Sheffield United 1 West Brom 2
It might not be quite in the same league as when Mowbray’s team won 3-0 at Watford in 2007, but given Albion’s away form this season, winning at Bramall Lane is certainly a statement result this campaign
Gareth Barry took the man-of-the-match scoring the equaliser and bossing the midfield in the second half, while Harvey Barnes was excellent once again making both of the visitors’ goals.
It’s the first time that the Baggies have won three successive away league games since 2008, and with another trip to South Yorkshire to come next weekend, you would have to fancy that they could make it four on the bounce.
While the result is impressive, you cannot forget the first half performance which was way below where it needed to be. Chris Wilder’s team started the game extremely well and, with Albion seemingly happy to let the Blades dominate possession, they managed to find their way through and behind the Baggies defence with alarming regularity and they deserved to take the lead, although the goal itself was a breakaway from a rare Albion foray forward.
It was no surprise that United played with wing backs, but with neither Barnes nor Gayle willing to track them back, Tosin and Gibbs were too often left with a two-on-one to deal with. The midfield three tried to cover this off, but that left gaps in the middle which the Blades’ midfielders exploited pulling the Albion defensive shape all over the place.
In the second half, however, the Baggies changed their approach completely and played entirely on the front foot. Having escaped from the first 45 all square, they dominated the second period with Gareth Barry showing all of his class, and the visitors deservedly took all three points. The hosts barely had a chance after the break, with Sharp’s shot over the bar being their only real opportunity, but while Albion didn’t have a host of chances, their control over the game was undisputed.
Once Gibbs scored, I was screaming for Moore to make changes, but it wasn’t needed in the end although Brunt did replace Barnes in stoppage time. United looked beaten well before the end and never really looked like getting back into the game allowing Albion to see it out comfortably.
The goals were all demonstrative of Albion’s season so far. United’s opener highlighted the lack of pace at the back as well as Tosin’s inexperience. The Man City loanee has been largely excellent in recent weeks but his failure to watch the line played McGoldrick onside and Dawson was never going to get back at him, although it was an excellent finish.
At the other end, the equaliser showed how the Baggies can exploit mistakes. As soon as Norwood’s pass went to Gibbs, they were on the front foot. Barnes’ first touch was key as he got away from Basham and pulled the ball back into the danger area – it went all the way through to the most unlikely scorer as Gareth Barry clinically finished into the top corner for just his second goal for Albion.
While many fans are exasperated as Albion pass the ball around in their own half inviting pressure, the winner shows why they do it. By drawing the United midfield closer in, it created the space at the back and Dawson played an excellent threaded pass with the outside of his foot to set Phillips away. Then we saw what Phillips and Barnes can do when given a little space – Matty was always going to win the race with Egan and Harvey’s control and backheel to Gibbs was sublime – the former England full back finished with aplomb.
Those goals show why Albion can rarely be ruled out of games this season and, while we all know the defence needs work, their front line can be devastating.
Darren Moore’s team face another trip to South Yorkshire next weekend against a struggling Rotherham team as they start a run of five games in fifteen days which will go a long way to decide who will feature in the promotion shake-up in May.