W.B.A. 2 - 0 Cardiff City. Comment

Last updated : 14 February 2024 By Paul Evans

At the moment the final whistle blew, the commentator said that West Bromwich Albion had “brushed aside” Cardiff City at the Hawthorns by two goals to nil and straight away it struck as a very accurate way of encapsulating the game in a few words.


There were times during the ninety minutes when I thought we were doing well and we had the Baggies on the run, but, looking back at it now, nothing came of the too brief periods when we were on the front foot.

To be honest, West Brom won rather as they did at Cardiff City Stadium a few months ago – they weren’t overly impressive and struck me as being a little dull to watch, but tonight the two goal winning margin didn’t flatter them and I’m sure their fans will be seeing it as the kind of routine win over a lower half of the table team that top six finishes are built on.

This latest defeat only helps to accelerate the gradual decline of the team since October and the defeats are beginning to come too frequently now as we find ourselves eight points from the top six and eleven from the bottom three – with Huddersfield and QPR both due to play tomorrow it’s conceivable that we could be equidistant from the Play Offs and relegation places in twenty four hours time.

For me, that would still be better than we merit because we’ve looked more like a bottom third side than a middle third one since December at least.

The resident statistician on the message board I use posted something a couple of days ago saying that if you compared Mark Hudson’s record as manager over eighteen games I think it was with Erol Bulut’s last eighteen games in charge, the current manager is only a couple of points better off and now there’s another defeat to go on top of that. Despite this, I’d be surprised if there’s much pressure on Bulut from within the club, but, one way or another, it strikes me that he’s not going to be our manager next season.

For the first time in the league, Bulut changed from a flat back four to a three centre back formation and there was a debutant in goal. Given the way things have been going lately, It was an appropriate and succinct summing up of how things are with the team that we conceded a goal after twenty nine seconds!

Now, it may be that West Brom got an inkling of our change of formation by watching our pre match warm up, but if Carlos Corboran was able to identify a potential problem in hat time which West Brom went on to fully exploit both for that first minute goal and the eighty nine which followed, then he’s a tactical genius worth every penny he’s being paid!

City made five changes with Ethan Horvarth coming in for his first appearance in place of the injured Jak Alnwick,, Josh Wilson-Esbrand selected to play left wing back as Jamilu Collins dropped into the back three alongside Dimitri Goutas and Nat Phillips, Ruben Colwill stepping into midfield for Manolis Siopis and Yakou Meite joining Famara Diedhiou to form our first striking partnership, as opposed to a lone target man, of the league campaign.

Collins was on the left of the back three and soon was put to the test as a ball was knocked into the space between him and the slightly pushed forward Wilson-Esbrand as Tom Fellows exploited the situation to get beyond Collins and cross low to where Mikey Johnston touched the ball home from close range.

I cannot believe that there was a deliberate plan to play on an identified weakness in the City defence. More likely it was just something that was thought to be worth a try as there always will be that relatively small area of about twenty five yards outwards from the corner flag where a judgment has to be made as to who out of the right or left sided centre back or the appropriate wing back should take anyone from the opposition who enters that area?

City, or to be more precise, Collins and Wilson-Esbrand never really worked out the answer to that question, consequently, nearly all of West Brom’s most dangerous attacks came down our left.

City’s response to conceding so early was quite impressive as they spent the next quarter of an hour or so doing a fair bit of attacking, but, in truth, there was little to inconvenience the home defence too much apart from the odd minor scramble from a set piece.

Gradually, West Brom began to dominate possession and generally dictate the flow of the game, but Corbaran strikes me as a defensively minded manager who is perfectly happy to win games 1-0 rather than go for the opposition’s jugular and so his teams tend to be a bit dreary to watch – there’ll always be a job waiting for him at Cardiff if he leaves the Hawthorns!

So it was that, although the home side were generally in charge in the first half, there was little to suggest City were going to concede a second goal.

The pattern continued through the second half until Siopis, Aaron Ramsey and Kion Etete were introduced for Meite, David Turnbull and Diedhiou.

I suspect it was City’s unexpected deployment of Ramsey as a target man that foxed Albion for a while – I’m not being serious there, but it was quite a surprise to see him winning three headers beyond the far post. If nothing else, it served to show that Rambo has the ability to find space in the opposition penalty area that too many of our attacking players alack and with the last of his headers, he served up a chance for Etete that he, falling backwards, was unable to keep down from just eight yards out – it was a poor miss and grist to the mill for the young sriker’s growing number of critics.

For about three months now, City have been a team where you can count the number of times the opposition goal comes under serious threat in any game on the fingers of one hand. So it was here as Etete spurned the only real chance we had to score all night and the effect on the team was akin to the air escaping from a balloon, it was as if they knew their chance had gone.

This was proved to be the case about ten minutes later when a couple of subs combined in the scoring of West Brom’s second goal.

Once again, it was the left hand side where the problem came from as Jed Wallace put over a low cross that Horvarth maybe should have dealt with and Andreas Weimann slid the ball into the empty net from fifteen yards out.

Before leaving the game, a word about Rebecca Welch who was, frankly, pretty hopeless in her first appearance in charge of a City game (the 3-2 home loss to Norwich in November), but I’d use that old chestnut about a ref being good if you don’t notice them to describe her second one last night – on that evidence, it makes more sense that she has been given Premier League games to take charge of.

A few hours earlier City’s Under 21s came out on top by 2-1 at Bristol City thanks to a couple of Cian Ashford goals – you know Ashford, he was one of the two youngsters (the other being Joel Colwill) who were on our bench for the first team in a couple of recent Championship games just to make up the numbers up.