West Bromwich Albion 2 - Norwich City 0
A pretty straightforward victory against a Norwich side who looked a shadow of the team they had been for years under Nigel Worthington. The only complaint is that Albion's superiority wasn't converted into more goals - Norwich were under pressure almost throughout, clearing the ball off their line several times and seeing plenty of shots go over and wide.
Ishmael Miller opened the scoring early on after Cesar's header found him at the far post, but it took until the second half for Albion to get the second and finally settle the nerves courtesy of Kevin Phillips with another headed goal.
Mowbray surprised supporters slightly by taking off the impressive Morrison and Brunt after an hour and replacing them with Gera and Filipe Texeira, and was forced into his third change as Miller, suffering from cramp, was replaced by Craig Beattie ten minutes later.
Albion go third in the table thanks to victory for Bristol City and defeat for Wolves - they now have a full week to prepare for next Saturday's trip to leaders Watford.
Nice to kick off on a bloody Saturday at 3 o clock.
Hard to judge anything or anybody really on this showing because Norrrridge were so, so poor I couldn't believe it. You're worried when you're only one ahead that the caretaker manager will take the paint off the dressing room walls at half time and despite woeful finishing and total dominance we could chuck it all away like we always do and, er, Norrridge come out second half and are even worse!
A training ground stroll of a game (but we could without some of the showboating boys when we haven't gone two ahead, or indeed 22 ahead, yet). Miller missed five easy enough opportunities to score and Phillips two. And that was just the strikers who at least commendably put another two away that I could have scored. You were almost wishing the East Anglian side would at least show something so that our lot would then come out of second gear and put their undoubted superiority on show instead of shooting on sight (Miller guilty in particular) and strolling home with the three points anyway as they clearly, by their body language all game, knew they would.
The opposition were so poor it was almost as though the Albion felt sorry for them (or at least thougtht they'd have a rest in a long hard season) and rudimentary passing the ball to each other and speculative crossing and shooting were still enough to win the game at a canter. Say what you like about Huckerby but he's always in your face and energetic and he just didn't want to know which summed Norwich up. I hope there are many more sides who will come to the Hawthorns and just lay down and die to give the boys a rest in between the games where teams will actually compete and not capitulate. Given how easy this was, I would prefer to concentrate on the individual performances, particlularly Rafamogga, as posted below:
Rafamogga - Now officially puttting magic mushrooms in his cornflakes. Brunt on the right, Morrison on the left, Tex out and Koren in, no Gera (NO GERA? He'd walk into most premiership teams) and Norrrridge don't threaten the box but a keeper back on the bench. 23 points and third. What do I know?
Throstles top calamitous Canaries
Albion stretched their unbeaten league and play-off record at The Hawthorns to nine, with a comfortable victory over Norwich City yesterday afternoon.
There was just one change to the starting eleven, with Robert Koren preferred to Felipe Teixeira, but our wide men switched wings, Brunt playing right and Morrison left.
The Baggies completely dominated the opening quarter-of-an-hour as the visitors were penned in their own half. Albion attacked down the flanks, probed through the centre and created a number of half chances which were either blocked, saved or flew wide. The closest we came to scoring was a rising 30 yard drive from Kevin Phillips which busy keeper Marshall tipped over the bar. There was a noticeable improvement in the quality of our corner kicks and that was the route to the opening 16th minute goal. Jonathan Greening delivered the ball into the danger area, Bostjan Cesar headed back across goal and Ishmael Miller rose to head home from close range. Albion continued to press forward as the Canaries found it difficult to hold onto possession. Twice, from Jonathan Greening corners, defenders were forced to clear off the goal line with the keeper beaten. First a glancing header from Paul Robinson was nodded out from under the crossbar and then a Kevin Phillips header, from point-blank range, was kicked off the line. The only threat of an equaliser came when Cureton blocked a Kiely clearance which looped back over the keeper?s head, but he had plenty of time to recover.
Any Albion fans concerned that the Canaries might stage a second half comeback must have been reassured when we netted again in the 51st minute. A long ball reached Ishmael Miller wide left. He gained a yard on his marker, before whipping in a left footed cross which was met by his stooping strike partner Kevin Phillips, who headed into the vacant net. Unbelievably, just minutes later, the visitors made a third goal line clearance, this time to keep out an Ishmael Miller header from a James Morrison corner. The tempo of the game seemed to drop when two of our more impressive attackers, Morrison and Brunt, were replaced. Nevertheless, many thought that Phillips had scored his second when he appeared to have beaten the keeper with a close range shot, only for Marshall to pull off a great reflex save. After Miller pulled up with cramp, to be replaced by the ineffectual Beattie, the game petered out. In truth we should have scored many more, but the team deservedly left to a standing ovation.
We started the game at a tremendous tempo and after we took the lead a rout seemed likely. Norwich were the poorest side to have appeared at The Hawthorns for a long time, but without posing a threat they did defend doggedly. Their keeper was their man-of-the-match and in all, they cleared off the line three times. At times though, we did go for the spectacular, when a little more composure might have paid off. Even so, the Championship stats show that the team had most shots (21) and most shots on target (14) and so did Ishmael Miller (9 and 7). A key factor, as stated earlier, was the improvement in our corners, next we must work on free kicks!
There were good performances all round. In defence Bostjan Cesar was most impressive, it would be interesting to see him play with Barnett, although Albrechtsen was back to form. All the midfield starters played well, particularly Robert Koren, although James Morrison perhaps edges man-of-the-match. Goals win games and Jonathan Greening deserves credit for laying on the first, Phillips for scoring the second and Ishmael Miller for scoring one and making the other. I couldn?t understand, with respect, why Beattie gained an immediate return to the bench. He?s been involved in ten league games, not played 90 minutes in any and scored just once. Wouldn?t we have been better finding out if Slusarski or Bednar can perform at this level?
Finally, the away fans were the quietest yet ? where were you?
ALBION FORMRATE: GOOD
MAN-OF-THE-MATCH: JAMES MORRISON
A routine victory against surely the poorest side we have faced this season. I think we could have played Chaplow and Pele in the centre and beaten them, Barnett and Albrechtson at centre half and we'd have beaten them. We could even have played a right winger on the left and a left winger on the right for every minute they were on the pitch and beaten them - in fact we actually did do that which I thought to be frank was utterly baffling but we won so who am I to criticize?
In truth although we cruised to victory it was hardly a great performance. Norwich made no real attempt to come out and have a go at us and didn't bother putting a tackle in all afternoon which I think made us look perhaps a bit better than we were. I thought as they lined up that Brunt and Morrison would be switching throughout but it just never happened. Morrison with his turn of pace and excellent ball control with either foot appeared to be fine with this but I thought Brunt struggled. Given that we paid a lot of money for him and his stop start, away on internationals, squad rotation start to his baggies career I felt quite sorry for him being asked to play out of position.
I also felt sorry for Gera, benched again despite all this talk about new contracts, and seemingly with the manager preferring our most one footed player to be played out of position in his place rather than giving him a start. Against the hard working, strong, big and very organized Watford side we have to visit on Saturday I think it's crucial we have at least one midfielder who can header a ball in the side and we keep our shape. In other words I think Gera has to start.
Not too many things to report on in the game... the back four were rarely troubled but Cesar looked very solid once again if a bit slow and has made a real impact when we defend set pieces so far, Alby looked better without being tested, our unbalanced midfield still managed to run the show and Phillips and Miller should really have scored more both missing chances and also electing to shoot when they could have provided tap-ins for other players.
With Miller's goal it was pleasing to see him score with a header but also to see him score a real poachers goal. His aerial ability has been his real weakness but there has been a noticeable improvement since his debut in this and even if he isn't winning flick ons now he is learning to use his physical attributes to cause problems and prevent defenders from heading clear easily. Without question we should break the bank for this lad in fee and wages to try and get him here. I'm pretty pleased that he's still slipping under the radar at the moment with the media not making too much about his goal scoring or impressive performances but it isn't going to stay that way.
Phillips' goal was a classic for him really... the first time in the game a left footed player (Miller) got to the byline and crossed it rather than having to turn back on to his right foot and Phillips had pulled off his marker to the back post and couldn't miss (despite nearly headering it down and over the bar). Even now in the twilight of his career his movement and instincts in and around the box are great to watch.
Finally, if there was ever a player who needed taking out of the firing line it's Craig Beattie. He's having a nightmare for us at the moment and you can see the frustration in everything he does. MacDonald, Bednar and Slusarksi are all performing in the reserves and scoring goals and in my opinion should be ahead of him at the moment. The best thing we can do is loan him out to get some games, score some goals and get his confidence back. I haven't seen anything to suggest he will ever be a decent striker at this level but as with all strikers, regular football and confidence are key.
Massive game next week...
There's this annoying little shite - I now know from Frank's post also no doubt boasting at school all week - who has suddenly turned up at home matches just along the back of the Smethwick with a snare drum and two sticks.
There are four things wrong with this:
He stopped "playing" the bloody thing after about ten minutes every game when abused by the right hand side of the Smethwick but against blackpool he persisted for about 20 minutes until he realised the vocal jibes were about to become literally physical.
He was back again today and a public lynching was about to take place when the stewards stepped in. I confess wholeheartedly that I was among the chief protagonists but the son pulled me back as I was about to shove said drum up his backbox.
The ordinary stewards, sensing an "incident" they couldn't control called the stand supervisor up who's commendable attitude was "If he's annoying you lot he can give me the drum lor I'll throw him out".
Said nonsense was then dutifully carried out though sadly twonker did not elect to go with it. Hope it took him an hour to get it back after the game.
The rest of the stand inevitably had a go at the stewards, cos that's what you do.
But for once they did their jobs sensibly and properly before it all kicked off between ourselves (which I admit is pretty sad).
The chant you missed straight after, Fin, was "Hear ourselves singing, we can hear ourselves singing"
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