West Bromwich Albion 1 Huddersfield Town 0
It wasn’t pretty and it was a little nervy towards the end, but the Baggies got the result that they needed and deserved. Ten wins and a draw from the last eleven home games with just one goal conceded is a remarkable set of results, and were it not for Ben Brereton Díaz’s late equaliser for Blackburn Rovers, it would have matched the club record eleven successive home wins.
The game was won by John Swift’s penalty, the first spot kick that he has taken for the Baggies and it was confidently dispatched into the corner of the net. It was Albion’s fifth penalty of the season, but only the third that they have converted, albeit Brandon Thomas-Asante did fire home the rebound of the one he missed.
The match itself was very similar to Tuesday’s game against Wigan Athletic although, if anything, Huddersfield Town were even more defensive. After losing back-to-back games 4-0 shortly after he joined the club, Warnock has evidently decided to opt an ultra-defensive approach in an attempt to stop conceding goals. They managed to earn a 0-0 draw with Bristol City on Tuesday, and they restricted Albion to very few chances. Having gone a goal down in the first half, I did expect some sort of change in approach but there was very little ambition shown by the Terriers until the final ten minutes. It was strange being allowed to play out from the back with almost no pressure on the ball until Albion reached the opposing half but, in fairness, it was an approach that came close to working.
Huddersfield’s deep defence allowed Pieters and O’Shea to advance further forward than usual and the Dutchman came close to opening his Albion goalscoring account with a firm drive from the edge of the box that Tomás Vaclík in the Terriers’ goal.
Another positive was that Molumby managed to get through the game without being booked meaning that he has just one game to navigate before the yellow card threshold rises to fifteen.
Corberán threw in a surprise by starting Adam Reach in place of Marc Albrighton which at least put a natural left footer on the left wing, but then half way through the first half, Wallace and Reach swapped sides. The only explanation I can offer in this circumstance is that it was clear that Wallace had the beating of the Terriers’ right back, Matthew Pearson. Unfortunately, while Wallace did beat him time and time again, his left foot crosses are not as accurate as those from his right, and the chances created were few and far between.
Albion had to be patient and, while it is frustrating to watch when a team defends as deeply as Huddersfield did, it was the right approach. There was perhaps a case to rotate the front players a little more, and maybe bring on Rogić earlier, but Corberán was obviously satisfied with what he was seeing. John Swift was Albion’s creator in chief, but his radar was a little but off much of the time and, with just a one goal lead, it was always going to be a nervy finish. Ultimately, Albion got the result without playing particularly well, and that can only be a positive.
Brandon Thomas-Asante didn’t make the bench but Tom Rogić did, and he made his first appearance since the defeat to Burnley in January as he came on for the last few minutes. Alex Palmer is likely to be back in training this week and Kyle Bartley is also close to full fitness and, with Karlan Grant also due to be back before the end of the month, Corberán should have close to a full squad available after the international break. However, Diangana, now confirmed as being out for the season, has joined Matt Phillips and and Kean Bryan on the long term injury list.
Having won these two home games, Albion now travel to Cardiff on Wednesday for their final match before the the international break. If they are to maintain their play-off challenge, they need to starting taking their home form on the road, and three points at the Cardiff City Stadium would be a great way to start.