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West Brom 3 Swansea City 0 - Report and pictures

By Matt Wilson | West Bromwich Albion | Published:

After countless hours of debate, this game was always going to be the first real indicator of whether the board were right sack Darren Moore.

Well this back-to-basics performance, inspired by returning club captain Chris Brunt, tentatively suggests it was the right call.

Albion rode their luck in the first half, when Swansea hit the post and Bersant Celina took the most comical penalty English football is likely to have ever seen.

On another day, Swansea's short, sharp passing would have led to several goals, and Sam Johnstone was in inspired form in the Albion goal.

But the Baggies were also more compact, and more disciplined, putting 10 men behind the in order to grind out the result.

They scored two set-piece goals and had less than 30 per cent posssession. In many ways, it was a throwback to the Tony Pulis era.

But as Brunt said in the build-up to this game, at this stage of the season, the three points is all that matters.

Albion's club captain scored a free-kick in the first half before planting a corner on Mason Holgate's head after the break.

Jay Rodriguez wrapped up the points with his 18th of the season four minutes from time.

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James Shan made four changes, and his decision to reinstate Chris Brunt to the line-up proved inspired. Swansea were unchanged from the side that took Norwich close last Friday.

Five minutes in, the Baggies carved their first chance of the game with a delightful little flick from Dwight Gayle to Jay Rodriguez.

But when the striker wanted Jacob Murphy to cross it back to him, the winger shot instead, leaving Gayle furious.

This time it was the visitors rather than the hosts who were attempting to play it out from the back and Albion were forcing Swansea into mistakes into their own half.

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Ten minutes in they wanted a penalty when Gayle went down under a barge from Mike Van der Hoorn.

But it would have been soft and following his two-game ban diving, Gayle is unlikely to get those marginal calls anymore.

Albion weren't having it all their own way though, because two minutes later, Connor Roberts drifted inside and hit the inside of the post with a curler from range.

The away end thought it was in, but Albion managed to hack it clear before Wayne Routledge could capitalise.

Brunt had the ball in the net soon after, but it was ruled out by referee Scott Duncan, who penalised Gayle for a foul, even though the striker seemd to get the ball.

It didn't matter too much, because three minutes later, the club captain had given the Baggies the lead.

When Mason Holgate won a free-kick near the byline with a cheeky nutmeg on Kyle Naughton, Brunt whipped a low ball in towards Gayle at the near post.

Albion's lone striker had the presence of mind to leave it, and it skidded inside the far post without touching anyone.

Five minutes later and another Brunt free-kick should have made it 2-0, but Ahmed Hegazi somehow touched the ball wide from three yards out after being found at the back post.

Swansea responded, and Albion had to thank Sam Johnstone for keeping them ahead after two fantastic point-blank saves to deny Routledge and Dan James.

The visitors were looking dangerous with short, sharp passing around Albion's box, especially when Bersant Celina and Nathan Dyer found pockets of space.

Eight minutes before the break Johnstone pulled off another flying save when Dyer was given too much time to turn and pick a pass to Celina.

Two minutes later though, the Swansea no.10 will have wanted the ground to swallow him up after taking one of the worst penalties English football has ever seen.

When Van der Hoorn went down in a tangle of legs with Dawson, Duncan pointed to the spot, perhaps harshly.

Celina tried to dink the spot-kick but his standing leg slipped from under him, and the ball limply spinned roughly three yards away to the right.

Brunt hacked it clear, before giving Celina an earful with a huge grin on his face.

Swansea kept probing after the break, and it took a brilliant covering tackle from Ahmed Hegazi to deny Roberts after Conor Townsend was caught out by a lofted ball.

But everything Brunt seemed to be turning to gold. Nine minutes after the break, he whipped a corner into the six yard box which Kristoffer Nordfeldt failed to claim.

That allowed Mason Holgate to nod in his first goal for the club, giving Albion some much-needed breathing space.

Craig Dawson was forced off on the hour mark, presumably from a knock he picked up in the first half when he clattered into the post.

Shan then brought Hal Robson-Kanu on for Murphy, as Swansea continued to probe Albion's back-line.

With 20 minutes to go, Johnstone pulled off another incredible point-blank save, this time denying Roberts from four yards after a mistake from Townsend, who failed to clear a simple cross.

Ten minutes later and Mason Holgate was forced off through injury, and was replaced by Tyrone Mears, meaning Albion finished the game with a second-string back four.

Six minutes from time Nordfeldt made his own stunning save to deny Gayle, but there was nothing he could do moments later when Cameron Carter-Vickers cleared the ball straight to Rodriguez.

After spending much of the night working hard at left wing, Albion's top scorer got his just reward, sweeping home his 18th of the season.

Whether it was down to the midweek kick-off, the poor home form, or the sacking of Moore, there was a distinct number of empty blue seats at the ground.

But after this showing, there might be a few fans returning for the next home game, against Birmingham City.

Key moments

11 Gayle wants a penalty when Van der Hoorn barges into him, but it's not given

13 Roberts hits the inside of the post from the edge of the box.

17 Brunt puts the ball in the net but referee had already blown up for a foul.

20 GOAL ALBION - Brunt swings in a low free-kick which nobody touches and it skids inside the far post.

39 MISSED PENALTY - Celina slips as he takes a penalty and it goes three yards before Brunt clears it.

54 GOAL ALBION - Holgate nods in a Brunt corner from six yards out.

73 Johnstone pulls off an outrageous save to deny Roberts.

86 GOAL ALBION - Rodriguez wraps up the points after a poor Carter-Vickers' clearance.

Man of the match

Sam Johnstone - Chris Brunt may have scored one and set one up but nothing was getting past Albion's No.1 tonight.

Position in the table

4th, with 64 points from 37 games.

Teams

Albion (4-1-4-1): Johnstone; Holgate (Mears 80), Dawson (Bartley 60), Hegazi, Townsend; Brunt (c); Murphy (Robson-Kanu 69), Harper, Livermore, Rodriguez; Gayle.

Unused subs: Bond, Morrison, Johansen, Leko.

Swansea (4-2-3-1): Nordfeldt; Roberts, Van der Hoorn, Carter-Vickers, Naughton (McKay 70); Grimes, Byers; Dyer (Dhanda 80), Celina, Routledge (Baker-Richardson 73); James.

Unused subs: Mulder, John, Fulton, Harries.

Referee: Scott Duncan

Attendance: 20,282 (575 away)

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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