Despite yet another VAR farce, the Baggies gave one of the most complete performances you’ll see, keeping our survival dreams alive (just).
Allardyce made just one change from our heroic performance at Stamford Bridge, bringing in the impressive Robinson, who clearly earned his start with a brace against Chelsea. A more attacking formation (4-2-3-1) showed Big-Sam’s intent prior to the game.
With a gap of 11 points separating us from safety and just 8 games left, it really was win or bust for the Baggies.
After just three minutes, a dream start was snatched from us, by the dubious VAR (shock). Furlong’s bouncing shot was glanced in by Diagne, but the linesman’s flag went straight up. VAR checked the goal for just over two minutes but agreed with the original decision and ruled the goal out.
It transpired that the VAR couldn’t draw a definitive line through Diagne’s body, so they stayed with the on-field decision. Yet another example of VAR not doing its job and failing to reach the correct decision. Unbelievable.Embed from Getty Images
We looked the brighter of the two teams in the opening exchanges, with Robinson’s inventive flick after six minutes narrowly missing the post. However, Walker-Peters got the better of Connor Townsend at the other end, and should have done better with a driven shot straight at Johnstone.
Just minutes later, Townsend should have made up for his mistake, but a weak effort with his right foot was comfortably saved by Forster. The opening ten minutes proved exactly what you’d expect from two of the worst defensive teams in the league.
A driven cross in the 15th minute by Phillips found Furlong free in the box, but he didn’t get the connection he would have wanted. With space everywhere and Southampton looking crestfallen, surely it was only a matter of time before we scored (again).
Against the run of play, the quality of Danny Ings’ quick feet in the box almost told, with a decent effort. Ings came close again just minutes later, after Bartley almost set up the England front-man when he couldn’t get the ball out of his feet. Luckily for us, his shot dribbled across the face of goal.
Yet another Baggies chance then went begging, with a severe lack of composure paying costly for Diagne, as his one-on-one effort went yards wide. At the other end, a well-worked corner led to a deflection off Ings that could have gone anywhere, but thankfully went straight into Johnstone’s gloves.
After one of the most entertaining 30-minutes you’ll see, we got a well-deserved penalty as Pereira was caught by Forster in the box. He calmly then stepped up and smashed the ball down the middle, giving the Baggies a well-deserved lead.Embed from Getty Images
Phillips then doubled our lead just minutes later, after a superb cross by Diagne found the winger at the back post.
The Baggies then saw out the final ten minutes of one of the best Albion halves of football in a long time. Anything similar in the second half would surely mean a vital three points for Allardyce’s men.
Inevitably, Southampton came out fighting. A good ball from Walker-Peters five minutes after the restart was inches from Ings’ boot. A clear counter-attacking style had been adopted by Allardyce, sitting in more, but inviting more pressure.
The pace of the game dropped dramatically in the opening minutes of the second half, with the Baggies showing a different, more Allardyce-esque part of their game.
The perfect counter-attacking goal from Robinson put the game to bed, with a superb finish. Allardyce’s wry smile as the ball hit the net told you everything you needed to know; his masterplan was working a treat.
Southampton looked relatively threatening on the break though, with substitute and former-Blues man Che Adams dragging his shot just wide.
The defensive side of our game in the second half was superb, defending our lead in numbers and with immense commitment.Embed from Getty Images
One lapse in concentration in added time almost gave the visitors a consolation goal though. Connor Townsend lunged at Djenepo, giving the referee an easy decision to make. However, Johnstone came to our saviour yet again, with a superb save down to his right.
Clean sheet in-tact, superb performance, happy days.
The win leaves the baggies eight points off Newcastle in 17th, who play West Ham next. We wait ten days for our next outing at Leicester, with another win needed again to apply pressure on those above us. Even if we do go (inevitably) down, at least we’re showing some fight. It’s been a long time coming, but the boys are making us proud.
We thought it was all over, don’t rule us out yet.
Ratings: Johnstone (7), Furlong (8), Bartley (9), O’Shea (8), Townsend (7), Yokuslu (8), Maitland-Niles (8), Phillips (8), Pereira (8), Robinson (8), Diagne (7).
Johnstone, Furlong, Bartley (Ajayi, 84)), O’Shea, Townsend, Yokuslu, Maitland-Niles, Phillips, Pereira, Robinson (Gallagher, 72), Diagne (Robson-Kanu, 75).
Subs: Gallagher (72), Robson-Kanu (75), Ajayi (84)
Unused Subs: Button, Peltier, Gibbs, Ajayi, Livermore, Diangana, Grant.
Forster, Walker-Peters (Djenepo, 86), Bednarek, Vestergaard, Bertrand, Diallo, Ward-Prowse, Armstrong, Redmond, Walcott (Adams, 75), Ings (Tella, 86).
Subs: Adams (75), T Djenepo (86), Tella (86).
Unused Subs: McCarthy, Stephens, Salisu, Ferry, Jankewitz, Minamino.