• Albion v Middlesbrough, 18.10.2014

    Apologies in advance for the brevity of this report. I put a lot of time and effort into these normally, but this game has left me on a bit of a downer, and I'm not prepared to spend all of my Saturday evening dwelling on it.

    I'm not going to try to analyse the Albion's tactics, as I'm not sure exactly what they were. I can tell you Middlesborough's though. Itor Karanka's instructions to his team were simple. Pressure hard, and tackle hard - disrupt Brighton's play as much as possible. Sit deep - plenty behind the ball. Break fast. Fair play to them - they are a big strong side, with plenty of nous and a fair bit of quality, and they executed it perfectly.

    It feels like Groundhog Day writing this, but yet again the Albion started brightly, and failed to capitalise on that early pressure. On the first occasion it was down to no fault of their own - with Baldock released by Teixeira's flick, to run at the Boro goal, perennially poor referee Andy D'Urso saw fit to stop play, to award the home side a free kick on the half way line. Perhaps he is a better judge of a striker than the Albion's scouting team, and knowing how unlikely the number 9 was to actually make something of the chance, decided that Baldock one-on-one with the keeper did not constitute any advantage.

    Not to worry - the chances would continue to come. Lualua cut inside, and blasted marginally over, from outside the box. Gardner swung at, and woefully mis hit, a volley from 8 yards, straight at the exposed keeper. Calderon had a couple of strikes blocked. Holla blasted over.

    As are the rules of Albion Groundhog Day, the opposition duly scored with their first opportunity. Gordon Greer, fresh from shackling Robert Lewandowski midweek, under heavy, and probably illegal, pressure - rather than going to ground - tried to pick a pass. He gave the ball directly to a Boro midfielder who released Reach down the line with a beautifully weighted chip. Reach ran unchallenged from the left, at the hopelessly exposed David Stockdale. The Albion keeper advanced to the corner of his six yard box, and waited as long as possible, to spread himself at the feet of the wide man. Reach though, pulled the ball square, past the stranded keeper. Dunk stretched to reach the ball first, but his half clearance rolled into the path of Lee Tomlin, who side footed into the roof of the empty net.

    I've never much liked Tomlin. Decent player at this level, but he's a wind up merchant with a snide attitude. Now he's lost the comedy mullet, I can't be doing with him at all.

    Thereafter. Boro sat with 10 men behind the ball, ceding total possession to a side that looked utterly bereft of ideas. Teixeira went off after 20 minutes or so, fed up of getting seven bells kicked out of him. On trotted Paddy McCourt to the acclaim of the Amex.

    Often in the past, people have discounted the stats showing the number of passes the Albion have completed in a game - pointing out that most of them were made on the edge of our own box. For the last 25 minutes of this half most of them were made on the edge of the opposition's box - yet still they offered little threat - switching the ball left to right, and back again, for minutes at a time, until a misplaced pass ended the opportunity.

    Hyypia presumably requested additional urgency at half time. He sacrificed one of the three midfielders - Danny Holla making way for Chris O'Grady. Yet again a half started with promise. McCourt sashayed past three defenders and came within a couple of feet of providing the Albion fans with their very own Paddy YouTube moment.

    The pressure built, and built, and then was released in an instant, by the best breakaway goal the Amex will see this season. The flawless Ayala won possession by his own corner flag, and ran the length of the field, exchanging a series of first-time passes with Albert Adomah, before the latter fired low at the bottom corner of the goal. Stockdale reacted smartly, plunging to the foot of his post to desperately make the stop. Unfortunately for Stockdale, on the evidence thus far, whether he is a good keeper is undecided, but he's definitely not a lucky one. His reaction stop served only to present the ball back to Adomah, who fired it home.

    When finally the Albion fashioned a genuinely good opening, Baldock wasted it. Bennett drove into the box, much as Reach had done for Boro, and pulled it back - on a plate for the ex-Bristol striker to open his Albion account. His weak, misdirected side-foot effort never looked like taking the chance. Truly woeful.

    The only other chance he had, when Calderon squared to him from the opposite side, he inexplicably ducked the responsibility - leaving the ball to a team-mate who it was never going to reach. Strikers thrive on confidence. Baldock looks bereft of it, and he's certainly not thriving. He scored for fun last season so there's clearly ability there. Fingers crossed we get to see it soon.

    Hyypia has got a lot of work to do to move this team in the right direction. There is however, one single thing that he has improved, from previous seasons - finally, after years of wasting them, there looks to be a threat from corners. It was thus, that a consolation goal finally arrived - a near post inswinger from McCourt, flicked on at the near post, for Greer unmarked at the back to head in firmly.

    More pressure followed, but no more real chances. The fourth official announced five minutes of additional time, of which D'Urso played three, and that was that.

    Rotherham come to town next week, and let's pray that the game gives reason for that report to be more upbeat. Time for a drink.
    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Paddy B's Avatar
      Paddy B -
      That is a spot on analysis of the game. The sideways passing under Hyppia seems far more prevalent that any of Poyet or Garcia's teams.

      We need to borrow the words from our own marketing team when announcing the Orange kit..... Be Bold !
    1. HantsSeagull's Avatar
      HantsSeagull -
      'The sideways passing under Hyppia seems far more prevalent that any of Poyet or Garcia's teams.'

      Please tell me you are joking...?!
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