London Saints

West Bromwich Albion Away Won 0 – 2

I don’t think Manning should get all the blame for defeat at Bristol but he had to sit out the next game, at West Bromwich, with Stephens in at full back – on the left, still leaving Walker-Peters free for the right side. More crucially, with Downes again missing, there seemed to be a tweaking of the roles of Charles and Smallbone, or maybe they both just benefited from the return of Stuart Armstrong? As usual Saints played out from the back with no fear, on the pitch at least, but Bazunu had to be rescued by a great tackle by Harwood-Bellis following a misplaced pass. At the other end it took a training ground corner routine to break the deadlock; Charles back to Stuart Armstrong for a deep cross that the reliable Fraser put away with a sidefoot volley. The visitors were good value for the lead and might have scored even earlier it had Adam Armstrong reacted better when presented with the ball after a defensive error. In truth Albion weren’t much in it until a solid period of pressure in the final 15 minutes of the opening half. In particular, two interventions by Stephens were to deny them: the first a block with his arm that on a bad day might have brought a disputable penalty, then, just before the break, a terrific goal-line clearance that preserved the lead. Carlos Corberan watched most of the first 45 minutes from the stand after being sent off after managing to kick the match ball as it rolled along the line in front of his technical area – maybe that allowed him to spot an opportunity as he brought on Fellows at the break. Half time changes by the opposition have often been our downfall but the team coped with early pressure and were soon back to their passing best and were as comfortable as they could be with a narrow lead against a decent side. As against Huddersfield, we also had the bench to expose tiring opponents and on came Edozie and Brooks and, later, Rothwell and Sulemana with that in mind. On 73 minutes Edozie did well to set up Brooks with what was really only half a chance but it was finished superbly. Albion almost hit back immediately when Yokuslu was presented with a free header that he should have buried but instead allowed Bazunu to come flying across his line to pull off a spectacular save. A goal then would have led to an exciting but distinctly awkward last few minutes that we did well to avoid, and with Aribo, our first sub, looking god after AFCON, a very handy three points remained secure.

Three LSSC Man of the Match candidates to choose from:

21. Taylor Harwood-Bellis. Comfortable on the ball and a formidable obstacle without it.

31. Gavin Bazunu, with one unusual save and contributing to Russball as usual.

35. Jan Bednarek. You could argue that Harwood-Bellis is his only challenger as the best defender in this league.

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