Blackburn Rovers 2 West Brom 1
Darren Moore’s team suffered a New Year’s Day hangover at Ewood Park as they went down to their first defeat since 3rd November.
After a relatively even first half, Rovers scored two goals early in the second half and, while Rodriguez pulled a goal back from the spot after Harvey Barnes was brought down, another come back proved to be too much for the Baggies.
Plenty of keyboard warriors have been waiting for this nine match unbeaten run to come to an end so they can start criticising Darren Moore once again, and Kyle Bartley’s inclusion in the side has given them even more “ammunition”.
Admittedly, the last two performances have been below par and Moore has made changes, as all managers do during the holiday period, but I really cannot understand some of the comments I have read on social media.
Firstly, it is unrealistic to expect the same eleven players to play two games a week week in week out, no matter how much they are paid. It is a different game to thirty-five years ago when Liverpool would win the league using only 14 players, it is a much more physically demanding game and squad rotation is a big part of it. Tony Mowbray, for example, rested both Dack and Graham for Rovers’ previous match at Sheffield United.
Secondly, Moore hasn’t actually changed too much that he didn’t have to and Gayle and Hegazi have been massive misses from the last two matches. He rested Barry and Phillips on Saturday and Livermore today, and that is pretty much it. The squad depth does not allow Big Dave to do much more than that, and I don’t believe that he can be blamed for that.
At Blackburn, one real disappointment is that both goals were avoidable. It did look as if Johnstone was blocked off for the first, but he should have done better. As for the second, many have blamed Bartley but if any one player was at fault, it was Gibbs who was too easily beaten. Once Dack changed direction, Bartley had no chance of getting back although he did give up too easily.
There is no doubt that Albion are a poorer side without Hegazi, but the level of vitriol towards Bartley is, in my opinion, wholly unwarranted based on his performance in the past two games.
As for the overall display, it was by no means dreadful but too many players were below par which is probably down to fatigue. The two quick goals effectively decided the game as it was otherwise a tight affair. Having got one back early, Albion gave themselves a chance but Blackburn defended well and there were few clear opportunities after that.
Livermore’s red card was perhaps a little harsh, but it was stupid and I’d be surprised if Albion get away with another one on appeal.
Some of the comments I’ve read since the final whistle would suggest that Albion were struggling in mid-table, but massive over-reaction to every game the Baggies fail to win has been a common theme on social media from certain sections of the Albion “support”.
The Baggies are just three points off the top two and doing much better than I expected them to. He may be inexperienced and still learning the craft of football management, but I personally don’t believe that any other manager would have been able to heal the club as well as Darren Moore has done.
Albion have a great first eleven, but anyone who thinks that another manager would have been running away with the division with this squad is deluded.
After the cup match on Saturday, Norwich are next up in what will be a massive match. With one promising signing over the line already in the January window, Baggies fans will be hoping for more ahead of the Canaries clash.