‘What if?’ – Steve Bruce plays down play-off chances but won’t give up hope

West Brom snatched a last-minute winner at Blackpool to keep their slim hopes alive.

By Press Association Published: 15 April 2022 - 5.26pm

Steve Bruce played down West Brom’s chances of promotion despite his side moving within five points of the play-offs with a win over Blackpool.

Karlan Grant scored with virtually the last kick of the game to secure the Baggies a 2-1 win over Neil Critchley’s side at The Hawthorns.

In a game of few clear-cut chances, Andy Carroll gave West Brom a first-half lead before Marvin Ekpiteta levelled for Blackpool after the restart.

But it was the Baggies who snatched an even game right at the end when Grant fired in from close range for his 15th goal of the season.

The win – Bruce’s fourth in 13 games in charge of the Baggies – saw his side move up to 11th in the Championship table and despite the small points margin, he still feels they have a mountain to climb if they are to finish in the top six.

“The gap is five points, which is unbelievable,” Bruce said.

“It’s ‘what if?’ We are going to ask that all the time. ‘What if?’

“Who knows? In football anything can happen. But I still think we have too much to do. It’s still ‘what if?’ The frustration is there for all to see.”

West Brom saw fellow play-off hopefuls Sheffield United, Nottingham Forest, Middlesbrough and Blackburn all drop points on Good Friday.

The Baggies – who won just one of 12 Championship games from December through to February – travel to the City Ground to face Forest on Monday.

But while Bruce has played down his team’s chances, he does expect the teams above West Brom to keep dropping points.

“When the daffodils come up you start to see strange results,” the 61-year-old continued.

“The hardest thing in football is getting over the line. All sorts of nerves come into it.

“All of a sudden the pitches are a bit more lively, the sunshine is out.

“The difficult part is always getting it done. All the teams are having a wobble. It’s pretty normal, that.

“But we had a wobble for too long so we can only blame ourselves.”

Bruce felt, overall, his side were a touch fortunate to beat Blackpool.

“Whether we deserved it or not is debatable but it’s nice to win,” he added.

“The one thing I can say about them is they don’t give up. Is it three, four, five times now that we’ve scored late to win or rescue something?

“It’s always nice to score in the last minute of course and it was a good finish from Granty.”

Blackpool boss Critchley also felt his side were unlucky to lose the game.

“It’s a bit deja vu for us,” he said.

“We’ve had this feeling too many times this season.

“And if we want to improve then we have to make better use of the opportunities that we create and we have got to stop conceding goals near the end of the games that are decisive. It’s happened too many times.

“So did we deserve to lose? Possibly not. But if that happens, like it has done, on too many occasions then you do get what you deserve.

“Over the course of the season that is why we are where we are.

“We’ve come to West Brom and we were right in the game all the way through. But I don’t want this feeling.”

BT Sport Monthly Pass

Join the home of live sport for just £25 per month. Get instant access to the BT Sport app, with no contract and no BT broadband required.