West Bromwich Albion 2 - Norwich City 1

Date: Saturday 29th April 2023 Live on Sky Sports
Competition: Sky Bet Championship
Palmer 6.7, Furlong 5.9, Ajayi 7.4, Pieters 5.9, Townsend 7.8, Molumby 7.0, Yokuslu 6.4 (Gardner-Hickman, 76 6.1), Wallace 7.2 (Livermore, 93 6.3), Swift 6.6 (Bartley, 84 5.3), Grant 5.4 (Albrighton, 76 4.3), Thomas-Asante 7.4
Unused subs: Griffiths, Malcolm, Faal
Manager: Carlos Corberán  6.6
(4-2-3-1) Gunn, Aarons, Omobamidele, Byram, Giannoulis, Sara (Núñez, 81), Sørensen (Hayden, 65), Marquinhos (Rowe, 65), Gibbs (Pukki, 64), Tzolis (Idah, 65), Sargent
Unused subs: Krul, Hills
Scorers: Townsend (45), Wallace (56)
Referee: Robert Madley (West Yorkshire) 6.1
Attendance: 24,638   Home Fans 7.6   Away Fans 5.4

Ancient Baggie:

Absolutely delighted for the team and the manager, good to sign off at home with a win and a really gutsy performance. Whatever happens next week I think with the start we had under Bruce and the amount of injuries we've picked up over the last few months to still be in the conversation with one game to play is impressive.

I thought Townsend, Ajayi and Thomas-Asante all put in great performances that made me feel they're proud to wear the shirt. Townsend free kick "who knew!" Two great goals and some passion that'll do for me. We're still carrying some dead wood so I hope we can keep Corberan because I think he will address that and improve us given a bit of time and backing.

It's probably still going to take a miracle to get into the playoffs but an afternoon out at Wembley next month is still a possibility.

Kev Buckley:

The fat lady stands up to sing: sits down again - part unvoiced

With the early, and indeed, previous night's, results not having gone for us, both sides started the game knowing that anything less than all three points would mean that their season was mathematically over.

Corberan switched back to the 4231 but also chose to start Yokuslu, presumably having the conviction that, for that position, 70 or so minutes of the Turk being on the pitch was better than anyone else without the fitness concerns, and that pragmatism saw Gardner-Hickman benched.

Norwich's recent form belied their position but they would have the first shot on four minutes, as Pieters was turned inside in the box, but despite having made the space for the attempt, the attacker pulled his effort wide.

Both sides seemed to be trying to win the game rather than sit back and nick something on the break, and four minutes later Swift would play in Thomas-Assante for a one-on-one with the Canaries keeper but, as has been the case for much of our season, the final effort failed to match the build up and BTA's shot was made straight at the keeper.

It was a similar story three minutes later when, after some excellent approach work, the final ball lacked both pace and direction and so Swift's resulting header did as well.

I felt Albion, albeit perhaps not as much as they had been against the Blades, were the better side and around the thirty-five minute mark, Ajayi would power a header from a corner, obtained after good work by Molumby, towards the middle of the goal, which required the keeper to claw the ball away from right under the bar.

Albion seemed to be turning up the pressure a notch and after Ajayi had strode into midfield to win a tackle, and play Wallace in behind, Swift's goalbound shot was blocked back out to the right but the second cross evaded everyone in the box, with Molumby's attempt to get his head to it, the closest anyone came.

Whilst the Norwich goal, when it came with around five to go, was slightly against the run of play, it was a well executed counter attack that highlighted, for me, one of our biggest problems all season, in that, although we seem capable of moving the ball around well and playing one-twos to get past the blocking defender, various players often get into situations where there's no obvious ball on, usually because of a lack of movement ahead of them, but then decide that they can dribble past one, often two, opponents rather than look to re-cycle the ball.

The stark reality is that we have very few players who can dribble, and so we have often coughed up the ball when players, who can't, try do so, and so it was here, with Townsend, well advanced down the left failing to get past two players almost on the left corner of their box and allowing Norwich to come away with the ball, with Albion players well upfield, and away from a starting position for their defensive shape.

Norwich first shifted it right into the space there and finally put a cross in which found a player at the back post, where, in a normal passage of defensive play, Townsend would have been. The player still had to beat Palmer at his near post, but did so coolly.

Unlike the aftermath of the goal against Sheffield Utd though, Albion continued to push and it would be Grant, who had drifted in centrally, who would have two goes at trying to create something from a ball that just wouldn't drop, and would draw a foul on the right corner of the box, as the player with whom he contested the second waist-high ball, kicked him underneath his right leg. If Norwich were not best pleased with the awarding of the free kick in the first place, claiming that both players had raised their feet, their displeasure rating reached the maximum as Townsend scored his first goal at the Shrine, by curling the dead-ball into the far top-corner with the keeper grasping thin air.

The second half started a bit more scrappily than the first and so when BTA fell over under pressure to hold up play, it appeared as though we were about to turn the ball over just inside our own half, however, he managed to effect a tackle whilst prone on the ground and then showed great desire to get up, collect the loose ball and drive forwards towards the left corner of the Norwich box.

Unlike Townsend's foray down the left in the first half, BTA had an option, as Townsend, as he so often has this season, overlapped so as to be free, in behind the back line. BTA teed him up and the on-field captain delivered the kind of cross, from the left, that only a natural left-footer can.

Molumby, breaking onto the six-yard line failed to make contact, and probably a good thing that he did, as the ball then travelled across to the far post where Wallace was arriving, and side-footed it home.

As the hour passed BTA would spin off his marker just inside our half, advance just into theirs and, rather than drive on totally unsupported, try to chip the keeper. The effort just went over the bar, although the keeper probably had it covered had it dropped a bit further.

Norwich's response was make a quadruple substitution, including their one-time favourite son, Temmu Pukki, not that he's been much in favour of late, during their recent run of poor form.

Corberan would wait until the 75th minute to bring on TGH and Albrighton, the former for Yokuslu and the latter to once again move Wallace over to the left - you need to stop doing that Carlos - as Grant, now some twenty-three appearances without a goal, made way, clapping to all parts of the ground as he did so.

Bartley for Swift, towards the end of the next ten minute period, seemed to set us up in a see-the-game-out 5-4-1, and see it out we did, even to the extent that Livermore, another one possibly playing his last home game, would get brought on. and take the captain's armband. with less than two minutes, of five already allowed for stoppages, on the clock. That two minutes got stretched out to four but we still saw it out.

Despite the euphoria of the win that sees us two points off sixth with just the one to play, there are still so many permutations by which a "Semper Te Fallant" may come about, no least with Blackburn having the chance to move ahead of us, although remaining catchable, when they play an already-guaranteed-a-play-off-place Luton on Tuesday, but then having to play Millwall on the final day.

Should Rovers beat Luton, then we'd be at the bottom of the six teams that were still in with a chance of making the last two play-off spots, although everyone else, bar Coventry, would go into their last game knowing, along with us, that they'd need to win in order to guarantee their chance, as a draw might not be enough for them.

With such a potential feast of attacking football being required in so many games, what are the chances of the club with only one recognised striker ending up with all the results going their way: I guess we'll see?

Brendan Clegg:

I thought we deserved that victory and did just enough to keep our season alive going into the final game… albeit regretting so many "if only" moments.

No real arguments with the starting lineup as Swift came back in, although maybe Bartley might’ve got the nod over Pieters.

With both teams needing a win it was a fairly open ten minutes during which we looked threatening but got caught high up the pitch, Norwich really should’ve punished us.

After that we settled to look to be in control and really should’ve taken the lead through BTA when he was out through, but he smashed it straight at the keeper.

In my opinion, much like in the last 2 games, there were openings for us to attack but we repeatedly took the conservative option and came backwards during the half.

After another period where we looked to make our pressure count, Townsend lost the ball high up the pitch and Norwich countered in a few passes to score with the goal ultimately finished from our vacant left side.

It looked a big ask to salvage anything at that point because we rarely look like or attempt to actually score goals - genuinely CC is happy to win every match by 1 goal so goal difference is never going to be a strength for us.

Thankfully, Townsend put a free kick top bins on the stroke of half time. The ideal time to score and finished with such aplomb that you wonder why he hasn’t taken a few more.

We came out after the interval with our tails up although Swift had an absolute nightmare 5 minutes of falling over the ball. We were aggressive and pressed them everywhere - and ultimately our goal came from BTA not giving up a lost cause, winning it and the Townsend storming up to support before squaring for Wallace to slam home.

After that it was all about control. I thought we managed the game well and I can’t recall any moment where I felt Norwich threatened. They made a load of subs but we kept Pukki in harmless areas, and our subs wound down the clock.

Livermore, a good servant and clearly a popular guy off the pitch, got a fair reception for his final bow with a minute to go. A nice touch of sentiment from CC there.

The playoffs remain unlikely but possible and fate/the fixtures computer have setup a final day of high stakes and potential permutations. Let’s see!

  • Palmer - 7 Another for pretty faultless performance
  • Furlong - 6 Generally okay.. after a wobbly start.
  • Ajayi - 7 Has hit some serious form. Dominant.
  • Pieters - 6 Calm on the ball but is vulnerable in the air.
  • Townsend - 7 Great goal, great assist, gave it everything.
  • Yok - 6 Generally in control and solid.
  • Molumby - 6 Usual energy and commitment
  • Wallace - 7 Best game in a while and took his goal well. Provided more supply.
  • Swift - 7 Constantly involved and up for it. Created things.
  • Grant - 5 I’m afraid the quality and positional sense were miles off what is needed. Can’t recall a contribution other than a couple of decent cross field passes.
  • BTA - 7 Worked so hard and did so much good. Before his suspension he found goalscoring momentum. If he can pick that up again next year we’ve got a great player here.

Subs all kept to the plan and snuffed out any danger from Norwich, who I thought were poor and predictable.

Ian Lester:

I would like to thank the contributors for their reports through the season. I enjoy reading everyone's thoughts and ideas on the match and whilst I don't always agree I appreciate their views.

Long may it continue and if Imwas any good at remembering all the moves etc would possibly write also. Furthermore my English grammar is useless but too old to learn now.

Keep up the good work and hope it has to carry on for a few more weeks albeit unlikely.