Southampton 2 West Bromwich Albion 1
The appreciative applause from the away end at the final whistle at St Mary’s on Saturday was indicative of the positive feeling that is growing amongst Baggies fans as Carlos Corberán’s team put in another good performance that was worthy of at least a point. There is an optimism that the team are able to compete at the top end of the table, and it can only be helped by the news that a takeover could be close to being completed in the next couple of months.
Southampton are probably the best side Albion have faced this season and they more than matched them, with the two goals being the only two clear chances that they had. While the Baggies were perhaps second best for the first half an hour, they dominated the game from that point onwards and can consider themselves unlucky to have come away without at least a draw. However, Carlos Corberán was less accepting of his side’s efforts in his post-match interview, insisting that Albion were not good enough in both penalty areas which demonstrates the levels that he demands from his players.
Looking at the two goals conceded, as ever it is easy to pick out the errors that led to the goal but it was very well worked by the hosts. Alcaraz put a lovely through ball to Stuart Armstrong who pulled it back to Adam Armstrong – his shot was saved by Palmer but the rebound fell for Will Smallbone. Townsend got back in position but was off balance and falling backwards as he tried to stop it going over the line. For the second, Townsend could also be criticised, but I felt he was in position to clear until the ball flicked off Cédric Kipré’s head to fall perfectly for Armstrong – if anything, I felt Palmer should have stood up more when the shot came in, but it would be churlish to blame him.
Listening to Saints fans leaving the stadium, there was an acceptance that they were fortunate to get all three points such was Albion’s second half performance. Even before the break, Thomas-Asante saw a goal-bound effort deflected wide while after the break, Phillips fired inches wide, Furlong hit the bar and there were numerous last ditch blocks from the Saints defence. Even after Southampton’s second, Bazunu was forced into an excellent save to deny the visitors a second equaliser.
If there was one criticism of Corberán, it was that I felt Mowatt should have started the match and that he left his substitutions too late, which was unusual. Having said that, Albion were so on top in the second period, I can understand why he didn’t change it, but I felt that Mowatt’s intelligent use of the ball created more opportunities when he came on, and his delivery from set pieces is also much better than the other players we have available.
However, the side out there deserved to have won the game and, as Corberán said, had they been a little better in both boxes, they would have done. The return of Swift and Maja after the international break will be a huge boost and the on-field signs of a positive future are evident. If the rumours of progress off the field also come to fruition, there could be some genuine optimism for the future of our great club.