West Brom out of bottom three after Gallagher sees off Sheffield United

Paul Doyle at the Hawthorns
·4-min read
<span>Photograph: Lindsey Parnaby/PA</span>
Photograph: Lindsey Parnaby/PA

West Brom have lift-off at last. Conor Gallagher’s long-range goal gave Slaven Bilic’s men their first Premier League win since their promotion from the Championship and hauled them out of the relegation zone, albeit having played more matches than Burnley and Fulham. Sheffield United remain anchored to the bottom, with no wins and a solitary point after 10 matches.

Chris Wilder’s men tried everything to break their duck here but let themselves down with erratic finishing. Again. In a game that they started and ended strongly, after drifting through the middle, they created an uncharacteristically high number of chances but lacked the poise to take them. They have scored four league goals this season but should have netted that many in this match alone.

Wilder was aghast, but neutral analysts marvelled at a spectacle that featured 39 shots and in which Sheffield United apparently achieved an expected goal figure of 3.3, the most of any side that has failed to score since Arsenal’s blank against Southampton in February 2016. In truth, that mysterious calculation seems too low, with Oliver Burke, Oli McBurnie, George Baldock and Lys Mousset among the players guilty of bad misses here.

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“It’s incredible that we’ve not scored,” said Wilder. “We’re just shooting ourselves in the foot. It feels like groundhog day because I’m saying the same things over and over. Players have to show better technique, better composure and better quality when they get into those positions. It’s not just the forwards.”

It is only November but the spectre of relegation lurked ominously on a night when the Hawthorns was cloaked in mist and denuded of fans. And anyone with the Blades in their hearts has been spooked by the amount of injuries suffered by their team this season, as Wilder, who enjoyed such stability in his selections last season, has been forced into many changes, this match being no exception. Enda Stevens and Ethan Ampadu had to pull out for fitness reasons, but Wilder also opted to make a surprising alteration, giving a first league start to Kean Bryan as the latest attempt at replacing Jack O’Connell, the centre-back who has been missing since September.

Although Albion have a relatively settled team, they looked jittery early on as United started with impressive gusto. Burke should have opened the scoring in the first minute but failed to connect properly with a shot after being sent clear by McBurnie. Then John Fleck dragged a shot wide from the edge of the area after United cut through again.

West Brom did not threaten until Karlan Grant beat Bryan to a pass over the top and forced a save from Aaron Ramsdale. From the resultant corner West Brom made the breakthrough, Gallagher taking advantage of the space given to him 20 yards out to fire low into the net.

Sam Johnstone made a terrific save to tip a header by Burke over the bar before Albion enjoyed a spell of control, with Gallagher and Matheus Pereira wielding great influence. Pereira tested United with a series of shots, caused moments of mayhem with some runs down the left and delivered corners that regularly troubled the visitors. United became bitty, their early conviction drained.

West Brom were more sure of themselves. They nearly doubled their lead early in the second half but Ramsdale did well to divert a powerful header by Kyle Bartley over the bar.

Wilder tried plan B, introducing Rhian Brewster and John Lundstram and shifting to a 4-3-3. United improved. Except at the sharp end. Baldock shanked the ball over the bar from eight yards after smart service by Burke. Then McBurnie left a shot too close to Johnstone after being teed up to equalise. United saved the worst till last, Lys Mousset somehow nudging the bouncing ball over the bar from three yards after Brewster’s shot was blocked by Branislav Ivanovic.

“It is a huge three points,” said Bilic. “It was one of those games that was more than a normal win.”