Woking 0 West Brom 1 - Report

Hope was in short supply when Albion were famously beaten by non-league Woking back in 1991.

WBA match action v Woking - pre season friendly
WBA match action v Woking - pre season friendly

Thirty years on, though, this meeting between the two sides will have Baggies supporters feeling more optimistic.

It’s not often in football you commemorate a defeat.

Nevertheless, Albion made the long trip to Surrey to mark the day Tim Buzaglo netted an FA Cup hat-trick to write his name into the history books of both clubs.

It just so happened this ‘celebration’ coincided with the first public friendly under new boss Valerien Ismael.

And his side put on a display to whet the appetite ahead of the new campaign.

In his time at Barnsley, the Frenchman became known for playing variants of a 3-4-3 system.

And Baggies fans in attendance got to see that for the first time in glorious sunshine at Kingfield Stadium.

Here Dara O’Shea, Kyle Bartley and Semi Ajayi got the nod as the three centre-backs with new recruit Matt Clarke not in the match day squad.

Darnell Furlong and Conor Townsend were the wing-backs, with Alex Mowatt and Jake Livermore in central midfield.

Matt Phillips was the central striker, with Grady Diangana and Karlan Grant operating as inverted wingers either side.

In what proved to be an intriguing first half, Albion showed glimpses of how they are likely to play under their new boss.

The Baggies enjoyed almost total control for the opening 45 minutes, with Woking offering little in the way of an attacking threat.

And Ismael’s moved the ball around well with central midfielders Livermore and Mowatt under clear instruction to get the ball wide.

It led to the Baggies consistently getting into dangerous areas.

But that bit of magic you need in the final third just wasn’t there with their final pass constantly letting them down.

Phillips consistently got in-behind Woking’s defence.

Grant and Diangana looked bright on the ball.

But there was a rustiness to their play that kept letting them down at the crucial moment.

And that meant they only really created one clear-cut chance in the first-half.

It arrived on the half-hour when Diangana latched on to a long ball foward.

The winger’s first-touch was sublime. But goalkeeper Craig Ross did well to block his shot.

Despite the control his side had enjoyed, Ismael grew more frustrated as the half progressed.

The boss could be heard shouting ‘press, press, press’ at times.

While he was also made it abundantly clear when players picked the wrong pass.

Albion came a whisker away from opening the scoring shortly after the re-start when Phillips lashed a strike against the post after brilliantly rolling a defender.

Ismael then made wholesale changes with youngsters Ethan Ingram, Quevin Castro, Taylor Gardner-Hickman and Rayhaan Tulloch introduced along with Cedric Kipre and Kenneth Zohore.

The pattern of the game remained uncharged, though, with Albion continuing to knock on the door.

Grant powered a strike from edge of the box straight at the keeper.

The forward, who was causing all-sorts of problems down the left, then sent in a dangerous cross that Tulloch came a whisker away from converting.

From an Albion perspective, there had been positive performances all over the park.

But it was Castro who really caught the eye in the second half, just days after joining the club following a successful trial.

The central midfielder was bright on the ball.

But he also showed he is willing to throw himself into tackles, with the 19-year-old making some wonderfully-timed challenges.

And he came close to capping his excellent display with a goal when he let fly with a rocket from just outside the box.

Sadly for the teenager, though, his effort sailed just inches past the post.

Woking had put up a plucky display.

But there could be no doubt, overall, Albion deserved to win.

And they finally broke the deadlock with what was virtually the last kick of the game.

Zohore was tripped in the box with referee Charles Breakspear pointing to the spot.

And the striker dusted himself down to powerfully find the bottom corner from 12 yards.

Team

Albion (3-4-3): Button (Palmer 46), O’Shea (Andrws 73), Bartley (Taylor 73), Ajayi (Shotton 73), Furlong (Ingram 55), Mowatt (Castro 55), Livermore (Kipre 55), Townsend (Garnder-Hickman 55), Phillips (Zohore 55), Grant (Richards 73), Diangana (Tulloch 55).

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