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Analysis - Darren Moore restores West Brom's resilience

By Matt Wilson | West Bromwich Albion | Published:

When Mohamed Salah lifted the ball over Ben Foster with 18 minutes to go, it felt like game over.

Darren Moore. (AMA)

But this Albion team has a new-found resilience under Darren Moore, an innate belief in itself rarely seen this season.

They stunned Liverpool in exactly the same way countless others have stunned them.

Conceding late goals has been the story of their campaign, but on Saturday, this team flipped that trope on its head.

It is an example of the fight, the desire and the confidence Moore has instilled into this group over the past three weeks.

Nobody epitomised that more, perhaps, than Matt Phillips.

A confidence player who has struggled to reach the heights of last season, he’s looked lost under the weight of it all at times.

On Saturday he was sparkling, dancing in and out of Liverpool players. He was the Phillips of old and it was exciting to see.

The frustration is that Albion have just picked up four points against two top-three clubs and it’s going to have no bearing on their fate.

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With each passing week,the decision to delay Alan Pardew’s exit looks worse and worse.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, of course. There weren’t widespread calls for Moore to be put in charge eight weeks ago and few could have predicted an inexperienced coach would have had such a galvanising effect.

However, it did feel at the time that anybody but Pardew would be worth a shot, that it was worth one last roll of the dice.

Marco Silva was approached, but declined, and perhaps there were others.

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But keeping Pardew after so many consecutive defeats was accepting relegation and it’s now obvious that was done far too early.

There is also an argument that precise acceptance has played a part in these two results.

The pressure has been lifted off the players, they no longer believe they can stay up, they’re playing with freedom.

But that would probably be unfair on Moore and his coaching team, who have had a unifying effect on the club. The atmosphere inside The Hawthorns on Saturday was one of the best of the season.

He still faces some tough calls this season. Against Liverpool, his decision to bring Jonny Evans on for James McClean raised eyebrows.

Moving to a back three when the existing system had worked so well for him backfired almost immediately when Liverpool cut through the new-look defence struggling to find its shape like ribbons and doubled their lead.

But in fairness to Moore, it was part of a two-pronged attack, and when Oliver Burke came on for Kieran Gibbs at left wing-back, the youngster gave Albion pace and penetration.

Even if the two goals came from set pieces, Burke played his part in that final salvo and won the free-kick Salomon Rondon nodded in.

The question now is whether Moore sticks with Evans, who was booed by both the Liverpool fans and a large section of the home crowd too.

The club captain seems to have become the lightning rod for abuse now Gareth Barry is out for the season.

Everyone will have their own opinions on a supporter’s right to boo, but it’s difficult to see what he’s supposed to have done since he last played for the club when he wasn’t jeered so heavily, apart from pick up a knee injury in training.

A day before the game, Moore said Evans still had a ‘huge part’ to play this season, but it might be best for all involved if he was used sparingly in the last three games.

However, he could be forced to play if Ahmed Hegazi is punished retrospectively for his unnecessary jab into Danny Ings’s ribcage.

These are sideshows though to the real story which is Moore. Three games unbeaten and pride restored, the caretaker boss has done what he was asked to do and some.

It probably won’t be enough to land him the top job – not that he’s expressed any desire for it – and perhaps nor should it be. Three games is not enough of a test.

This tricky summer will require the new head coach to sign players and rebuild a team, something Moore – regardless of how galvanising he is on the training pitch – does not have any experience of doing.

But what this run of games has surely done, is cement him a coaching role at the club next season. He deserves to be a big part of Albion's future.

And who knows, in the future he may be ready for the full-time job after more first-team experience either at The Hawthorns or away from it.

As for now, what he and his coaching staff have done should not be underestimated.

Most importantly, it’s given the Albion fans he has such an affinity to some much-needed joy at the end of a dismal season.

Instead of seeing three points slip away yet again, this week they are the ones celebrating a remarkable comeback.

Matt Wilson

By Matt Wilson
Football MMPJ - @mattwilson_star

Sports reporter at the Express & Star, who primarily covers West Bromwich Albion.

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