West Bromwich Albion 3 - Rotherham United 0
Another very assured performance in which we were comfortable victors but also looked to conserve and manage effort for the upcoming run.
Perhaps due to their performances, perhaps because he felt Rotherham would be very defensive, Corberan went with Dike and Rogic with Mulumby and BTA missing out and Swift playing in the centre of midfield.
Even though we might’ve scored almost straight away I thought we were a bit slow - Swift wanting a bit too much time and overall Swift, Rogic and Yokuslu are never going to win a relay race. Dike looked powerful but rusty still.
We were in total control though and the first goal was brilliant- Rogic with some great skill and Wallace so intelligently and calmly finishing on his wrong foot nice and early.
I did t feel the result was in doubt from there but it took a sharp finish from Grady with his first touch and a penalty 1-2 with the keeper from BTA to seal it.
It could’ve been more but we managed the gears. Corberan got his subs spot on and our quality was too good for them.
Another win and, without getting carried away, with this manager and squad it feels inevitable we’ll make the play-offs and we should be busting a gut to make an attack on the autos.
He’s improved every aspect - tactically, individually, set plays, defensive shape, offensive patterns, individuals, the collective, fitness, game management, movement off the ball constantly, crosses with a tactical aim instead of being hit and hope, even maximising the new subs rule to our advantage. It’s all there and frankly Steve Bruce should be embarrassed.
Coventry will be a sterner test but another we should look forward to.
Although I'd failed to get the pilot to announce the result of the Sunderland game over the tannoy, as the Dreamliner turned East towards Sri Lanka on its way back to Perth last Monday, mainly because the cabin crew, who attempted to relay my request up to the front, seemed a bit surprised to find out that there was any football going on other than the World Cup, I did finally manage to catch up with the game I'd missed whilst in the UK, and had ended up thinking that Corberan would have a hard time not starting with the XI that had effectively turned the Sunderland game around, and so it proved, with Rogic and Dike starting ahead of Molumby and Thomas-Assante.
If anything, in the way the game panned out, Rogic would find himself far enough ahead of Yokuslu that it often looked like a 4-1-4-1, although with the Australian so far forwards, he appeared to lessen the effect, on the game, of Swift, who would normally be performing the centre-mid link role. It's to be hoped that Rogic and Swift can gel, as Swift, when on song and playing an active role in the game is clearly an asset to the side.
With ex-Albion full-back Peltier deployed in a Rotherham back three, our plan to exploit the space out in the full-back area became apparent in the first minute as Wallace was played into space down our right and played in Dike, however his pull back, possible aiming at a late arriving Swift, was pulled too far back.
Albion were clearly not afraid to switch the ball back and across the field so as to maintain possession, but some of their passing, and this applied throughout the game was often lacking in its accuracy and crispness, not least a 7th minute crossfield ball by Furlong that went out for a Rotherham throw near our left corner flag.
Not just us whose passing was a little off though, something which the commentator noted, around the 10-minute mark, by pointing out that one such attempt had not been the first of Peltier's "aimless balls".
Shortly after that a nice one-two between Phillips and Swift, down our left once again saw the pull-back go slightly behind Dike, but he was able to tee up Phillips, on the edge of the box, and his shot forced the keeper into a save and gave us a corner.
Although I've alluded to a 4141, with Yokuslu in the screening role, he too was still getting far enough up the field to see a header at the near post, from another lovely delivery from Wallace on the right, go over the bar.
Just before the 20-minute mark, with the play compressed into the left-side of the pitch, Rogic flicked a loose ball over his head and into the space behind him, which allowed him to slide in Wallace, so far over to the left as to playing right through the centre, and he slotted a left foot shot between the keeper and the left-hand post to put us, deservedly, one up.
Albion were in control as the sides left the field at half-time, but shortly after the restart, Palmer had to be quick off his line to smother a shot as some nice passing from Rotherham saw one of their attackers played into the box behind our backline.
Ten minutes after the restart and Corberan made a couple of changes, Thomas-Assante replacing Dike, and Phillips's left-wing duties being given to our real left-winger, Diangana.
Whilst the latter's first touch, a side-foot into the net for our second goal, from a right-sided ball in from Wallace, after the right winger had been left all alone after not being offside from a throw-in, might be considered a masterstroke, it probably wasn't the immediate impact that the manager had had in mind, although Thomas-Assante's muscling into the box some thirteen or so minutes later probably was, the substitute striker being wrestled to the ground for a penalty, which he stepped up to take.
The penalty was so close to the keeper as to not have looked out of place amongst the woeful misses by the world's best, on the world stage, over the last few weeks, but here, with this penalty save only seeing the ball back in play, Thomas-Assante was able to spare his own blushes by tapping in the rebound for a 3-0 lead.
In between the two 55th minute subs scoring, we'd also seen TGH come on for Swift on 65, and we'd also see Molumby on for Rogic, and the slightly less obvious swap of Grant, normally happier on the left, coming on for Wallace, who'd had a major influence down the right, as a second double substitution around the 75-minute mark.
Given how in control of this one we were, it's very hard to work out how we started the game level on points with, albeit with a game in hand on, the visitors, but given that we pulled ahead of them, and may move even further away following the playing of that game in hand before the Xmas fixtures start, it's clearly not that long a bow to draw if we say that the new manager has managed to extract something closer to the actual capability within the squad than his predecessor.
For me, the starting XI here, but with Diangana in for Phillips to offer a "proper" left wing threat, and one of the injured, "first-choice" centre-backs coming back in for Pieters, not that the latter looked out of place in the little he had to do against Rotherham, is an eleven that should be capable, especially with a more "keep possession" style of play, of moving even further up the table at the expense of sides further up, although whether we had dropped too far back, before we finally realised the limitations we were operating under, to see us challenge for the top six, remains to be seen.
Not that I'll see it though, as despite the Coventry game being the only EFL fixture on Weds night, Kayo aren't showing it here.
Oh well, here's to another of Brendan's reports.
All text, pictures and graphics are copyright of BOING unless otherwise stated