West Bromwich Albion 0 - Sheffield United 2
I was really optimistic setting out to the ground for this one - our new manager being bright and articulate in his press conferences and saying all the right things.
That optimism took a dent when I saw the starting 11. One centre back, Grant up front, not entirely sure how we’d line up but looking like the dreaded 3-4-3 we couldn’t perform in when Ismael loaded us up with CBs.
And then I felt even worse on kick-off seeing Wallace and Diagana both playing narrow off their wrong foot. We’ve seen this and it doesn’t work. Add to that Furlong at centre back. I was worried. We looked small and unbalanced.
After a disjointed start we were behind after 5 minutes again - crap defending and enough Sheff Utd players lining up to fluff at the first attempt and still score.
And it got no better. Utd looked a threat when they attacked. I can only recall one situation when we looked like scoring - Phillips being sent through wide and fluffing a simple cut back to a jogging Grant when really he should’ve just smashed at goal.
A short while later I got sick of Phillips walking back from an offside position when we had the ball and shouted to that effect - I got told I was taking b*locks by a fellow Smethwick ender, and lost my rag a bit... but I still feel now that if fans are accepting or excusing lack of application in the first half by a 31 year old then we’re heading for relegation.
More casual defending with no nous led to a second very simple goal.
It was so early we should’ve changed it then, but half time came and went, as did more Utd chances before Swift and Mulumby came on for Livermore and Wallace. The failing system remained the same although Phillips pushed up more than Wallace had been.
Utd eased off and we were marginally better but it was a stroll for them.
BTA came on for TGH with 10 to go and a bit of movement up front led to a few chances being created. We should’ve scored but didn’t. Familiar?
I’m still right behind Corberan and he needs time but he’s got to learn quickly the things that most fans already know.
I sincerely hope we go back to playing Diagana and Wallace high and wide on their strongest feet with BTA up front and TGH with any 2 others in a midfield 3 on Tuesday night - and Kelly had to come into the team until Ajayi is fit.
We’ve comfortably lost 3 on the spin with 3-4-3, it has to go. We desperately need a result.
Corberan has a big job to do. It was fairly obvious from the starting lineup that he hasn't had time to watch many of the previous games this season. The one thing you have to have in the Championship is players who can run and compete for 90 minutes. We have a squad who think they are better than they are and they're just being out worked every week. Hopefully he'll learn quickly that Grant is a liability and Livermore, Swift, Phillips, Reach, Furlong are only 30 minute players.
Most of these players have been awful under 4 different managers so I'm really hoping he'll be the new broom that changes things but we'll see. Personally I'd settle for a finish in the bottom half whilst developing some of the youngsters but I don't think that's going to happen.
Anybody who thinks this squad is too good to go down is deluding themselves.
Corberan watches replays, then sees everything replayed
Given that Corberan was reported to have watched every Albion game this season, it was a little surprising to see the first formation he tried be a 343, although much more surprising than that was the sight of Furlong on the right of the back three, behind two right wingers in Phillips and Wallace. Slightly more conventional over on the left flank, with Townsend ahead of Pieters and behind Diangana, whilst the central spine of the team comprised, from back to front, O'Shea, Livermore, Gardner-Hickman and Grant.
The early stages did see Albion attempting to keep the ball and, whilst they clearly weren't looking for the long ball, there was one as we looked to catch the keeper off his line within the first two minutes, however that would be the first of many "shots off target", with the first of many "failure get a shot off" efforts coming five minutes later, when Phillips got away down the right but neither managing to shoot nor pull the ball back.
At least the stadium clock had moved past the ten-minute mark before we fell behind, Townsend losing the man behind him at the back post, and although the resultant cross was missed, centrally, by one SheffU attacker, a second got ahead of Furlong to take the ball back into the middle and fire home.
Around the quarter hour, some great stuff from Diangana, allowed him to play in Phillps but the cross wouldn't be met by anyone, a similar fate to that of a cross from TGH five minutes later, shortly after which we went further behind.
One SheffU player brushed off Furlong in the centre circle and freed two attackers to run right at the heart of the Albion defence, which backed off, and off, long enough to allow a shot from the edge of our box to be curled beyond the dive of Palmer.
At 2-0 up, SheffU seemed happy to let Albion have a lot of the ball, and as the half-hour approached, we had a long throw from the right flicked on but with no second touch, and then both a cleared cross and the resultant corner failed to find an Albion player.
Diangana, looking good when on the ball, but less good when finding little movement ahead if him, gave up looking and tired a shot from distance, but that was off target, but did then draw a foul from his marker as he threatened to get away. The free-kick came to nothing though.
Albion's first, and possibly only, shot on target in the first half came after a bout of head tennis eventually fell to Phillips, with his goal-bound strike at least requiring a save from the keeper.
With Corberan resisting the opportunity to change things at the break, it was perhaps no suprise to see things continue in the same vein after it, with Diangana doing good stuff again to allow Phillips to set up Grant, who then failed to get a shot off, before TGH got mugged centrally before the SheffU ended up one on one with Palmer but going wide enough to see the shot end up in the side netting.
Just before the hour-mark, the changes began, with a double swap of Swift on for Livermore and Wallace off for Molumby, the latter of whom would have a shot off-target within five minutes, before Diangana, once again, looked good on the ball but the cross was just ahead of Grant.
Albion chose to play on after a SheffU played had pulled up with a hamstring injury, but the passage of play against ten men merely saw Swift putting one off-target.
Reach for Townsend, around 75 minutes, suggested that Corberan had, when watching our past games, unearthed some previously unseen footage, whilst Asante for TGH, with about five to go, felt like desperation, and probably had little to do with a goose-stepping Phillips getting forward down the left and putting in a cross that no-one in the crowd of bodies got a touch on, before it pretty much emerged and hit Furlong, arriving at the back post, rather than him really having time to control what became another off-target attempt.
There'd be one last goalmouth scramble that, had the ball crossed the goal line during it, might have made the time allowed for stoppages interesting, but it didn't and so it wasn't.
It'll be interesting to see, once Corberan has reviewed the footage of this one, whether he thinks the 343 is to be persevered with, or whether he gets to show us something else.
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