Baggies stop the rot but still frustrated

Cardiff City 1 West Bromwich Albion 1

I said in my preview to this match that I would have taken a point from Cardiff, but the control that Corberán’s team displayed for much of the game meant that it felt more like two points lost than one point gained. Having said that, it did bring to an end the run of away defeats and, while other results have left Albion a point further away from the play-offs, the target remains difficult but achievable.

The 17 day break that the Baggies now have until their next match is much needed. There has been evidence of fatigue amongst the players in recent games as injuries have exposed the overall weakness of the squad forcing players to be used much more than would be ideal. Daryl Dike, whose opening goal was a fantastic finish, was withdrawn for that exact reason as Corberán explained in his post match interview – he had been advised not to use the returning Brandon Thomas-Asante for too long and, therefore, opted to bring Reach on in attempt to protect the 1-0 lead.

Unfortunately, Albion did concede, with Swift, Pieters and Griffiths all likely to feel they could have done better, and despite a positive last 20 minutes after BTA eventually did come on, the visitors could not find the winner.

In truth, it was a game of few chances in difficult conditions with the Albion goal the only real moment of quality, aside from a wonderful reverse pass from BTA in the closing stages that put Wallace in on goal. The visitors were undoubtedly the better side with Wallace, Okay, Molumby and Townsend all putting in strong performances. Dike, too, was good before the break but he definitely did look to be tiring in the second half. Let’s hope he isn’t forced to play too many minutes for the USMNT following his recall to the international squad.

Corberán had surprised us with a change in formation as he switched to a back three, presumably to counter Cardiff’s front two. Ajayi came in with Furlong missing out and Albrighton playing at right wing back. It was a defence that looked solid enough other than when the hosts scored, of course, and I do wonder whether the lack of familiarity with the system played a part. I thought Semi had a good game in his first league start since August, other than the poor challenge that brought a yellow card, and it is certainly a bonus to have an additional option at centre back should it be required.

One positive for the night is that Jayson Molumby avoided a booking and, therefore, a suspension as the threshold now rises to fifteen cards rather than ten. He now joins up with the Republic of Ireland squad alongside his captain, Dara O’Shea, while Semi Ajayi has also made the Nigeria squad despite a lack of game time. That makes it a total of four players that will be away from the Hawthorns over the international break, although I’m not sure that the Turkey squad has been announced as yet. I guess there is a chance that Okay Yokuşlu could be recalled to the squad, but he hasn’t been involved for almost two years so it would seem unlikely.

Albion return to action with the visit of Millwall to the Hawthorns in what will be a huge match against the team that currently sit in sixth place, although that could change after this weekend’s games. Hopefully, Corberán will have a refreshed squad with one or two more injured players back in full training – Alex Palmer, Kyle Bartley and Karlan Grant will all hopefully be available by then and able to contribute to what the Baggies boss has referred to as nine cup finals.

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