Baggies hold on for precious point

Queen’s Park Rangers 2 West Bromwich Albion 2

Carlos Corberán’s team were undoubtedly fortunate to escape from Loftus Road with a point on Wednesday evening after a second half display in which they were clearly second best against a side that, on the form shown in this match, will have no problem escaping relegation.

Two excellent goals had given the Baggies a half-time lead after Alex Palmer’s error had led to an opening goal by former Albion midfielder, Sam Field, but the hosts dominated the second period and Field scored his second of the evening to earn the point that was the least that Rangers deserved. It also meant that Albion are still to win a game this season when conceding the first goal.

Before that, of course, Alex Palmer had redeemed himself by saving Frey’s penalty after Adam Reach was adjudged, harshly in my opinion, of committing a handball offence before pulling off what I thought at the time was an amazing save. On seeing the TV pictures after the game, it was clear that he had not goy much on it but that Cédric Kipré had tipped the ball over the bar. It was unseen by the officials, was certainly not obvious from the away end and Rangers boss, Martí Cifuentes, admitted that he had thought it was Palmer’s save at the time. Furthermore, there was just the one half-hearted claim from one of the QPR players, so while it was undoubtedly a refereeing error, it was a tough one to see and you can’t give it if you don’t see it. I thought the decision to award the penalty against Reach was probably worse – it struck his elbow in front of his body and not above his shoulder and I felt the assistant, who gave the decision, was unduly influenced by the crowd for much of the second half.

Looking back to the first half, the two goals that Albion scored were excellent. It is no longer a surprise when Mikey Johnston finds the net, but this was probably his best yet. There was no nutmeg at the start, but the quality of the strike from outside the box in off the near post was superb. Grady’s quick feet for the second weren’t bad either after an intelligent ball in from Fellows on the opposite side, and it was lovely clean strike to complete the turnaround.

While QPR’s win at Leicester City indicated that they were on good form, their dominance in the second half was something of a surprise. Albion had very little control for long periods and it is a testament to how well the defence performed that they conceded only once in that second half despite being under almost continuous pressure. Mowatt, Yokuşlu and Wallace all performed well below par with mis-placed passes and poor decision making. It does show that, when the Baggies are under pressure, Wallace cannot lead the line well enough; whether it is instinct or ability, he seemed unable to hold the ball for any length of time to get any support near him, so it just kept coming back.

Corberán’s decision to sacrifice Fellows for Ajayi nine minutes into the second half was understandable from a defensive point of view – QPR were raining crosses into the box and Pieters and Kipré were struggling to resist the onslaught. The undesired impact was that Wallace was even more isolated. It is interesting that Weimann has not yet started as centre forward as he would seem the most natural option of the players available, discounting Marshall, perhaps harshly, due to his inexperience, but maybe Corberán doesn’t see what he needs to from the Bristol City loanee in training.

Townsend was a big miss with Reach looking like a winger playing out of position and I do wonder whether Pieters would have been moved out to left back had Bartley been available for this match. It will be interesting to see who lines up at left back on Sunday with Townsend expected to be missing once again.

The second half was undoubtedly a good watch for the neutral, but it was one of the most uncomfortable of the season as an Albion fan and was probably the first time that the lack of a fit number nine has cost Albion in defence rather than in attack! It was definitely an off day for the usually excellent midfield pair, and I was surprised to see Grady Diangana make the Championship Team of Mid Week although his goal was first class, and perhaps only Kipré, Furlong and, of course, Johnston came out of the game with any real credit.

Ultimately, it was a good point, particularly with Hull City and Norwich City also dropping points, and Albion remain firmly in fifth spot. May some of Albion’s bad luck this season was repaid on Wednesday night, but we’ll take it move on to another tricky away trip on Sunday.

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