Bristol City 3 West Bromwich Albion 0
Albion lost successive games under Carlos Corberán for the first time as they were deservedly beaten at Ashton Gate in the fourth round of the FA Cup. It was undoubtedly the worst performance since the Spaniard took over and the hope for Baggies fans is that it is merely an off-day and not a sign that their recent excellent form is dropping off.
I was pleasantly surprised by the strength of Albion’s starting line-up; while there were five changes from the team that initially took to the field at Turf Moor last weekend, one of them was enforced with John Swift unavailable, and the key for me was that both Molumby and Yokuşlu started. Unfortunately, both were well below the levels we have come to expect from them with the Irishman having his worst day since Coreberán took over.
The goals all originated from Albion mistakes. Rogić and O’Shea left the ball for each other when it broke from a corner and the young Sam Bell did not wait around and swept the ball past Button into the net. The Baggies’ Australian midfielder was also involved in the second as his misplaced pass couldn’t be controlled by Molumby and a swift break from the Robins ended with Alex Scott finishing from close range. For the third, Rogić was once more involved as he was caught in possession and another swift break from the hosts ended with Bell’s second goal as he neatly lifted the ball over Button from close range.
It was a strange performance as Albion dominated the ball recording 62% possession, but they never looked entirely comfortable. City hassled and harried and the confidence that the team has shown on the ball in the past couple of months was entirely missing. It was not until the last twenty minutes that the visitors showed any sort of concerted threat on the Robins’ goal.
Okay and Molumby could maybe forgiven one poor performance providing they return to form on Friday, but I have more serious concerns about some other players. Tom Rogić has only shown his reputed quality in glimpses, such as his wonderful goal at Sunderland, and he has struggled to make any sort of impact in most of the games he has played. Like Dike, I was prepared to give him time to get up to speed, but neither is performing as well as I had expected.
I had hoped that we would see a better Semi Ajayi playing alongside Dara O’Shea, the central defensive partner he performed well with earlier in the season, but he still looked a little nervous at times. However, I would like to see him in front of Alex Palmer rather than Button as the latter is not vocal enough and does little to inspire confidence in his defenders. There was one moment in the first half when Button’s failure to give a clear call to Ajayi as a City striker was bearing down almost led to another goalscoring opportunity.
Back-to-back defeats is obviously concern, especially given the strength of the team that played at Ashton Gate, and it needs to be a blip if Albion are to maintain their play-off challenge. With last week’s defeat to Burnley having seen them drop out of the top six, Friday’s game with Coventry City, who sit just three points and three places behind the Baggies, is one that Corberán’s team really need to win.
I’ve always believed that cup runs help a promotion push, but I guess we can now concentrate on the league while a number of Albion’s rivals, Blackburn Rovers, Sunderland, Burnley and Luton Town all face replays to further interrupt their Championship campaign. Corberán and his team just need to ensure that there is no hangover from this disappointing defeat.