From My Seat: West Bromwich Albion (A)

By Ken Buckley 20/08/2016  35 Comments  [Jump to last]
West Bromwich Albion 1 - 2 Everton

A trip to The Hawthorns is a handy away day to a ground we have done rather well in over the seasons. Sunshine and showers and quite warm weather led to an array of garb being worn. Still, the away end filled up and the Royal Blue was the dominant colour, the Evertonian throats were where the songs and chants were coming from.

The teams emerged with us resplendent in yellow – no excuse for not passing to your own man. Mr Swarbrick was our man in the middle and on his whistle the mighty ‘Yellows’ kicked off. Within 5 minutes Barkley had run at their defence and was surrounded by four giants, he went down under the weight of tackles and we yelled ‘Penalty’ but our ref was not moved to agree. Just minutes later, a trademark long ball into our box sees Rondon ease past Funes Mori and in on goal but our keeper Stekelenburg made a fine save, blocking the ball for a corner with his foot. From the resultant corner, we concede the lead. The corner is played in long to the far post where McAuley rises highest and finds the net. We complain that our keeper was held on his line by Berahino but the ref waves protests away; I thought we should have been savvier.

WBA, encouraged by the goal, rained in more long balls and gained the odd corner but we dealt reasonably with the threat and tried to use the pace of Mirallas and Deulofeu for breakaways but they looked to be not strong enough and soon lost the ball and allowed another attack to develop. The impressive Barry did put one peach of a through-ball for Deulofeu to run onto but alas the ball beat him to the dead-ball line. On 20 minutes, we put a move of quality together started by Barry and, three passes later, the ball found Barry in their box with a shooting chance that he had to hurry and scuffed straight to the keeper. Within seconds, Barry made progress again so Berahino kicked him and got booked.

It was now looking like our starting formation of three at the back was just not working as both Deulofeu and Mirallas, our two spearheads, were just being smothered anytime they came inside – in fact, they were virtually spectators. Not bad out wide but just not physical enough when coming inside.

The half-hour mark was reached and WBA gained another corner and the away end was definitely edgy; the ball came into the mix but we saw the threat off and the faithful exhaled loudly and clapped and cheered... small things, eh. Some 5 minutes later, the manager had seen enough and Lukaku, who had been warming up vigorously, was readied to appear. He waited until we had completed the corner we had just gained. The ball was cleared and the next break in play, when Evans fouled Barkley, was the opportunity to send him on. I think most of us thought it would be Deulofeu or Mirallas going off; instead, it was McCarthy and it soon became clear why when we went to a back four with Holgate moving over one, Deulofeu in front of him and Mirallas behind Lukaku.

Holgate soon settled at right-back and was racing forward in a good move that was just about thwarted but, in the next move, Holgate was at it again when he raced forward and just outside the box he was fouled. Baines took the kick but skied the attempt. As we entered the last 5 minutes, we were already looking much better as a team and it was noticeable that Lukaku was engaging their big defenders more and helping others to run the channels.

In 2 minutes of time added, we proved we were better for the changes when a super move took place, the type of footy I love. A set of pinging passes: Baines, Barry, Mirallas, Barkley twice, and finally Mirallas, now in the box, to slot across the keeper and into the far corner of the net. Oh the celebration and ‘Oh Kevin Mirallas’ lasted until the half-time whistle and serenaded him off for his half-time cuppa.

Half-time: 1-1

An eventful half yet one that pleased the fans – not just for equaliser but for the manager to have the guts to make a sub to change the shape and turn a performance that was going nowhere into a far more coherent one. Players responded well too.

The second half started with our hosts in determined mood and in the first 5 minutes they had three ‘up an at em’ sorties which we dealt with except one that got through and the Stek made a big save. Then Holgate took centre stage again when he made two neat clearances and then raided forward at pace and gained a corner from which we gained another but both were defended away. WBA attacked and got near to our box where Jags made a great block on the attacker but our Ref deemed it to be a foul and WBA had free kick some 23 yards out. Someone took it but the Stek merely watched it past the post.

On the hour mark, we had a free kick which was cleared but we were soon back raiding and forced a corner. It was delivered to the back post where Holgate had found space and he hit the ball back toward goal, the ball hit the deck and bounced up and there on the other post was that man Barry to jump and head home — sheer pandemonium.

When all celebrations had settled down, Bolasie was introduced in place of Deulofeu. This Bolasie looks one bundle of powerful energy with a fine turn of speed, also seems quite unpredictable and has defenders dithering wondering what he might do... I got the impression even he doesn’t know what he is going to do. Will that make him doubly hard to mark?

70 mins and the game was even-Steven as we had something to hold onto and they needed to bomb on. We were looking to keep the back door closed and rely on breaks and from time to time Lukaku and Bolasie burst into life. Although WBA did more attacking, we were definitely dangerous on the break and, in one particular break, Bolasie got down the right and, with no apparent back-lift, put in a first-time cross that just invited Barkley to simply nod home, such was the accuracy. It was harder to miss than score but Barkley did the hard bit... quite amazing. That would have killed the game but hey ho; on we went with fans getting edgier and edgier.

80 mins and Williams is introduced in place of Mirallas who got a fine ovation and song as he left the pitch. The manager obviously upping the insurance policy as Williams went centre-back and Funes Mori moved to left-back with Baines in front. Clocks and watches seemed to have stopped as the last two seasons and a bit conditioning as to how we view the last knockings of games is at the forefront of many minds. Bolasie picked up a fine through-ball from Barkley and went at some pace into the box, he saw Lukaku better placed so he rolled it to him but WBA keeper Foster came charging out and Lukaku’s effort hit him. Let’s put that down as a great block.

Four mins of time added as we keep our hosts at arm’s length. I fight not to look at my watch but, as Holgate is adjudged to have handled just outside the box wide left, I crumbled and looked; we were in the last minute. Blood pressure off the scale for many, it couldn’t happen – could it? Their keeper races up-field to join the scrum, the kick is taken and partially cleared only to their keeper who shoots... WIDE!!! Whistle goes... What a happy band of Evertonians!!!

MotM – Holgate + Barry

Four points from two games and just a glimpse of how we might evolve under this management. I liked the way the game was approached in that you can have possession football but not exclusively, it can be wrapped in direct no-nonsense stuff depending upon circumstance. A win being the ultimate goal. I was impressed with the two lads who tied for my MotM. Barry will be harder to replace than many think. There are not many centre midfielders that affect a game like he can; when father time does catch up with him, I fully expect our new man Gana to be one that will miss him most.

Holgate seems to be coming on in leaps and bounds. Steady as a centre back and excellent at right back. He could be the man to save the club a lot of money in buying someone to push Coleman. If I was Coleman, I would worry a bit about my place when fit as this manager doesn’t seem shy in playing players if they are giving him what he asks for – and he sure is at the moment. If Stones was £50 mil what will City have to throw in for this lad?

Further news to cheer us on the way home: the BBC reported that ‘Big Ron’ had stated that ‘Big Rom’ was staying as well as reporting that Burnley had a good win today.

I hope our club has a good eleven days in the transfer market with their targets that will allow us to have a decent bedding in period and then for the manager to assess things and off we shop again next summer. It would be great to see a plan come together.


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