The talking points from Vicarage Road as West Brom take another Championship point away from home.
West Brom posted another away day draw in a frenetic meeting with Watford on a torrential evening at Vicarage Road on Wednesday. All four goals in the 2-2 stalemate arrived in the first quarter of the game – the Hornets grabbed an early lead through Tom Ince, before John Swift and Jed Wallace turned the game on its head after the quarter hour mark. Matheus Martins levelled matters a little over 20 minutes into the game, in an encounter which resembled the frantic meeting betwee the pair here back in February.
Albion begun the second half the better, and Brandon Thomas-Asante tested Daniel Bachmann’s reflexes when he stung the palms of the Hornets keeper with a long-range shot on his weaker foot. Semi Ajayi then had a penalty appeal waved away from inside a penalty area melee, from a Swift free kick, but Albion – as they did on Saturday – would need Alex Palmer before the end. First he made an outrageous save to deny the header of Kone, whose shot deflected onto the bar, and then he kept out substitute Jamal Lewis at his near post.
Thomas-Asante then had the best chance of the second half from an Albion perspective. Nathaniel Chalobah was gifted possession and he fed Jeremy Sarmiento, who in turn slipped in Albion’s striker – his eventual strike was palmed away by Bachmann. It meant that the points were shared. Albion take a couple of points from their travels back to The Hawthorns where they welcome Millwall on Saturday. Here are the talking points.
Quite rightly, Palmer was greeted with an embrace and congratulations from goalkeeping coach Marcos Abad, once he’d thanked the away fans at full time. After his stormer of a save at Bristol City to retain the point on Saturday, this effort to deny Ismael Kone who had burst into the penalty area to meet a cross was really quite stunning from Palmer.
Corberan, a former goalkeeper himself of course, has been pleased by the personality shown by Palmer, who has made errors in recent weeks but who has undoubtedly significantly contributed to these successive away day points in the space of five days at times when the Baggies back-line has appeared vulnerable.
While Palmer made those saves – effectively a goalkeeper’s way of scoring goals – Thomas-Asante passed up his own big moments. There was one moment when he received the ball in the penalty area and, with options around him, opted to shoot for goal – that attempt was blocked. The more gilt-edged, of course, came in the final minutes when he was played in by Sarmiento, but Bachmann scarpered off his line to deny him. The margins are fine.
Swift’s scoring streak
We’re seven matches into the season, and Swift has already established himself as Albion’s leading marksman. The excitement amongst Albion supporters who had paid attention to the playmaker’s exploits at Reading was justified when you looked at his numbers – he’d reached double figures for goals and assists in the same season as a Royal.
Things just didn’t quite click over the course of last season. Swift chipped in with seven goals last year but, in a sit down interview on the eve of the final match of the season at Swansea, he admitted he was disappointed with is personal form and indicated his intention to improve those numbers in his second year at The Hawthorns.
Seven games into the new campaign, and Swift has acted upon his word. The goals have been of real quality, too – the stunner against Middlesbrough, the composed finish to get Albion back into the game against Huddersfield and then this, a free kick which left Bachmann red faced. Swift, in this role playing just left of the centre forward, is flourishing in the early stages of the season.
The Albion captain would be the first person to recognise when he has played poorly, or failed to reach his own high standards, according to Corberan. The Albion boss has stuck by the man who he gave the armband to over the summer, despite those sub par displays and with alternative options to call upon, and this in return was a good bit more like it from Wallace.
Take Wallace’s goal, a fine finish into the far corner when he connected with Darnell Furlong’s cross, out of the equation and this was still comfortably as well as Wallace has performed this season – granted the goal itself helps to breed confidence, and Wallace buzzed around in the press with the sort of purpose he’s shown previously.
Corberan said he noticed how relieved Wallace was in celebrating putting Albion 2-1 up, and was satisfied that, at a time when the calls for Jeremy Sarmiento to start have grown louder, his skipper had posted a more accomplished performance which can act as a platform for further positive showings – right in time for the visit of his former club to The Hawthorns.
Lessons have been learned
The first reunion with Valerien Ismael was always likely to intrigue. It’s been more than 18 months since the Frenchman left The Hawthorns under a cloud and yet with them in the play-offs. The football was difficult to consume, and the results eventually deteriorated – not a pleasant combination.
Having had a spell in Turkey with Besiktas, an entirely different challenge and set of demands to what he’d have been experienced at Albion, Ismael – who was always friendly but often infuriatingly stubborn tactically – appears to have relented on his philosophy. Watford played with a back four – the irony was that Albion played in a 3-4-3 – and zipped the ball around on the greasy surface at times quite nicely. The goals were of a good quality too. It was a snippet only, true, but it was enough to point to a tweak in approach.
On a personal level, Ismael spoke pre-match of his intention to take the emotion out of the occasion. Even post-match, he was courteous with familiar faces if not quite at the same level as Slaven Bilic, who was comparably overjoyed after his own reunion in February. Ismael will fancy his chances to have Watford in the play-off mix come the season’s end – this mightn’t, in the months to come, look a bad point for Albion.