Baggies discover some resilience, albeit a little late

West Brom 2 Huddersfield Town 2

With six minutes to go at the Hawthorns, it looked as if it was going to be another depressing evening for Baggies fans with a fair proportion of a what was already a meagre crowd having headed for the exits after the visitors’ second goal. But, for the first time this season, the Baggies mounted a dramatic comeback from two goals down to earn a point and probably should have claimed all three.

It was probably a fair result in the end with neither side having really done enough to win the game albeit both had periods when they were on top. The hosts started brightly and had a couple of decent chances to open the scoring with Mowatt’s shot from the edge of the area that was well saved by Lee Nicholls being the closest they came. It’s the first time for months that we have seen the former Barnsley man have a good attempt from range, something that he was doing regularly earlier in the season resulting in a couple of wonderful goals against Blackburn and Cardiff. That he had a go at all is perhaps a sign of returning confidence, and that it was so well struck will only increase that belief still further.

The game changed when Johnstone’s attempted clearance was deflected into the net by Danny Ward – Sam must obviously shoulder most of the blame but it was a ball that Bartley never should have played to him in the first place. It was a poor error all round with Bartley’s decision to play it back evidently driven by the lack of an out ball in midfield.

Albion’s bright opening was then a distant memory as Huddersfield established control of the game but, as half time approached, the hosts started to come out of their shells again and it was more evenly matched at the break with Bartley going close on two occasions before the end of the first period.

Taylor Gardner-Hickman, impressive in central midfield once again, went close with a fierce shot just after the restart but the visitors started to establish control once again and Sam Johnstone was called into action twice to remind us what a good goalkeeper he normally is.

Bruce switched to a more attacking formation as he replaced Darnell Furlong with Andy Carroll, switching TGH out to right wing back and Robinson dropping back into a number ten role behind a front two. Within five minutes, the Terriers had their second goal as referee, Matt Donohue, made the first of a few key errors. Carroll received the ball but was surrounded by three Huddersfield players one of whom clearly kicked his legs away – Donohue and his officials failed to penalise what was a clear foul and the visitors broke away. Sam Johnstone really should have done better with O’Brien’s shot but he could only parry it into the path of Ward who tapped home his second of the night.

That sparked an exodus in the stands but within a minute or two, Donahue made his second key error of the night when he failed to spot that Callum Robinson had been fouled in the box as he ran through on goal.

Bruce went for broke and made another attacking substitution bringing on Grady Diangana for Kyle Bartley and his courage was rewarded as Albion battled back. It was kick started by what was another debateable decision from the referee. As the ball was cleared to the edge of the Huddersfield box, Mowatt ducked to head the ball while Sorba Thomas raised his foot to connect with the ball. Donahue decided that there was an infringement for dangerous play and awarded the penalty.

Having had just one penalty in their first 34 games of the season, it was now two in two games and Karlan Grant calmly stroked it into the corner and the remaining Hawthorns faithful roared. That got even louder when Semi Ajayi, one of only three defenders left on the field, found himself five yards from the goal line on the right hand side and put in a delightful cross for Andy Carroll to nod into the corner for his first goal in an Albion shirt.

It was a come back that looked incredibly unlikely just a few minutes earlier but now the hosts were looking for a winner. The remaining minutes were fairly end-to-end as Huddersfield also looked to nick it although it was Albion who looked the more likely winners at this stage.

They nearly got it when Robinson dinked a clever ball over the defence that found Grant – the flag stayed down and the former Huddersfield man thumped the ball against the cross bar.

While a point is probably not enough to keep Albion’s play-off hopes alive, it is at least a sign that there is some fight and belief in the team, something that has been lacking for many months. It is the first time that Albion have come back from two goals down since October 2019 when Slaven Bilić’s team came back from a 2-0 half time deficit at Barnsley to draw the game with Matheus Pereira scoring the equaliser with nine minutes left.

I think that 25 points from their remaining 10 games should be enough, but that is a tough ask with the top two still to play. They have no other current top six sides to play, however, but do have games against Blackpool, Coventry City and Nottingham Forest who are all teams between Albion and the play-off places.

It will be hard, but one of my readers, Alan Tout, reminded me that our nearest neighbours only had one more point at the same stage of the 2018/19 season and finished in fifth place with 76 points – it may be something most Baggies fans would like to forget, but it is at least a reminder that it is possible!

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