Abra­ham keeps Swans afloat

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - SOCCER - RORY DOL­LARD

DAR­REN MOORE suc­cess­fully ended the eight-game los­ing streak be­queathed to him by West Brom pre­de­ces­sor Alan Pardew, but a draw with Swansea ap­peared to rep­re­sent an­other nail in the club’s Premier League cof­fin.

For the 21 min­utes be­tween Jay Ro­driguez’s poached opener and Tammy Abra­ham’s headed equaliser, it seemed Moore might be on course for a fairy­tale start to life in the Hawthorns dugout.

Ro­driguez’s point-blank fin­ish early in the sec­ond half got the home fans singing, slowly eras­ing the worst mem­o­ries of Pardew’s ill-fated reign, but the bon­homie was punc­tured when Jake Liver­more al­lowed Abra­ham to climb above him and nod in Sam Clu­cas’ cor­ner. The Bag­gies have one foot in the Cham­pi­onship, 11 points adrift with five to play, and may yet be joined by their op­po­nents who can con­sider them­selves lucky to leave with any­thing af­ter a deeply unim­pres­sive out­ing.

The first half was a mori­bund af­fair, un­der­stand­ably short of flair given the league plac­ings of the re­spec­tive sides but also lack­ing ur­gency. With a few mi­nor ex­cep­tions the at­tacks were scrappy, and the am­bi­tion lim­ited.

It might have been dif­fer­ent had Ro­driguez’s early de­ci­sion to at­tempt an over­head kick led to some­thing more spec­tac­u­lar than a scuffed con­nec­tion and a goal kick, but reg­u­lars at the Hawthorns this sea­son have learned to lower their ex­pec­ta­tions ac­cord­ingly.

Bag­gies cap­tain Chris Brunt showed an im­pres­sive will­ing­ness to un­pick a Swansea de­fence led solidly by Fed­erico Fer­nan­dez, chip­ping balls into the chan­nels with both sides of his boot, but the first real chances did not ar­rive un­til shortly be­fore the break. Swansea, com­pact but cu­ri­ously ret­i­cent, should have bro­ken the dead­lock in the 40th minute af­ter Clu­cas and Abra­ham com­bined to part West Brom’s cen­tre-halves.

It fell to An­dre Ayew to ap­ply the fin­ish­ing touch but he poked at the chance and sent it skip­ping wide of the post. Sec­onds be­fore the whis­tle the hosts pro­duced their best ef­fort, Ro­driguez sting­ing Lukasz Fabi­an­ski’s palms with a rasp­ing shot.

The 28-year-old went one bet­ter 10 min­utes af­ter the restart, snip­ing from point-blank range to give Al­bion the lead. Af­ter a goal­mouth scram­ble Matt Phillips pro­vided a much-needed mo­ment of calm, tak­ing a soft touch to con­trol the ball then bend­ing a mea­sured cross from the left wing. Salomon Ron­don rose to flick it across goal and Ro­driguez stole a march of Kyle Bart­ley, on for the in­jured Mike van der Hoon, to prod home.

Ro­driguez and James McClean seemed ea­ger to add a sec­ond, har­ing into space and lead­ing the counter-at­tack when­ever Swansea pressed for­ward. Nathan Dyer’s ar­rival off the away bench changed the dy­namic, the winger’s pace push­ing West Brom back on their heels.

The lev­eller came from a cor­ner on his side, Clu­cas stand­ing the ball up and Abra­ham eas­ily beat­ing Liver­more to power his header into the top cor­ner.

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