.
- Clarke - 6 for the game and the season. Solid enough but was sometimes too erratic under Val's madness. Improved under Bruce and would be worth trying to sign if there's a deal to be done.
- Phillips - 5 for the game and the season. Played up front by mad Val when he really just needed to be put on the wing. I actually think we'd have scraped the play-offs without his injury and despite him sometimes being mouse-hearted for such a big guy, he's been a good servant. Happy if we can move him on or if we can get one more year out of his unreliable body.
- Livermore - 6 for the game and I'm going to go 6.5 for the season. But for the mad suspensions would've been a big shout for player of the season. Since he's been asked to play a more controlled role he's probably been the best midfielder in every game. Hopefully he's got one more promotion in those legs.
- Molumby - 6 for the game and 5 for the season. If he'd come through our academy we'd be quite happy but 900k is an outlay. Can certainly cover ground and has shown enough promise that there's a decent water-carrier type of player there.
- Reach - 5 for the game. Great goal but I thought he struggled otherwise. 5 for the season, I'm worried about him being Bruce's pet... had he just been used as left back/left wing cover he'd have been a great signing.
- Diagana - 6 for the game and 4 for the season. Hasn't played enough in his best position.. hasn't demanded enough of himself. We are not going to sign anyone better so we have to get him firing and that means playing him on the left wing in every game.
- Grant - 4 for the game and the season. I know, he scores goals and his 2nd today was sublime. But so much else was absolute rubbish and he missed a sitter and a penalty. Scoring less than 20 with the number of minutes he's had in a league of this quality is a failure. If we could get our remaining payments to Huddersfield back from someone I'd seriously consider it. Maybe Pep will see him as the missing piece of the champions league jigsaw.
- Ashworth - 6 Solid enough.
- Taylor - 5 I know he’s young but looks very ponderous to me. Loads of time to improve though.
- Robinson - 5 for this, he chased a lot though and looked like a player kicked up the arse. 4 for the season, as with others the coaches have failed to find a system to get the best out of him but he’s thrown the towel in too often. Won’t be surprised if Bruce tries to move him on.
And the others for the season:
- SJ - 5 has done okay for us in the difficult task of following Foster but I’ve never been fully convinced. Good shot-stopper but definitely loses concentration. Can’t see him starting regularly for a bigger club than us.
- Kipre - 4 An odd signing really, never looked solid and Bruce doesn’t rate him. One to move on.
- Bartley- 5 Defence hasn’t been a problem for us and he’s got leadership qualities but struggles on the ball and starting to look leggy. We’ve not really missed him when he’s been out.
- Bryan - Can’t really comment.
- Townsend - 5 Started well but form collapsed under the Ismael tactical chaos and brainless running. Building it back and we know he’s decent at this level.
- Mowatt - 5 Started well but looks very limited when we have lots of the ball. Another we haven’t missed when he’s been absent. I’d move him on.
- Castro & Fellows - Neither looked ready but hopefully they kick on.
- TGH- 7 Stood out a mile in midfield because he was capable of running and keeping the ball. I’m not convinced he’s a fullback but hasn’t been used enough by Bruce.
- Zohore - 2 I know we’ve no chance of shipping him out but he’s been pathetic.
- Carroll - 7 Proved his fitness and always showed fight but can’t run and we never played wingers with him bizarrely. If his 20k wage per week demands are true we made the right decision to walk away.
- Dike - 6 Showed lots of promise. We need him to spark into life quickly because we have everything riding on him.
- Ismael - 2 It looked fragile after 5 games, ropey after 10 and doomed by 15. A huge mistake.
- Bruce - 2 Hasn’t done any better. For all the issues, squad imbalance and lack of window, there was still enough in the squad and enough games to make the top 6 but he’s been too negative/conservative.
And that’s me for another season… probably the worst season in all the years I’ve been doing this. Thanks everyone for reading and allowing my indulgences, blind spots, negativity and biases. Let’s hope next season is better. Boing boing.
Thanks Brendan once again for your comments.Always concise and to the point .Hopefully next season will be more positive but Bruce will have have to be more proactive with his game management if our only to entertain us more.
Mr. Clegg... like Baggyjon before me, I want to thank you profusely for another season of your weekly match reports. I don’t get to many games but whenever I do, it makes me appreciate your reports all the more, as I realise how incisive and informative they are, telling it exactly like it is.
On our good days (too few this season), your report is always my first destination and I find myself checking the Baggies.com site repeatedly until it lands. On our (very) bad days, it has become the only report I read.
Thanks once again Brendan and keep up the good work.
Just wanted to add my thanks to those already given to Brendan on another season's worth of reports.
If Kayo had showed a few more full Albion games, I'd have chipped in more myself.
One thing I do have to differ with in Brendan's season summary marks though is in giving Livermore a 6.5.
"Livermore - 6 for the game and I'm going to go 6.5 for the season. But for the mad suspensions would've been a big shout for player of the season. Since he's been asked to play a more controlled role he's probably been the best midfielder in every game. Hopefully he's got one more promotion in those legs"
How you can discount the "mad suspensions" from your club captain, despite his attempts to embrace the referee at every opportunity, when his whole approach is based around being "the enforcer", but having legs that have already gone, leading to more poorly timed challenges, is a mystery to me.
Livermore is the Norman Stanley Fletcher of experienced-pro enforcers:
"Jake Cyril Livermore
You are an habitual enforcer, who accepts red cards as an occupational hazard, and presumably accepts suspensions in the same casual manner."
With apologies to Clement (no, not that one) and La Frenais