I doubt that any Albion fans really thought that this season would see a straightforward return to Premier League, and Friday’s performance at Birmingham was yet more proof that Moore’s team are yet capable of mounting a serious challenge for the top two despite a run of decent results.
The big positive of the night was that the Baggies did escape with a point, and any point on the road is a valuable one. Once again, Albion looked shaky at the back and the promise that the Brunt-Livermore partnership showed in the previous match against Stoke was missing as Blues largely dominated the game with high pressing all over the pitch.
The coaching team at the Hawthorns seem determined to stick with the tactics to play out from the back, but the quality of passing and movement needs to be much better that we saw on Friday evening. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the tactic is wrong, and one would hope that the players will improve as they become more experienced with the system, but it needs to happen quickly if Albion are to stay in contention for a promotion challenge.
Social media reaction has been typically over-the-top and those calling for Darren Moore to be sacked need to grow up and realise that the Championship is an incredibly difficult league. In previous promotion campaigns in the noughties, Albion were arguably better prepared for the second tier having had recent experience of that division. Of the current squad, only Brunt and Morrison have previously played in the second tier with Albion. It might seem counter-intuitive, but a sustained spell of Premier League football puts you in a weakened position, particularly when the side has spent the last few seasons trying not to concede, rather than trying to win.
Moore and Jones are not only trying to get a squad used to a new division, a new system but also a complete change in attitude and expectation. Albion are expected to win more than they lose, and to play attacking football. It’s a massive change for those players who remain from the Premier League squad and it will take a while to get it right. A change to the coaching staff would be suicidal at this moment.
Moreover, you only have to look at the other relegated sides to know how tough it is. Swansea have one more point than Albion, while Stoke sit in 20th place with just one league win this season.
Looking forward to Tuesday, Big Dave’s team face a tough test against in-form Bristol City who moved into third spot on Saturday with their fourth successive victory.
The Robins last met the Baggies in a league fixture in Albion’s previous season in the second tier in 2009/10. City did spend a couple of seasons in League One in the meantime but are now in their fourth successive season at this level following their League One title win in 2015 under the stewardship of Steve Cotterill.
Cotterill was sacked in January 2016 with City in the bottom three and Lee Johnson was appointed and guided the club to a 17th placed finish. Last season, Bristol City spent much of the campaign in and around the play off places but a run of just one win from their last eight games saw them fall away, eventually finishing 11th.
This campaign, it took Johnson’s team five games to get a victory, a 3-0 win at Loftus Road which was their first win on the road since a 2-1 win at Bramall Lane in December 2017. They quickly followed that up with another away win, this time a surprise 1-0 at Swansea, then dispatched Blackburn Rovers 4-1 at Ashton Gate before making it four wins on the bounce with a 1-0 home win over Sheffield United.
The last meeting between the sides was in the FA Cup 3rd round in 2016. The first game was at the Hawthorns with City performing well leading 2-1 in stoppage time before a late late James Morrison goal took the game to a replay at Ashton Gate which Albion won thanks to an only goal from Salomón Rondón.
The last league meeting at the Hawthorns was in November 2009 when City were managed by Gary Johnson, their current manager’s father. Jerome Thomas, Chris Brunt and Simon Cox all found the net, along with an own goal from Louis Carey, helping Albion to a 4-1 win, a repeat of the result of the previous meeting two years earlier.
The Robins’ last win at the Hawthorns was nearly 25 years ago when a goal from City legend, Brian Tinnion, was enough to win the Division One fixture in December 1993. A year later, the clubs met on Boxing Day at the Hawthorns in a game which marked the official opening of the new all-seated Birmingham Road End. An own goal from Stuart Munro settled the game in favour of the hosts, although no one in the new Brummie actually saw the goal at the Smethwick End due to thick fog.
The two 4-1 wins in the noughties are Albion’s biggest ever wins over City together with an FA Cup win by the same scoreline in 1926. The Robins, meanwhile, have won at the Hawthorns on just three occasions, with the biggest being a 3-1 win in February 1906 with Willie Maxwell, Sammy Gilligan and Walter Bennett on target for the visitors.
Apart from the 1993 win, City’s only other win at the Shrine was in March 1976 when Gerry Sweeney scored the only goal of the game – both clubs were promoted at the end of the season with both finishing on 53 points behind champions Sunderland.
Tueday’s game will be the 49th meeting between the sides and there have only been more than five goals in a match once – in the FA Cup replay in February 1910, Albion triumphed 4-2 thanks to goals from Charlie Hewitt (2), Bob Pailor and George Simpson; Sammy Gilligan and Fred Staniforth netted for the visitors.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
19 Jan 2016 – FA Cup 3rd Round Replay
Bristol City 0
West Brom 1 (Rondón)
Last meeting at the Hawthorns
9 Jan 2016 – FA Cup 3rd Round
West Brom 2 (Berahino, Morrison)
Bristol City 2 (Kodija, Agard)
Last win at the Hawthorns
21 Nov 2009 – League Championship
West Brom 4 (Thomas, Brunt, Carey (o.g.), Cox)
Bristol City 1 (Hartley)
Albion’s Record against Bristol City