It’s nice heading into a game safe and with no relegation worries on my mind. I was rather relaxed, although to get five points off Swansea was important and could be key come May, so the game had importance.
We started with a 4-2-3-1 formation – slightly risky given our performance at the Liberty in the first half using that setup. However, the lack of Shane Long meant said formation was probably for the best. Jones replaced the injured Reid, but such is our strength in depth I don’t think many had worries over the forced change. Brunt returned in the five man midfield with the usual Yacumbu partnership holding, on the other wing we saw Dorrans leaving Morrison to sit behind Lukaku.
Early possession was given to the Swans, but then again you have to allow teams like this the ball. We pressed well denying any clear cut chances, at the same time though, when we did force a turnover, the Welsh side kept their shape well and cut off options impressively stopping us getting at Vorm.
Ridgewell got away with a header back to Ben Foster as Michu failed to pounce on the risky ball back to England’s Number 1.
Michu was again a threat as Swansea broke away after dispossessing James Morrison on the edge of their own box. Within four passes Michu was in on goal from a Luke Moore pass and the second best bargain of the season curled an effort just wide. We were cut apart from our own box, McAuley got his distance from Michu all wrong and we should have been punished, but we weren’t.
Albion were playing some really lovely stuff, keeping the ball well and probing throughout. Lukaku fed Brunt who volleyed wide from a difficult angle, but credit goes to the young Belgium for finding his captain on the run with a perfectly weighted ball.
Morrison then unleashed a volley on Vorm’s goal as again Rom’ was provider for a midfielder. The forward dinked the ball over the Swan’s backline after a poor clearance, Mozza then connected well with the ball but couldn’t find a corner hitting the Dutchman in goal only for his downward parry to hit his own foot and away from the path of the onrushing Mulumbu who was pressing very high throughout.
Swansea then won a corner taken by De Guzman. The ball was whipped in well it and found former Villa man Luke Warm who managed to back header in past Foster. For the second game running he managed to produce a goal he didn’t really mean. Sadly it will mean nothing as Roy Hodgson wasn’t at the game to give the striker an England call up for the upcoming games against San Marino and Montenegro, they’ll be so relived!
I could knock Yacob for not doing better against Lethargically Warm but I won’t. He had him facing away from goal (albeit by fouling him) no-one could have guessed he would get such a connection on the header. Plus Yacob did pretty well after that in aerial duels, especially considering he was for the most part up against a taller Michu.
Anyway, Albion responded positively to going behind and Lukaku was no longer the provider as Ben Foster hooked a long ball towards Chris Brunt who, as always, hung in the air and flicked the ball on to Graham Dorrans and a low cross from the Scot found Lukaku who got in front of his defender, stuck a foot out and beat the suprised Vorm.
A half time tribute to East Stand season ticket holder Christina Edkins was a nice touch by the club and a heart warming applause from both sets of fans followed. My thoughts are with her friends and family at this time. I’m sure she’ll be looking down and smiling at this Albion side that has been produced in recent years.
I can’t say anything of real note happened until the penalty which was given away by Wayne Routledge. He first fouled Billy Jones outside the box and got away with it only to then foul Morrison inside the area and concede the spot kick. It was a penalty, he was nowhere near the ball and he bundled over the player.
Vorm then faked an injury to waste time and Lukaku was denied by him. Looking back, Lukaku should have gone the other side; Vorm went early but he was also off his line as the kick was taken – not to mention the encroachment from many which should have led to a retake, mind you they’re as rare as foul-throws these days!
Swansea didn’t cause us too many issues going forward. They had the ball but we kept our shape well and created chances ourselves stretching their defence with wingers and onrushing fullbacks. This led to our second goal when Jones won a corner after smart work down the right. The ‘lazy’ player Luke Warm went off before the corner kick was taken.
The ball was delivered and McAuley had a run and jump at it, heading the ball goalwards only for Rangel to deny the Northern Irishman his goal. But don’t worry De Guzman was there to mop up and head back into his own net for us. McAuley was mobbed by his teammates in celebration of his goal.
Needing a goal, Swansea went it a little more and Michu fired over from 18 yards but I can’t say Foster was overly worried.
Fortune came on and crossed a ball into the box but no-one was there. Overall a game of few chances was panning out, there were exciting moments but a lack of real, clear cut chances. Romelu took a ball down from a corner, touched it out of his feet, stuck it and was denied a corner, despite the ball clearly hitting the red shirt.
The defining moment of the game was the disallowed goal. Lamah went past Ridgewell like he wasn’t there and tried to cross the ball. The onrushing Foster was out of position and McAuley cleared the ball off Fozzie and straight into the path of Lamah who slotted home only to be denied by a late flag. The goal should’ve counted but we’ve had our moments this season where we’ve felt hard done by – Arsenal away and even Newcastle away – so these decisions do even themselves out.
It was a very good and exciting game ruined by some poor officiating. The Billy Jones ‘tackle’ on Michu in first half really riled me!
As for ourselves, we were fantastic, kept shape and discipline well. Maybe Mulumbu pressed a little too high but we got away with it. I thought Dorrans was fantastic attacking and defending and I do hope we can convince him to stay with us.
We’d much rather be playing an FA Cup fixture this weekend, especially as safety has been achieved, but again we showed with most of the side fit and well we have a Premier League pedigree and can produce some great, scintillating, football.
We’re now on to 43 points and initially went ahead of the likes of Liverpool: brilliant! Europe is available but probably out of reach. Let’s sit back and enjoy this side; we’ve longed for what we have now so let’s just appreciate its beauty. We’ve built this team the right way and it’s near faultless at times. Sadly they can show at times why they are West Bromwich Albion players and not Manchester United players.
Steve Clarke got it spot on tactically by the way. After some doubters had arisen from the woodwork I think it is important to give the boss some credit. He changed it when needed and set the stall out correctly with defensive shape and pressing in numbers. We’ve got one of the best young managers in the game here let’s let him build on the foundations he has been given. Over to Mr Garlick in the summer after we’ve achieved a nice points tally breaking that 50 point barrier Clarke set back in pre-season.
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Source: WBA MAD