Analysis: West Brom make their point but much to work on

Albion and Steve Bruce would have snatched your hands off for a point after half an hour at the John Smith’s Stadium on Saturday.

The visitors were particularly poor early on in West Yorkshire – at a stadium where their recent record is anything but encouraging – and it looked like another disappointing trip for 1,600 ardent Baggies.

But, to their credit, Bruce’s troops were level by the hour mark and in the end deserved to win the game against last season’s beaten Championship play-off finalists, albeit a hosts’ side very much in transition, as are Albion.

The Baggies deserved to win on the balance of play – and could have also lost it on what was another fun and entertaining afternoon, but without the ideal result.

The major talking point from a breathless 90 minutes was the decision from referee Andy Davies and his officials to not award Albion a penalty five minutes from time for a Will Boyle foul on Karlan Grant.

Everybody in the press box, located beside the other half of the pitch, could see it was a foul. Everybody in the 18,500-strong crowd could see it was a foul.

Even if you couldn’t see it was a foul, sometimes it is clear from players’ reactions. Bruce and his staff were hopping mad, so much so that it earned the Baggies chief just the second caution of his management career.

This piece won’t be referee bashing. Bruce asked the referee how he missed such a stonewall, game-defining decision and Davies – a former player forced to retire aged 28 who has been reffing since 2004/05 – said his view was blocked. Video replays did confirm this.

A touch more alarming was word from the assistant referee, who said he could not give a decisive call because he was 30 yards away.

That is in no way too far for such a clear decision. Albion are left frustrated and scratching their heads.

That aside it was a feeling of mixed emotions at full-time in West Yorkshire.

For Bruce’s men it was a point gained having been 2-0 down. But Albion can’t afford to play in fits and starts, having poor spells and giving sides a leg up.

Jed Wallace, one of Albion’s electric creative trio including John Swift and Grady Diangana, opened his goal account for the club in pulling one back before half-time before striking a well-executed equaliser.

Wallace and Swift, the two headline summer recruits – so far, with four days left of the window – have now registered a couple of goals and assists already. Their impact on this side is telling.

Albion attacked well once more. They have generally this season been an exciting team to watch. The Baggies look creative with pace and whenever that trio combine they look too hot for many defences to handle.

There is obviously no getting away from the limitations up front ahead of the trio.

That is not a slight on Grant. He is a very capable Championship striker and will score Albion goals this season, like he did last term, although his two big chances got away at the John Smith’s.

It remains unfair to judge Grant solely when all the burden to be the difference in front of goal rests with him. He will be a solid option among a group of strikers – this week’s new loan recruit and a fit Daryl Dike.

It is also true that Albion want to see more in his game overall, particularly when big chances get away.

The visitors had other problems at Huddersfield. There were big off days for Okay Yokuslu and captain Dara O’Shea, who have both played well of late.

Bruce needed more from his full-backs and Jayson Molumby did not have a great day in midfield, either.

Albion found themselves 2-0 down before they even got going and they are conceding too many goals and chances this season.

It feels like Bruce’s men are too easy to score against – which is a little strange given O’Shea and Semi Ajayi have generally performed well.

Albion are forced to work hard for their goals, but opposition seem to find it easy to hit the back of the net. More pertinently they find it easy to get at the back four. Protection must be better.

Bruce has hinted that is a result of Albion being progressive, creative, attacking, and teams being willing to sit deep and hit on the counter. It’s a back-handed compliment, in a way.

Only two sides, Burnley and Bristol City with 11, have more goals than Albion’s 10. But only three teams have been involved in game’s with more goals than 18. The Baggies have shipped eight in six games – too many.

They have only lost once – but only won once. Currently 14th, but the table is embryonic.

It’s a big game at newly-promoted Wigan tomorrow, where only a win will do.

It’s a key final week in the window, where Bruce needs a striker and more to bulk his thin squad.

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