West Brom 0 Blackburn Rovers 0
Steve Bruce’s home debut as Albion manager brought his first point in the role but he was left frustrated as the Baggies’ turmoil in front of goal continued.
There were positive signs as the players produced plenty of effort and no small amount of decent football, but time and again the moves broke down in the final third and there were few clear cut chances. Steve Bruce’s post match comments suggested that he may need to tweak the formation to take advantage of Andy Carroll’s skills – the former England man has arguably been the Baggies’ best player in both of Bruce’s games in charge demonstrating his ability to provide flick-ons and hold the ball up, but he has had precious few scoring opportunities. For me, the biggest problem is the one thing that one of the most difficult things for a coach to instil, confidence.
On the positive side, the visitors were restricted to very few chances as well, although there were one or two heart-stopping moments, and it was Albion who came closest to grabbing all three points when Adam Reach’s late header was acrobatically cleared off the line by Tyrhys Dolan.
Jake Livermore’s absence was barely noted other than the effect it had on the stand-in skipper, Sam Johnstone. The England goalkeeper looked to be taking his duties seriously with plenty of shouts of encouragement throughout the match, and taking the opportunity to get amongst his team mates during breaks in play. Molumby was an adequate stand-in but it was another quiet night for Mowatt who continues to struggle to impact games in the same way he did in the opening games of the season.
Semi Ajayi had one of his best games of the season, in my opinion, using his pace and strength well on numerous occasions while Matt Clarke was very steady alongside him.
I felt Diangana was unlucky to be benched and I was pleased to see him brought on for Karlan Grant, the man who seemed undroppable under the former boss. I feel Grant spends too much time standing still, particularly when Townsend gets forward – the former Huddersfield man seems to just stand on the touchline rather than making the obvious run inside the full back. With only two goals in his last fourteen appearances, he needs to produce more to keep his place in my opinion, and I think Grady is due an extended run in the side to build his own confidence.
Of course, if Bruce were to change formation to a 4-2-3-1, for example, both could play wide with Robinson in behind Carroll as a number ten. It’s something I would like to see tried and, for me, it is the obvious formation to try with the two central midfielders sitting deep.
It’s clear now that the play-offs is the best that Albion can hope for this season, and the point moved them up to 8th place although many of the teams around them have a game in hand. One of those, Luton Town, are the Baggies’ next opponents as the need for a victory becomes increasingly desperate.