Happy New Year? I don’t think so. Kicking off at 12.30pm the day after the New Year’s celebrations is absolutely pointless. The fans don’t want to be nursing their hangovers there; the players want to be with their families and any neutral fan who gets up early on New Year’s Day specifically to watch Albion vs Everton needs to watch less football as their resolution.
Anyway, on to the match – if you can call it that. Albion made two enforced chances with injuries to Youssouf Mulumbu and Jonas Olsson seeing James Morrison coming back after his hamstring injury and young Craig Dawson given the opportunity to impress alongside Gareth McAuley.
Despite the early start and subdued atmosphere inside The Hawthorns, it was Albion who started the brighter of the two sides. Brunt found Thomas down the right whose deep cross was headed down, but wide at the far post by Nicky Shorey.
Everton – playing an unfamiliar 4-3-3 formation, were proving tricky to break down. But Albion forged another opportunity in the 18th minute. Peter Odemwingie linked up well with Shane Long after a goal-kick from Ben Foster. The Irishman passed wide to Brunt who returned the favour with a whipped cross. However Long was stretching for the ball and could only head over with only Tim Howard to beat.
The visitors had created very little with the likes of Neville, Heitinga and Rodwell in midfield but were almost gifted a goal when Ben Foster palmed a corner to the feet of striker Louis Saha. The Albion goalkeeper made up for the error with a fantastic blocked shot which went for another corner.
It looked as though Everton would only score from a set piece or from the dangerous left-foot of Leighton Baines. The England full back created the next chance for the Toffees when he floated over a corner on to the head of Rodwell who headed wide when unmarked.
After the break
After Albion’s below-par first half show few expected the Baggies to be as poor in the second half. Interestingly, none of Albion’s substitutes warmed up during the break, but there were no changes as Roy Hodgson’s team talk nearly had an immediate effect. Morrison headed a brave header through to Odemwingie. The Nigerian nudged the ball past Jagielka but blasted his volley high into the Birmingham Road End when through on goal.
Scharner and Brunt both tried long range efforts which ended up with the fans behind the goal as Albion looked more likely if either were to score. Everton changed to a 4-4-2 formation which opened up the midfield. On came Gueye, Anichebe and Stracqulaursi for Everton as the visitors sensed a winner.
Gueye tested Foster with a shot from the edge of the 18-yard box as the visitors started to show more imagination. Gueye was involved again as he sent a low cross into the near post which Craig Dawson did excellently to clear.
With Albion’s subs still warming the bench, Osman did excellent to find the overlapping full back Hibbert. The defender sent a deep cross to the back post where Paul Scharner looked to head the ball away for a corner. But the Austrian mystifyingly headed the ball back across the box and into the path of Victor Anichebe who spun and fired the ball past Foster in the 87th minute.
There would be no way back for the Baggies with the defeat compounded with the sight of Chris Brunt limping off in time-added-on with an ankle injury
There was something missing from the Albion yesterday. Whether it was the subdued atmosphere inside the ground as a result from the early kick off or the absence of the influential Olsson and Mulumbu I’m not sure. But Albion were rubbish. Everton weren’t much better but at least had a go towards the end. Void of any ideas going forward we never looked like scoring. Why Roy didn’t at least give Dorrans, Cox or Tchyoi the opportunity to change the game is equally as mystifying as Scharner’s header. The defeat was our sixth on our own turf. More is needed if we are to maintain our mid-table position moving into the second half of the season.
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