West Bromwich Albion 0 - Sunderland 1

Date: Saturday 13th April 2024 
Competition: Sky Bet Championship
(4-2-3-1) Palmer 5.9, Furlong 5.7, Bartley 4.7 (Ajayi, 45 6.0), Kipré 5.8, Townsend 5.7 (Phillips, 67 5.3), Chalobah 4.6 (Reach, 45 4.9), Mowatt 6.3, Fellows 5.9, Diangana 5.6 (Wallace, 61 5.2), Johnston 5.4 (Swift, 62 4.9), Thomas-Asante 2.3
Unused subs: Griffiths, Weimann, M'Vila, Yokuslu
Sent off: Thomas-Asante (44, 2nd yellow)
Manager: Carlos Corberán  5.1
(3-4-3) Patterson, Hume, Ballard, O'Nien, Pembélé (Alese, 71), Ekwah, Neil, Styles, Rigg (Roberts, 71), Bellingham, Clarke (Ba, 93)
Unused subs: Bishop, Silva Semedo, Burstow, Mundle, Aouchiche, Dack
Scorers: Ekwah (45)
Referee: Matt Donohue 4.5
Attendance: 25,366   Home Fans 6.2   Away Fans 6.3
Submit your ratings for this game by clicking here: Ratings submitted so far: 15

Brendan Clegg:

A very championship-esque afternoon for us. You think you’ve got things under control but then that bit of chaos engulfs you.

Some lessons for us but hopefully the main one is for Carlos - play your strongest team in every game.

He’d made a few changes but the biggest eyebrow raise for me was Chalobah in the middle. His own selection stats tell you that this was a gamble, and I’m not blaming the result on this or him but if you subtly set the tone of experimentation or not taking things seriously, it can propagate through the team.

Generally we were wine first half, well on top. Sunderland were absolutely terrible on the ball and defensive. My frustration was that we were too patient in midfield when, really early on, I’d have been moving it rapidly to Fellows and MJ and just letting them have a go. But then the flip was at the back we were sometimes to eager and hit 5 or 6 poor long passes that just allowed Sunderland to kill time.

The 5 minutes of madness were just that. I’d have to watch both BTA tackles back but the second was a silly thing to do. All I’ll say of the ref is that many other Sunderland repeated fouls went unpunished- he left it late before he then started dishing yellows out for everything and everyone.

But our most criminal act was conceding from a set play before halftime. I’ll need to watch it back to see how or why but it was basic. If we’d got to ht 0-0 I’d have backed us to get a point.

Being 1-0 down I’d have immediately got Jed on from Grady because we needed direct runners, and I’d have got Okay on for Chalobah as well as Semi for Bartley.

CC went for Reach in the centre. I know he’s got this cult following now and he does generally keep it well but come on. Okay keeps it well and could also drop in to allow Semi to carry it 40 yards.

I also thought the intro of Swift for MJ was premature and, although he wasn’t having a great game, took away pace and the ability to carry the ball, and the wildcard element that he might do something out of nothing.

We huffed and puffed, created a few moments including one Reach cross that someone should’ve got on the end of, and we made a good fist of it but we never got momentum up and Sunderland managed the game quite well. Given the time wasting and number of subs, the 4 minutes added on summed up the afternoon… unbelievable.

Three games and four points still needed after what’s been a bit of a poor run of results although we didn’t really deserve to lose this one.

  • Palmer - 6 okay but wanted too long when we were down to 10
  • Furlong - 6 Tried, moved into midfield well a lot
  • Kipre - 6 solid but visibly frustrated
  • Barts - 6 fine defensively but not good enough on the ball
  • Townsend- 6 Not a lot right or wrong.
  • Mowatt - 7 Looked refreshed and ran the show well
  • Chalobah - 6 Solid enough. Does he ever just grit his teeth and get on with it?
  • Fellows - 6 made things happen, we needed to use him more
  • Grady - 6 thought he was doing well but once we were down a man he had to be sacrificed
  • MJ - 6 Wasn’t all going his way but you’ve got to have players who take risks and who might lose the ball
  • BTA - 4 Honestly I’d have started Jed today but he was doing okay and working hard. A couple of very silly minutes.
  • Reach - 5 Didn’t look after it as well.
  • Semi - 7 Aggressive and quick. Did well.
  • Swift - 6 Some nice touches and use of the ball.
  • Wallace - 6 Ran about and also sensible on the ball.
  • Phillips- 6 Got him minutes but thought it ruined our balance and was a consequence of the earlier Reach into midfield sub. Got the ball in situations where a left footer could cross it but he had to check back.

Kev Buckley:

BTA's moments of madness may mean immediate Marshall recall?

Tempting to say that we can write this loss off by pointing out that all the ways which we have found to get us to where we are means that there are no longer any "must win" games and that a now constant shuffling of the pack is justified, on the grounds of having our best eleven fit and ready for the knock-out games we are all but shoo-ed in for.

The problem with that line of thinking is, that if you take out Chalobah and put Yokuslu into this starting XI, then it is our best, or certainly most likely, starting eleven, and, despite one of the most "starting on the front foot from the off" games we've seen this season, we didn't really trouble our "little to play for" visitors any more than we have sides against whom we have taken a much more slower approach to the first half.

And of course, courtesy of TWO rash, pointless challenges, made all the worse for BOTH being made in the opposition's half with absolutely NO danger needing to see "one to be taken for the team" by BTA, we ended up chasing the game in the second half with ten men, and so didn't even manage a shot on target whilst trying to salvage a point.

Furthermore, having gone down to ten men, we somehow managed to have all ten of them inside our penalty area to defend a first half stoppage time corner, and still allowed one of just six attackers in it all the space that they needed to be able to side-foot a ball that landed on the penalty spot, goalwards, unchallenged.

Corberan was quoted, in the media I've read since watching the game that, had we not gone down to ten, then he'd have expected us, having gone a goal behind, to still have come out with a point, and, if you look at the way we have picked up a lot of our points, it'd be hard to disagree with him: but is that the point?

If we can be that much on top, and still not obtain any more of a lead than we gain - assuming we gain a lead - when we don't try and be on top, then do we even have a plan in which we are leading at half time, unless it's against drop zone sides?

The half-time subs, I assumed, were probably made with injury concerns in mind: Chalobah having been down injured for some time after just ten minutes, and Bartley looking uncomfortable as the first half drew to a close, however a double substitution, on the hour - Wallace and Swift for Diangana and Johnston - then seemed to take off our two best threats?

The fact that we held out against a Sunderland side who were as on top in the second half as we had been in the first, might be seen as encouraging, but, of course, they were already a goal up.

As noted at the start though, we once again end the day fifth, so does the loss really matter? Of the "chasing pack", Middlesborough (3 to play: Max pts 72) would need to see a goal difference margin of 19 overcome, so that leaves the three sides with 4 games left to play: Hull (Max Pts 77), and Coventry and Preston (Max Pts 75) as the remaining concerns.

However, Hull and Coventry have to play each other and, of course, we have to play Preston on the last day of the season, although you would hope that fifth or sixth place would be guaranteed by then, along with some winning momentum.

Finally, in a earlier post to the BOING list this week, I opined that the addition of a clause, that would allow us to recall the no longer wanted on loan Callum Marshall, whose loan spell we had deemed surplus to requirements, presumably even to the extent of any further developing of him, beyond giving him three appearances, was just laughable.

Well, I guess if we now, on the back of losing BTA, immediately invoke that clause, before Marshall's even had a chance to show his WHU reserves team-mates and coaching staff what he's learnt in his time at the Albion, then our scouting/recruitment/coaching teams, who brought him in, couldn't really find a for use him, but then still managed to get that clause inserted, will have had the last laugh on me!