Stoke City 1 - West Bromwich Albion 2

Date: Saturday 15th April 2023 
Competition: Sky Bet Championship
(4-2-3-1) Bonham, Hoever, Wilmot (Jagielka, 41), Fox, Sterling, Pearson, Laurent, Brown, Smallbone (Thompson, 74), Campbell (Tymon, 74), Gayle (Powell, 70)
Unused subs: Fielding, Baker, Celina
(4-2-3-1) Palmer 6.6, Furlong 4.0, Ajayi 5.7, Pieters 5.9, Townsend 6.1, Molumby 7.7, Chalobah 4.6, Wallace 5.3, Swift 4.4 (Albrighton, 81 3.7), Thomas-Asante 6.7, Dike 4.6 (Grant, 44 5.1)
Unused subs: Griffiths, Rogic, Livermore, Ingram, Andrews
Manager: Carlos Corberán  6.3
Scorers: Brown (30); Molumby (59, 69)
Referee: Andy Woolmer 5.9
Attendance: 23,486   Home Fans 4.7   Away Fans 8.1

Brendan Clegg:

A pretty gutsy and long awaited win that just about keeps our season alive with 5 games to go.

The starting lineup was as strong as it could be given the injury update earlier in the week - Molumby making it and Palmer back in goal. BTA also starting on the left and Dike up top - so arguably our best available 11 shoehorned in to a system to accommodate them.

After a bright start I’m afraid to say we were really poor first half. It wasn’t a great game and the referee was absolutely terrible for both teams but our quality was really really poor.

Dike was again miles off it, failing to win anything or hold anything and never looking a threat in behind. Swift - who has the easiest role in the team when playing in the hole - strolling about and not busting a gut. Wallace’s touch totally deserting him and him looking a pale shadow of his earlier season form. Chalobah giving the ball away so cheaply through sloppy or short passes - sometimes after doing really well to win it or look after it. I also thought Pieters was constantly bullied by them. BTA worked hard but constantly gave away cheap fouls to stall any momentum or flow. Finally, just about every player on both teams managed to slip over so the pitch was also over watered and soft. Their goal came from us being on a break but Swift cheaply and awfully gifting it to them and then it was so so basic… out to the wing, free cross, free header, Townsend tried to get back to stop the header but it should’ve been dealt with by the LCB who was nowhere.

We didn’t look like even having a shot on target and, with the play stoppages and extended extra time underway, our afternoon got worse with Dike looking like a serious injury. Grant came on and we limped to the interval.

This was it for our season then. Have a right bloody go and risk losing 2 or 3, or go out with a whimper.

We came out in what looked to me like a more 4-3-3 with Grant and Wallace right up with BTA and the positive thing was how aggressive we were... Ajayi smashing into every header, Molumby winning every second ball, Chalobah going in quick and hard… we began to win the fights and just turn it into their half much quicker. BTA was a constant pest occupying their back line and winning stuff, Wallace worried more about application than anything else and Grant carried more of a threat than Dike through pace and playing on the shoulder, stretching them.

The latter should’ve scored when put through but at least drew a save from the keeper but from the resulting corner we hit the bar and then Molumby managed to follow it up to nod the ball over the line off the underside of the bar. We kept at it and it wasn’t pretty but after more pressure we managed to get a similar second about 15 minutes later, again Molumby showing the desire to get in the box and then effectively win a 50/50 second ball and get it over the line, just like he would in the centre circle.

The key now for us was to keep it up and push on for the final 15, not back off and grind it out. I thought we did that and I can’t recall Stoke having a threat other than a ludicrous free kick on the edge of our box- given for foot high- because our player kicked the ball and it hit an opponents head. We employed some old school Pulis gamesmanship to destroy the match and waste time… but then Stoke had done that earlier too.

In the end we showed the kind of grit and pragmatism in a single half that had been lacking for weeks, and that doubtless would’ve yielded 4 or 5 more points and probably a playoff spot. At least it’s there and perhaps the Dike injury was the extra bit of adversity we needed to coax it out but, boy, did it need some coaxing. And won’t it be a sickner if we miss out as a result?

  • Palmer - 7 Delighted he’s back. Just more vocal and we immediately felt stronger defending set plays.
  • Furlong - 6 Did okay. Bought a lot of fouls.
  • Ajayi - 7 Attacked everything with desire and there were glimpses of him carrying the ball out at pace instead of playing daft or backwards passes.
  • Pieters - 6 Poor first half but better after the break.
  • Townsend - 6 Did okay again, tried to get forward.
  • Chalobah - 6 Redemption for the second half. Very frustrating… needs to be more assertive and quicker in his passing.
  • Molumby - 8 Character and desire got us the win even though he’s probably playing in pain. Effort can never be questioned.
  • Wallace - 5 Was better 2nd half. Just needs to stay high and wide and focus on crossing the ball again.
  • Swift - 5 Lack of application in our situation is really starting to annoy me. Needs to show a lot more.
  • BTA - 6 Effort as always and his running causes problems. Needs to knock the cheap fouls on the head… but if a non-league habit to drop.
  • Dike - 4 Feel sorry for him but equally I thought he was poor and predictable. So easy to play against. Too nice when he should be horrible.
  • Grant - 6 He helped to stretch them and didn’t come into pointless deep positions. Also he will shoot... something we need more of.
  • Albrighton - 5 Did okay as we went back to 4-2-3-1… was sensible with the ball and running the clock down.

Hopefully we can patch a side up for Tuesday... I wouldn’t mind the 4-3-3 again.