This was a much needed win for so many varying reasons, it gets us back in the play-off frame, stops the run of draws and gives us all a bit of spring in our steps that has been sadly lacking recently.
That said this was far from perfect, in fact at 2-2 I hold my hands up and say I thought the only winner would be the Baggies because the force seemed to be strong with them. At that point your feared for Bilic because to throw more points away from a winning position against, let’s be honest, a pretty ordinary West Brom side might have been curtains for him. I am becoming more convinced as the weeks pass that no matter where we finish in the table that Slaven Bilic will not be Watford Head Coach next season, he has the air of dead man walking about him not only about the results and performances (which have been a tough watch) but his in-game management skills which have been baffling at times. Last night was a classic example of this with Kone running on fumes he brings on Bacuna instead of Louza. At 2-1 up the game was still far too open and we should have been making things tighter instead we inevitably concede again (albeit for a defensive calamity) and have to look for another goal to secure the points. Personally I would have sacrificed Sarr (who had another funny night) and brought Louza on to shore up the middle with Pedro & Ken offering the width.
Admittedly you can’t legislate for the type of defensive nightmare that would see us concede a second equaliser but all I will say is if you keep playing with fire, eventually you will get burned and if there is an insistence to play out from the back with players, and particularly a keeper who don’t look comfortable doing it then things will go wrong from time to time. Better teams that us (like City & Arsenal) find it hard to play out at times but they do appreciate the importance of mixing it up, we just keep doing the same things over & over until eventually a mistake is made.
To our credit though we kept going and found the winner but even at 3-2 you felt the scoring might not end there! Bearing this in mind my next observation may seem odd in that I felt the defence played really well and I have to give a special shout out to young James Morris who was brought in to replace hamstring victim Hassane Kamara. When I saw he would be up against seasoned campaigner Marc Albrighton I admit my heart sank but the young man stuck to his task well, got stuck in and saw off the former Leicester man who got substituted at half time. He also dealt with the ever dangerous Jed Wallace very well and he overall use of the ball was good. As a former left full back in my time I like him and I think there is definitely a player in there, he may lack a yard of pace but his reading of the game & positioning is much better than last years Player of the Season already. Perhaps it helped he had King Ken in front of him who tends to stay on his wing and not drift around like Sarr. It was a promising display from Morris and with Kamara probably out for a couple more weeks it is an opportunity to cement his place in the team.
Across the back we got the usual committed performances from Hoedt & future captain Porteous plus another much improved performance from Mario Gaspar who at long last is getting to grips with Championship football. Behind them Dan Bachmann showed us the good and bad side to his game with a couple of decent stops followed by his howler for the Baggies second goal. His distribution and decision making in releasing the ball is his real downfall. He needs to read the situation better, if he can see the opposition forwards lined up on the edge of the box ready to press maybe he should consider going long into Davis or Sarr rather than just stubbornly going short & often putting us on the back foot.
Ok I have done enough moaning and I need to look at the positives in that after weeks of looking toothless we scored 3 goals and indeed one of them came from open play in the first half of a home match since beating that lot up the road. It was quite a slow start again though and although we had the majority of the ball we didn’t create anything until we opened the scoring. That was a nice move with Hamza Choudhury actually passing the ball forward into Gaspar who had his cross half blocked with the ball falling to Keinan Davis. He twisted but didn’t make the correct connection and King Ken was there to mop up the pieces and loft the ball into the net. Both Davis and Sarr should have done better with chances to extend this lead when we actually decided to press the opposition on their final third, robbing the ball and creating some openings. West Brom in all honesty to this point were pretty toothless and going in only one down at half time was probably the best possible result for them.
No matter at what level of football you play or watch the old adage of you must take your chances came back to haunt us as the Baggies equalised early in the second period after we failed to clear a corner properly.
We really should have retaken the lead straight after though when Sarr missed a sitter after bursting through. It was a bad miss really but he would make up for this not long after when he steered in a shot after Kone’s attempted volley bobbled to our Senegalese winger.
At this point we should have closed the game down but instead the equaliser came and you felt it could go either way. Thankfully King Ken found the answer with his heavily deflected winner but the relief in the stands was palpable, we needed this win and after Ken’s second goal the Baggies never really threatened a further equaliser. It wasn’t pretty but it was a damn site more entertaining than most of the dross we have put up with at home games this season.
I still don’t think we are a good team, we have a side with eleven good individuals that at times through accident more than design seem to come together to get a result here and there. I am trying so hard not to complain because we have not been very good this season and yet we are sitting in fifth in the table. It has felt all season that it just hasn’t clicked and last night again the overriding feeling walking up Occupation Road that we seemed to win the game in-spite of ourselves rather than blowing ordinary teams like West Brom away.
However you can point to the fact that we scored three goals despite our trio of main threats in Sarr, Pedro & Davis having relatively off nights. Sarr still remains a conundrum in that his body language at times it appalling and yet he is our top scorer & remains one of our biggest threats. I just wish he would have more belief in his ability and if anything it is this that will hold back his career in the end. In the middle Keinan Davis clearly needs a goal and is cutting a very frustrated figure because it is just not happening for him at the moment. He is still not 100% fit and blowing out of his backside after 70 minutes but he does offer a focal point that no one else does in the squad although there is no doubt his form has dropped off since the World Cup break. Joao Pedro played in the hole again but wasn’t involved as much as either he or us would like. He wasn’t dropping as deep last night but it seemed the weight of the captain’s armband was heavy on him because it felt he was trying a bit too hard. Whether or not he is captain material is probably for another article but Bilic has given his the responsibility and the Brazilian is doing his very best for the team.
We now need to take this momentum into Saturday’s visit to Sheffield United which will be a very tough match. The Blades are on a bit of a lull after two defeats so its up to us to go up there an impose our game on them. The one thing we must not do is go behind because it will be an uphill task at a baying Bramall Lane after that. I will be there for my sins after I have worked out where to park my car!
Enjoy the rest of your week, take care & stay safe