Ouch. If there’s one thing I hate more than being robbed blind by a gutless referee and/or the woodwork it’s losing a game and having no real complaints. Actually there is. It’s losing a game having seen the ref bottle his one real decision, one which could have turned the game, and nevertheless having no real complaints.
I don’t care about the platitudes, or the fact that West Brom looked to me like the best team we will play this season. Good game, credit to The Championship and all that, both sides depleted by injuries and suspensions. We lost. Overall it’s not a disaster. But there were enough chances going begging for both teams to feel they could have won with something to spare, we get back to 2-2 and can't close out the game, and the fact is that every goal was a defensive disaster which better teams would avoid. They were missing key players and their sum of the parts proved better than ours.
The team? Well, with Yassin seemingly injured Semedo went to right-back, with Chris Powell having recovered sufficiently to take his place on the left. Bougherra came in as expected for Fortune, while Thomas took his place on the left and Reid moved back into the centre, Ambrose moving back out the right (having enjoyed his most effective game so far this season behind Iwelumo). It was 4-5-1 with Holland providing the defensive protection and Reid and Zhi hoping to get forward.
What were the problems? Semedo looked decidedly uncomfortable at right-back, with the pace out wide causing him problems. Powell I thought was targeted by Ipswich last week and was tested this time as well, on the ground and in the air. Weaver doesn’t dominate his area. All of these factors West Brom played on. They had done their homework – and our shortfalls led to goals. So did theirs.
1-0. Thomas does down the left and gets the better of their right-back. But having shown Thomas the outside their defender allowed him to check back, even though he should have known that Thomas would not have relied on his left foot. Good cross, good header from Iwelumo. But surely their manager would have told their right-back just don't let him check back on to his right foot.
1-1. West Brom showed that if you stand off them they can play through you. Three passes and with each one our defender was a few yards away from their player. It looked like a good goal for the purists, it was a bad one for us to concede as we sat and watched them play.
1-2. Gera had the beating of Powell in the air through the game. Hoist the ball in that area and watch him get on the end of it. Weaver didn’t come for a long ball to the far post and Gera scored.
2-2. Good work by Varney (on as a sub) and the pullback left McLeod to put in a shot that their keeper should have saved. He didn’t.
2-3. Gera had the beating of Powell in the air through the game. Hoist the ball in that area and watch him get on the end of it. Weaver didn’t come for a long ball to the far post and Gera scored.
2-4. Corner. Scramble. Kevin Phillips scored.
In between Zhi was played through on their goal and was clipped from behind. It was either a yellow for Zhi for diving or a free kick for us just outside the box and a red card for their defender. The ref waved play on. I thought it was a foul, which would have left us playing against 10 men. Varney missed a great chance. And we could easily have conceded more. West Brom’s movement and tempo were better than ours. It was a game we could have avoided losing, might even have won, but can have no complaints about losing. It should serve as a wake-up call to get better.
Weaver: 5/10. Made saves but West Brom exposed his inability to dominate his box. He flapped at one that nearly cost us a goal and didn’t come for either of the two balls to the far post that Gera scored from.
Semedo: 5/10. Looked uncomfortable and was eventually moved back into midfield as Sankofa came on for Reid.
Powell: 5/10. Two high balls and two goals. Some redress with one cleared off the line. But West Brom did their homework and tested Sir Chris.
Bougherra: 6/10. Nothing terrible, but there’s some collective responsibility.
Sodje: 6/10. As above.
Thomas: 7/10. Had the beating of his defender and with more support could have been a match-winner.
Holland: 6/10. With five in midfield West Brom still managed to play through us. Not a bad game.
Reid: 6/10. Some good moments, nearly a great goal. But he too must take some of the blame for their ability to run through us.
Zhi: 6/10. Anonymous in the first half, featured more in the second. It was his burst through that should have changed the game.
Ambrose: 5/10. Back out wide and back looking peripheral. Pardew pulled out a tactical plum last week against Ipswich, but accommodating Thomas and Reid meant a wide role and a poor game.
Iwelumo: 8/10. Took his chance well and worked effectively before an ankle injury meant substitution before half-time.
Subs: Sankofa/McLeod/Varney: Sankofa looked more comfortable at right-back than Semedo. Varney was lively but missed a sitter. McLeod scored but still looks unconvincing.
Ref: 0/10. One decision to make and he blows it.