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Progress ... of a sort!

Progress ... of a sort!

After the recent run of dreadful performances this match showed that there is still some life left in the team ... and we did gain a point. Had SS still been in charge we would have lost 0-4, which indicates that the players had given up making an effort under his management.

Whether professional players, earning a lot of money, should only make a token effort, is surely a non-question but in reality the board had to sack the manager. And, perhaps, the tactics were wrong for the Championship ... at least with the players at our disposal.

Certainly, the players made a greater effort this evening, perhaps as a result of the comments that Saunders has been making over the course of the last few days. I certainly hope that he follows through on his promises and selects players according to ability, effort and their contribution to the overall team performance and ditches those who are lacking in one or more of these attributes.

However, for all the obvious endeavour on the pitch many of the players exhibited the same old weaknesses: sloppy passing, poor movement off the ball, lack of concentration at the back and an inability to create clear-cut chances up front (and put the ball in the net).

Even if Rochina did dive over Sako`s leg in our penalty area in the 24th. minute, we should not have found ourselves in that position. Sloppy play undid us: Ward compounded the problem caused by Ikeme`s poor clearance-kick by dithering on the ball and making a clumsy tackle. At the time I told my friend that this could be costly and it was!

And it came against the run of play: WW were dominating play and, if we had possessed a decent striker, we could have been a couple of goals up by then. In the 15th. minute, for instance, Cassidy, running onto a good ball from Davis, crossed into the empty space in front of Doyle. Four minutes later Kean brilliantly saved Foley`s flick from a Sako cross. In between, Rhodes, timing his run to perfection, thwarted our offside trap and was through on goal. He should have scored but lost control as he tried to round Ikeme.

After their goal, Blackburn perked up and grew into the game, swinging the percentage of possession away from WW to parity. Even so, we were unlucky to go into the break a goal down. Even better, we did not give up as we had been doing in recent matches. Finally, the players seemed to care about the result. The added effort also elicited a favourable response from the crowd, which was far more vocal than it had been over the past few games.

Saunders`s pep talk had a galvanising effect too and we dominated the second half. But, if Blackburn posed little threat, we still faced the perennial problem of getting the ball into the back of the net. Cassidy, in spite of one or two nice touches, is not the instant solution to our goal-scoring problem, though he did enough to warrant another opportunity. On the other hand, Griffiths, who might have put away a chance or two, seems to have blown his WW career with a mindless racist tweet.

SEB came on for Cassidy in the 78th. minute but did little to prove that he could do any better. Could Nahki Wells of Bradford do the job? DS rates him and he played well against AV the other day. We`ll have to beat off strong competition from a few other clubs though ... and what about McAlinden? Doyle, as ever, ran around energetically, fetching and carrying, but if that is his task, he is not going to score many goals.

When we scored the equaliser in the 73rd. minute it came from a surprising source. Seconds after replacing Davis in the 73rd. minute O`Hara delivered an inch perfect 40 yard pass to Johnson at the far post. He has to start in the match against Sheffield Wednesday in eight days time. That`s not to say that Davis played poorly, rather that they are two different types of midfielder. Indeed, some would argue that Davis is improving as an enforcer (and commits few fouls than Henry) and is a far better player on the ball than our captain. One or other of them will have to make way for JOH.

It was good to see Peszko return to the fray, though he did not see much action in the 29 minutes he was on the pitch. Hitherto, Foley had had a solid , if unadventurous, game, though he might have scored from Sako`s cross. On the opposite flank, Sako remains our most potent threat and, as in the 91st. minute, showed that, when on song, he can take on half the opposition. He knows it, too, and therefore tends to over-elaborate. At times, it gets him into trouble, as do his clumsy attempts to tackle when tracking back. Moreover, he has lost some of the impact he had earlier in the season when he was an unknown quantity. The quality of his dead-ball deliveries has deteriorated, too.

At the back, Ikeme could do little to save Rhodes`s penalty but he did prevent the striker from scoring in open play. Berra and Johnson dealt effectively with most of what Blackburn threw at them, including Rhodes and the feisty Kazim-Richards. Zubar made a surprising appearance at RB, presumably because DS wanted to have a look at him before dispatching him to Ipswich. His appalling mistake outside our penalty box in the 2nd. minute should have convinced the manager to send him packing there an then. Under less pressure than in previous games, Ward nonetheless did not inspire much confidence in his ability effectively to do the job Saunders has ascribed to him.

So, have we turned the corner? In a sense, we have because we gained a point and displayed far greater commitment to the cause. We kept a higher line, were quicker on the ball and at opposition players when they had it, and were more direct in our play. However, we still failed consistently to move into space or to weight/direct our passes accurately. And, above all, we desperately needed a proven striker capable of sticking the ball in the net on a regular basis.

At the moment, therefore, it is work in progress but to strike a positive note the manager and squad seem to be working in harmony. After the past few months that`s an achievement in itself. And, it`s something to build on. I doubt whether we will achieve a play-off slot at the end of the season but at least the prospect of relegation is beginning to recede.

Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

Date:Saturday January 12 2013
Time: 12:49AM


Good post, I missed most of the match, although I was able to get txt updates from the BBC and when I eventually tuned in o hare was just about to come on. I have to say I was impressed by the effort the team put in, and the atmosphere at the mol sounded great. Zubar seems to make terrible mistakes everytime he plays and maybe needs a change of scene, henry was named man of the match which is good to see, peszco is pretty fast isn't he? He did brilliantly to win the ball off Olson down the right flank and then win the free kick. Doyle disappointed me a few times with poor anticipation and touches but he deserves more match time with this direct system. The shopping list has to be LB, CB, CF and that won't break the bank. Apparently boukari can play upfront if he can be made fit by mal purchase. Next week teamsheet I would like ikeme, ward, Berra, Johnson, foley, sako, joh, henry, peszko, siggy, Doyle, then sub davis>Henry Cassidy>siggy and if we are hanging on for a win maybe switch 5-4-1 and bring bath on. But hey! I'm not the manager!
12/01/2013 10:03:00
I thought it was a greatly improved effort by all. But the class just isnt there, Blackburn were threading pin point crosses thru and every shot just about tested Carl to the max. Cassidy is a breath of fresh air and I hope he can challenge for a regular spot, that said I still think we need a big hitter up front and one or two defenders... oh AND FRIMPONG !!!! UTW!
12/01/2013 10:46:00
Karl Henry agrees, too:“It was a pleasure to be involved in that sort of football,”he said. Well, speaking for what appears to be a minority, I loathe watching it year after effing year. Talentless, passless, clueless, hoof-merchants, who've (YET AGAIN!) been given their licence-to-hoof back. No wonder our captain is so happy. It must be like the return of the Mac. Having listened to Saunders run down the list of things (he'd been told) Stale was and, coincidently, that he's the opposite of, I couldn't wait for match-time and the inevitable ending of his honeymoon period. It really is both testament to MM-that he managed to gather together such a talentless, uninspiring group- and also to us as a club that we started the match with eight out-field players we recognise as 'Mick's'. A year on from sacking him, we're still playing his team and have a manager now that isn't fit to tie his managerial boot laces. I thought i'd point out that we sat our only creative midfielder, in a game we'd been chasing since the 26th min, until 16mins from time. I was saying at the match, imagine the vitriol coming down on Mick if he'd have done that. Something along the lines of: "You don't know what you're doing". They looked shapeless and devoid of any ideas on how to create, just as they have for years now. Jarvis and Kightly were the nuggets in a barrel of s***e and this is what it looks like without them. Hopefully, JOH can prove to be our talisman, possibly forming some attacking threat with with Peszko and/or Sako. I agree with SB60, that there is more than one option to partner O'Hara in the middle, but I don't see Davis as head-and-shoulders above Henry in terms of making an impact on a game. People have been shouting for Cassidy to be given a chance and it was good to see him get a run-out... but that's all it was. With no-one behind to create, we could have Bully and John Richards in their prime playing up front and still get no nearer to scoring.Sako, even though still not at his best, was virtually the only source of creativity...yet again. DS says he played Zubar because "he's like lightning". Trouble is he's also like "wreckless", "hapless" and, well, like "s***e"!He is quite obviously a not-good-enough-for-midfield player, who ended up being played as a full-back.At the risk of sounding like a belated Grinch, we haven't progressed one iota since this time last year- when we were talking of building a playing style capable of keeping us in contention for the PL. We've now gone back to a supposed 'pressing game' with yet another manager talking about 2-year plans to sort the squad out. 2 years? You're hoping there son. Wait 'til you lose a few on the trot and the booing starts. We're a hire-em-and-fire-em club, Dean. Hadn't you heard...?
12/01/2013 15:59:00
WS84: once again I find myself opening my response to you with the word 'ideally' and in the ideal world you are right. You are also right to point out that to progress we have to build a far more talented squad than the one we possess at the moment. That is going to take more than one transfer window but in the meantime we have to survive ... and for all the limitations of our play yesterday, that now looks a little more likely than it did under SS. It's possible that DS is merely an inferior MM but I am a little more optimistic than you and think that under his management we will evolve. At least, I am reserving judgement until he has had a chance to prove himself (or not). It's kinda unlike you to be so judgemental so soon, though you are spot on in your estimation of many of the players. We desperately need a target man upfront and a better functioning midfield, one that can make the killer passes and stem the flow in the opposite direction. At times yesterday I feared for a Guedioura type of goal as BR charged through the middle.
12/01/2013 16:17:00
You're quite right, SB60, I wouldn't judge DS or any other manager after one match... or quite a few more than that. What really has gotten on my wick since Stale got das boot, is how the Ministry of Truth has gone into spin-cycle.Suddenly, SS wasn't this fearsome, abrasive, confrontational character he'd been made out to be (when he was being painted as the very man to sort out our under-performers), in fact he was the complete opposite. He (reportedly) ran a shoddy ship, free from discipline and (GASP!) didn't tell the players to pick up their dirty knickers from the changing room floor! Forget the relegation!Forget the turgid performances: The players didn't pick their drawers up!They hadn't stopped trying for him because he'd used harsh language and bruised their ickle egos. Oh, no! They'd stopped trying for him because he gave them the chance to show him what self-driven, self-motivated proffesionals they were... and they grasped that open invitation to take the p*** with both hands. I'm sure Stale had noted those that had and those that hadn't. Those that decided they'd turn up when they liked, to do whatever they liked when they got there, i've no doubt were marked for execution. It was hard not to be cynical regarding what the new boss was saying. It was a thinly-veiled smear against his predecessor. SS got stick for the side playing with too much sideways movement at a pedestrian pace without a rush to 'hit the channels' (= hoof it!)and his team quite apparently not giving a toss whether thay W,D or L. Everyting DS said,seemed aimed directly at assuring us all that he was the polar opposite. I don't like being 'sold to', and I got the impression that DS's utterances were all too contrived and convenient... and guaranteed to inspire posts on the E&S boards along the lines of:"The more I hear him talk, the more I like him". Moxey at the MoT played a blinder (again) last week, managing to turn a complete disaster into yet another brave new dawn, accompanied by yet another two-year plan.Jez 'Manana' Moxey strikes again. The fat controller really should get more credit for his use of the dark arts. He's not only pulled the wool over people's eyes, he's repeated the trick time and time again.Then we had his chief, managing to re-hash old stories about the ground development and Compton as if we hadn't already heard it and nobody in the media taking time to point that out to him. As I did with Stale, TC, Mick and all the others that have come and gone, I have to hope DS is the answer. It's just that i'm not sure what the question was anymore.
12/01/2013 17:06:00
well it seems that whatever direction we go in we still have the *****ers that call themselves "fans", winstonsmith84 you are an albion fan without a doubt! another moron that will run down the club even if we won the champions league - just ***** off! there's a good boy.
13/01/2013 17:27:00
Why don't you meet me somewhere and make me? Open invitation. Your choice of meeting place. We already know the answer, you ball-less, sad little West Brom scumbag. AdamAnt has alredy extended the invitation. But, silly you... I know your name. John Davies from West Brom. I'll come back to you with your address...
13/01/2013 18:04:00
The internet is such a wonderful source of information, John Davies from West Bromwich. Gotcha! In the words of the poet, John Davies from West Bromwich: I know where you live.
13/01/2013 18:09:00
Don't think your age will save you, either. I know where you are and that's that.
13/01/2013 18:17:00
Good luck searching for 'Winston Smith', bytheway. I have no doubt it will come as news to you when you find out who he is. I'm guessing you didn't know... just something about your apparent 'education' *s*******s* tells me so.
13/01/2013 18:37:00
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