West Bromwich Albion 1 - Sheffield Wednesday 0
It was a big ask to hit the heights of Saturday but the reality is we didn’t need to, and we did just enough to win the game without really upping the gears.
Grady making way for BTA and Wallace moving right was the only change in lineup, although we definitely looked to be more 3-4-1-2 tonight than the flatter back four against Preston.
I thought we started really well and it was wave after wave of attack before Wallace got free on the right and picked out Swift who finished really well.
Wednesday refused to come out though and continued to get 11 men behind the ball and swarm Asante.
We slowed the tempo down and played with long periods of extreme patience before succumbing to wasteful impatience.
Swift made the most of the game, drifting deep or into pockets and doing lots of showy stuff without threatening save for one shit from distance.
We probably should’ve scored more but they defended quite well, and there were a few lapses or speculative efforts - one in particular that Palmer saved superbly.
I think for the last 15 we looked really leggy but Corberan unusually held off on the subs and then when he did make late changes they were a bit surprising.
Overall we’ve got to take the win but Friday night will be much tougher.
A word for the Wednesday fans, going through their own nightmares with a crackpot owner - a big, vocal following on a Tuesday night has to be admired.
Blues had a very good result so Friday should be a good measure of where we are.
There's definitely a joke in there about playing Wednesday on Tuesday – but to be honest, I'd play them any day of the week if all they have to offer is an 11 men behind the ball kick and rush experience. The fact they barely attacked until about 75mins despite being behind very early on spoke volumes. Whether that was a tactical decision, or simply a lack of real quality, I couldn't tell you.
Albion made one change, bringing in BTA for Diangana. While BTA was, sadly, broadly ineffective in this one, I'm not against saving Diangana's legs for the derby on Friday (which I won't be watching because I'm on a stag do with someone who doesn't like football. Boo.)
Wallace went back out wide due to the change, leading almost immediately to what was a lovely goal. Furlong played an inch-perfect pass into the channel for Wallace to run onto, going to the byline and then calmly playing across to Swift who slammed it home first time into the top-right corner from just outside the 6-yard box. Lovely, lovely stuff.
And from there, we absolutely dominated the first half (barring one excellent top-corner save from Palmer from a shot outside the box). We controlled the tempo – quick, slow, quick, slow, like a boxer ducking in and out of range. Little triangles of passing are starting to appear all around the park, you really love to see it. Shoutouts to Furlong, who caused a lot of problems by pushing so high up the pitch, Kipre, who often forayed forwards and played some searching balls into the frontmen, and our centre midfield duo. Yokuslu and Mowatt look like a really good pairing, and while I was concerned they might not have enough legs against teams who pack the midfield, they increasingly bring a lot of class and composure to our play.
For all the good play, alas, it was lacking a final cutting edge. A lot of crosses which were eaten up by the big Wednesday centre-halves. But even so, at half time, I was confident we'd go on and get more goals.
Alas, we didn't. And while we continued to dominate up until the 70ish minute mark, Wednesday started to grow into the game and actually put two passes together. Some nervy moments ensued, including a mix-up between Pieters and Palmer that nearly allowed their striker to walk it through on goal. Even when Wednesday went down to 10 men for the final 15 minutes, they still looked potentially able to claw back what they would have seen as a real smashed-and-grabbed point.
But ultimately we rode out the 6 minutes of extra time, and came away with a well-deserved 3 points. Townsend taking the ball into the corner at 90+4 could be seen in different lights: is that a negative, a hallmark of a team that didn't play well enough to put weak opposition truly to the sword? Or a team who, no matter the groans in the crowd, or the nature of the game, is absolutely desperate to win?
I'll save that debate for others. Up into the top 6 (5th on writing, before games played tomorrow) and onto the derby, with Birmingham also suitably buoyed by their 4-1 win this evening. Friday night under the lights. Ugh, I wish I was going.
STAT OF THE GAME:
I can't stress this enough, not to take away from a useful 3 points, but Wednesday did not play well. They had approximately 400 passes less than us, and only a 63% completion rate, compared to our impressive 87%. They were absolutely there for the taking tonight – and take them, we did!
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