With a couple of absentees in the Swansea line-up I had a little confidence in the Albion side Pulis was to field. It’s a rare feeling after the last 2 years but I did feel like we had enough to get something.
Swansea had Gomis up front for them and some nice ball playing midfielders behind him but their man threat would be out wide. Jefferson Montero was up against Craig Dawson and Nathan Dyer against Chris Brunt, meanwhile Wayne Routledge sat on the bench. They had that bit of pace that Pulis longs for in B71.
So, Dawson held his RB spot, Brunt continued at LB and Ideye and Berahino maintained a strike partnership that saw us gain a much needed point at Turf Moor on Sunday. Darren Fletcher captained the side and what a leader he’s already become. He and Lescott could be a huge core of this side.
A typically dull 0-0 half, something Pulis is going to be wanting I feel. Chances were few and far between. Shelvey was given a shot from outside the area and he placed it wide of the upright but it was a warning shot, a good chance and he had far too much space. Fletcher and Yacob ensured it didn’t happen again.
Gomis was profited from Albion failing to clear a corner properly, a part of Pulis game that he works on is obviously set plays so he won’t be happy conceding opportunities from them, but thankfully his half volley was straight at a thankful Ben Foster.
I had a different vantage point than normal for this match, I was at the top of the Brummie so had a superb view of set-up and organisation which seemed to be a key figure in the game. The only other moment of note in the first 45 was Callum MacManaman either being the instigator or the victim in a late, horrid tackle. (Not seen them back)
The referee also, oddly, booked Ideye Brown. Yes, compelling stuff that first half!
Swansea never really concerned me in the first half, they didn’t do much to change that perception in the second either. Our front two, our only two strikers, looked lively and I was confident in our ability to score a goal.
It then arrived. In a game of next to no chances it’s vital you take yours and when the ball fell to Brown Ideye from Berahino’s pass you’d have been forgiven for wanting it to be the other way round. But Ideye showed some class with a bouncing ball and James Morrison breathing down his neck he controlled a half volley into the bottom corner, a well-placed shot.
From there Albion kept the ball well. I’ve been a very loud disgruntled critic of Pulis’ play, but I have to say especially second half the play between midfield and strikers was fluid, quick and impressive.
The wide areas were a slight issue for Albion first half, more so the right where Montero had Dawson 1v1 a lot but switching Morrison and McManaman second half aided that and then an unfit Mcmanaman was subbed. But Swansea struggled to get any continued momentum with Yacob, Fletcher, Lescott and McAuley working as a four.
Albion’s second came not long after. Albion’s pressure high up the field meant Swansea were being forced further and further backwards. They eventually gave the ball away after Craig Dawson stepped in well. He rolled in Brown who set Berahino calmly. He shot into the top corner with a well-placed side-foot from 18 yards. He did celebrate this time.
From then on it was a narrow, organised defensively display. Yes the Jacks got round the back a couple of times, they played a couple of cut backs but Albion got numbers and pressure around the ball well. A delightful performance at both ends of the pitch – an Albion side taking their chances and defending stoutly.
It was an enjoyable match. In previous games we wouldn’t have taken our chances and it would have been a 0-0. Everyone worked well together and that was much needed after only a point on Sunday.
The win moves us four points from the drop. If we can maintain that gap and get a win at Villa Park I think we’ll be safe. Easier said than done I understand – especially when proper full backs are filling the bench (Although both did well yesterday). But I am confident, 9 clean sheets this season and we may have found striking momentum and chance takers at the perfect time.
It was a performance pleasing from all. The result was deserved. I hope no injuries occur and we can continue to pick up positive results and then that well documented run-in will be a relaxing time for the Albion faithful. There’s a couple of big, pressure matches arriving though and we will have to be as organised and prepared for those as we were today.
Final word goes to Darren Fletcher. He’s come in and pulled players around him, got them in shape and added some quality on the ball. As bad as that Deadline Day became the one we got in may have been the one that understands Pulis the most.
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