West Bromwich Albion 1 Burnley 1
While the build up to the match was all about the business that the club failed to do in the transfer window, the talk afterwards was all about one of the players they did manage to bring in. A dramatic 98th minute equaliser from Brandon Thomas-Asante sent the Hawthorns faithful into raptures and the problems of the last few days were forgotten, for a few minutes at least.
It was a point that Steve Bruce’s team thoroughly deserved having outplayed their opponents for long periods but having yet again conceded a sloppy goal from a long hopeful ball over the top. Button did get a small touch on the ball and Tella was very close to being offside, but Albion cannot have too many complaints about the officiating of that incident to be fair. Rodriguez scored the penalty although had Button guessed the right way, it would have been a simple save.
The game itself was entertaining and the Burnley fans I spoke to after the game were of the opinion that Albion were by far the best side they have faced this season, and I would say the same about the Clarets. It was a fairly even first half although the visitors had the better chances, but by the end of the game, Burnley were very much hanging on and the equaliser was well deserved.
For the 23-year-old Thomas-Asante, it was a dream debut. Brought on with 20 minutes to go for Kyle Bartley, who was definitely the weak point in the Baggies defence, he looked dangerous from the off. He moved into the centre forward spot with Grant moving out to the left, Diangana switching to number ten and Swift moving into midfield in place of Okay who dropped into the back four. He offers something different to Grant, constantly looking to run off the shoulder of the defender and he looks to be an instinctive finisher given his goal. I also love his obvious enthusiasm for the game, and he seems determined to grasp what he realises is a fantastic opportunity. Furthermore, he has obviously made a good impression with his teammates judging by the delight at which he was congratulated by Daryl Dike at the end of the match.
With Darnell Furlong’s partner having gone into labour before the match, another promising youngster, Taylor Gardner-Hickman, was given an opportunity to start, his first in the league this season. While he did OK, I don’t think he really grasped his chance to impress his manager and I would expect Furlong to be back in the side next week.
The only other change to the starting line up from Tuesday was Kyle Bartley coming in for the injured Semi Ajayi. I’ve never been one to criticise Bartley too much but I thought his performance on Friday night was poor. He looked laboured and lackadaisical and the sooner Ajayi is fit the better. Bruce obviously has the option of Martin Kelly but I’m personally a little dubious as to how fit he will be having not had a pre-season and having played only three games in the last two years.
Another player who struggled against Burnley was Conor Townsend. He missed the Baggies’ best chance of the first half and his distribution was generally poor, particularly in the second half, with the most obvious error being his misplaced header that set up Churlinov who then hit the post. Zak Ashworth is waiting in the wings for his chance, and was on the bench last night, but I would be surprised if Bruce made a change to the starting line up just yet.
Overall, however, I thought Albion played well with Jed Wallace and John Swift back on form after a bit of a dip at Wigan, and Grady Diangana keeping up his impressive start to the campaign. Twenty-three attempts of which eight were on target is a demonstration of how good the Baggies were, but given the quality of the visitors’ chances, a draw was probably a fair result. Having said that, Clarets’ boss, Vincent Kompany, thought Albion were the better side, so who am I to disagree?
For the first time this season, Steve Bruce now has a full week to work with his team ahead of the trip to Coventry, although that is the first of another three games in eight days ahead of the international break. Without doubt, Albion will need to add to their tally of victories before then!