Sheffield United 2 West Brom 0
Steve Bruce was left under no illusions as the size of the task he has taken on as Albion fell to a third 2-0 defeat in a row at Bramall Lane, not helped by a second red card of the season for club captain, Jake Livermore.
The positives of the evening, what few there were, came in the opening half an hour. Albion looked bright and enthusiastic and played some good football from the off and made the hosts look decidedly ordinary. Unfortunately, the problem that has dogged the team all season, the lack of a clinical edge in the final third, was in evidence once again.
The Blades scored in what was their first real attack but Gardy Diangana had the perfect opportunity to equalise but took an age to get the ball under control and was tackled before taking a shot despite having been ten yards clear of the nearest defender when he received the ball.
However, the decisive moment of the game came in the 37th minute when Jake Livermore received a red card for a reckless challenge on Conor Hourihane. It was, perhaps, a harsh sending off but it was a challenge that Livermore didn’t need to make and he unfortunately has a history of making such rash tackles. Albion have opted to appeal the dismissal but I would be surprised if that is successful.
The skipper was evidently frustrated at some of the physical treatment that the home players were dishing out on the likes of Andy Carroll and Grady Diangana in particular, all of it going unpunished, but it is no excuse for that tackle.
The fact remains that the sending off changed the game and left Albion with little chance of getting back into the game. A couple of excellent saves kept the score down in the second half as United unsurprisingly dominated, although it was a decent effort from the remaining players and the game was not put to bed until Sharp’s second with just ten minutes left.
It’s difficult to make too much of a judgment on the performance given the red card, but it’s clear that it is unlikely to be a miracle turnaround in the short term. However, there were some positive signs ahead of the red card but whether Bruce can make enough of a difference to keep Albion in the mix for promotion remains to be seen.