The Warmdown: Bruce's Baggies bow ruined by Sharp brace
Sheffield won their fourth game on the bounce - Photo by Adam Fradgley/West Bromwich Albion FC via Getty Images

Steve Bruce was dealt a difficult blow in his start to life as West Bromwich Albion boss, as the Baggies were defeated at Bramall Lane.

Billy Sharp picked up his first of the night, a deflected shot creeping in off Alex Mowatt.

West Brom captain Jake Livermore was sent off just before half-time for a late and heavy challenge on Conor Hourihane which meant Bruce's men had to play with 10.

Sharp's snapshot secured the points for the Blades, turning and striking on the spot to ease out the game for Paul Heckingbottom's men.

  • Changes under the Bruce regime

Bruce was appointed as the new Baggies boss last Friday and promised an interesting change to the previously predictable starting XI.

Lining up with a 4-3-3 formation, it was the first time Albion have diverted away from Valerien Ismael's three at the back system this season.

Semi Ajayi was recalled to the side, along with Adam Reach who occupied a midfield role whilst Sam Johnstone was back between the sticks.

They began the game playing a concise, patient passing game, aiming to play through the lines at a controlled rate that was incomparable to that shown under Ismael.

Alex Mowatt was selected in a slightly altered role, sitting deeper behind Livermore and Reach who both progressed forward in midfield eight roles.

The idea of Mowatt's positioning was to get legs in and around him, in hope that the former Barnsley and Leeds United man would dictate the play.

This largely worked, but when Livermore was sent-off it essentially meant Bruce had to rip up his initial plan and start afresh.

Grady Diangana was bright as he differed from the familiar inside forward role he's been played in this season and the winger sat on the touchline on the chalk of the byline.

However, the former West Ham United man was hooked at half time to make way for Jayson Molumby who came on to plug the gaps in the middle third.

Diangana should've equalised for the Baggies after Sharp's opener, he was played in on goal and had the chance to shoot.

But instead, he couldn't gain control of the ball and was blocked by George Baldock who made ground on him quickly.

Albion moved with more fluidity and played a more concise and measured system, it's clear to see improvement, but the result didn't come for them.

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  • Sharp shooting 

If it weren't for Baggies' gloveman, Johnstone, it's fair to say that Heckingbottom's men could've bagged a few more.

Iliman Ndiaye could've finished off a one-on-one chance, but his placed shot was tipped aside by the keeper.

Left-wing-back Baldock also had an opportunity from a rebound but failed to get past the England keeper on the rebound.

However, it was Blades legend and all-time EFL Championship top goalscorer, Sharp who dug them out of their xG jail.

He scored a scuffed effort earlier in the first half and bagged a second late on by swivelling on the spot to create space.

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  • Livermore lets Bruce down

The Albion captain's reckless challenge just before half time meant his side had a mountain to climb.

His out of control tackle meant referee Leigh Doughty had no hesitation in reaching for his pocket.

It became his second red card of the season, and also his third suspension too following a sending-off against Huddersfield Town and also an accumulation of yellow cards as well.

The former Hull City, Ipswich Town and Tottenham Hotspur man also was dismissed during Sam Allardyce's first game in charge during a 3-0 loss to Aston Villa.

In an uncaptain-like move, the skipper put his entire team on the back foot, and it remains to be seen as to whether Bruce will stick with him in that leadership role.

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