Baggies Late Strike Increases Boro Pressure
By Rob Nichols
Sunday 20 Oct 2019 18:42:00
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Boro go to Huddersfield on Wednesday needing a result to stay out of the relegation places. That is the pressure pot position we find ourselves in after such a drastic run of results culminating in Saturday's late defeat by the Baggies.

For 80+ minutes Boro competed really well. It was a far better performance all over the park and a positive response by a rejigged side after recent maulings. Yet that all went out of the window as we paid dearly for missed chances when Brom sub Robson-Kanu provided a back post finish to send us spinning to defeat once again.

With Huddersfield drawing, Stoke getting back to back wins and even Barnsley taking a point the pressure is right on Boro as we continue to drop down the table. Having been recently blasted by Sheff Wed and in all but scoreline away at Birmingham, Boro were desperate for points as well as performance against West Brom. The only trouble was that Slaven Bilic side are right up at the top of the league and presented formidable opposition. We went to the Riverside in hope rather than anything else yesterday only to see our spirits lifted before being cruelly crushed right at the end.

Boro stiffened up the defences with three men across the back and Ayala marshalled Fry and Shotton perfectly as the trio covered well for each other. Howson and Johnson were played as wingbacks and Boro managed to cut out our Achilles heel; there were no crosses flying in to our box. In fact we had the crosses, winning corner after corner in the first half. The midfield screen of Saville, Wing and McNair competed really well and pressed on Albion throughout with Tav and Britt covering so much ground ahead of them.

Saville was taken out near the start as an Albion player went straight through on him. It surely should have been at least a yellow and would have been if it had not been so early in the game. Saville and McNair in the midfield together meant Boro had two of the successful Northern Ireland engine room, including 2 goal Paddy McNair and it was McNair that had the best shot in the opening 45minutes. It looked as if the Albion keeper Johnstone had almost moved beyond Paddy's scorcher but he just about managed to finger tip it over the top.

It was a first half where both teams had periods of dominance and Boro were thankful that the visitors did not profit on two or three early errors, as Ayala left a back pass short and Howson failed to shepherd the ball out of play.

Boro definitely had the better of the first half chances. Apart from McNair's scorcher, Howson was piling down the right and getting his centre in first time. Britt came close to getting on the end of one of those and also was close to getting a head on a Marcus Johnson centre from the left.

Boro were combining well down the wings and getting bodies into the box. The corner count was heavily in our favour and Albion were rocking at times as we applied the press and the pressure. Rightly Boro fans applauded their side off for half time. But would the team at the top of the table make changes and find another gear after the break?

Early signs were positive for the Throstles with an overhead kick in the box but it drifted harmlessly into Randolph's arms. Yet it was still Boro having the clearest site of goal and working their keeper.

Some sweeping moves brought opportunities in the box. Saville arrived at just the right time but shot too close to the keeper who reacted well. You could tell by Saville's head in hands pose that he knew it was a golden chance. Howson blasted for goal but Johnstone was equal to it.

Fletcher came on for Tav and instantly had a chance on the break, possibly too quickly after coming on. But he still powered away and fed the ball, eventually it was played just behind Saville who still managed to get a shot off that Johnstone diverted away from goal but towards an onrushing Fletcher who struck it high and wild. Did the sub have time to steady himself? Am not sure. To be fair to him it arrived at a very awkward height and narrow angle. Maybe not the sitter that it looked from various parts of the ground.

Whatever, for these and other missed chances Boro would pay the biggest penalty when WBA for once eluded our well-marshalled defence. The ball deflected off a defender and squirmed away from Randolph off the greasy surface and Robson-Kanu snuck it in at the back post. The silence was deafening from the Boro three quarters of the ground. The Baggies fans bounced in jubilation a league topping victory stolen in the last ten minutes, precisely what you need to compete at the top of this league and what you suffer at the bottom.

Boro brought on Marcus Browne who drew a bookable foul and a last gasp free kick chance. Sadly Lewis Wing blew it with a wild miss-hit, well off target. And that was that. Defeat.

All that effort for nowt and an already near empty stadium echoing the Baggies boing boings. Robson-Kanu substitution had made a difference, a shift of emphasis and momentum. Perhaps Fletcher could have done the same. Now with a tough game against a Cowleys -revived Huddersfield in midweek Boro need to start taking their chances and dig in to win some tough 1-0s for ourselves. There are tough times ahead and with precious few options for Jonathan Woodgate no easy fixes available.

We did compete well with the league leaders. We must all try and draw some strength from that, players and fans alike. I don't mean to sound blasé about our position because the bottom three is reeling us in, no doubt about that. Scary times, testing times to be a Boro fan.

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