No matter what happens to this Cup competition there will always be something about the first Saturday in January: a small buzz of hope in every fan’s mind about a possible trip to Wembley.
I always remember my first cup game; it was against Leeds, we won 4-2 and they missed a pen through Horsfield – while everyone sang his name. Anyway, it meant something, it was a big, exciting day. Now it looks a half-hearted effort all round.
As always to Premier League sides the FA Cup seems in the way, despite being played on a Saturday throughout. Whatever team lost this tie would have a couple of free weekends ahead, which is potentially dangerous. Anyway the seriousness of the game would be seen in the sides picked, total respect to Palace who put their best side out; meanwhile we went half and half, strong and fringe which doesn’t really tell you what the cup mean to us.
We stuck Foster in goal and then a defence of Dawson, McAuley, Lugano and Popov, throwing Daws at right back for the first time. Yacob, Morrison and Gera made up a midfield that also started with Berahino wide in a 4-4-2 with Long and Vydra our front line. That side isn’t bad, although throwing names on won’t gain much, we had 3 forwards in that side that all like to run away from the ball, behind defences and no-one willing to get their back to goal and pick the ball out. And with no CF on the bench options were sparse there too.
I am told 12,700 were in The Hawthorns to watch this one – as my friends harked back to the days when we used to double our attendance on this day. The first chance came on 18 minutes as an excitable Vydra forced Speroni into a near post save.
Palace hit the post when Dawson was beaten by Bolasie, McAuley was dragged out wide and with no-one covering his position, Bannan saw the ball rolled to him and taking it past Lugano he over ran it on the line but managed to slot it under Foster and hit the post.
It wasn’t long before Dwight Gayle found the net, just as all within the ground had got used to the horrid colour ball. McAuley played it to Popov under no pressure he could’ve played it back to Foster but lashed it to a yellow shirt, Foster ran back to his sticks, Gayle knocked it the other side. 1-0. The Baggies were once again facing an early exit from the cup and once again on the road to getting knocked out of a cup at home.
While I’m here I may as well tell any new Head Coach: if you don’t buy a new left back then you’re chances of success will be extremely low. That position is killing us right now, no confidence whatsoever in that area in either Ridgewell or Popov.
A poor corner from Gera saw him get another chance to deliver and Dawson rose highest to clip the top of the bar. Anything else on target was covered from Speroni rather comfortably. Pulis had his side defending well in their own half and not really looking to do much with the ball.
A little note on Gera who was forced out wide and that seemed too much for him to cover. As much as I love the bloke he was out of sorts, to ask him to cover his full back and attack was too much, he’s no longer able to put those yards in. Morrison would’ve been a better bet there.
It all got very sideways and backwards from West Brom, Palace had no intention to attack and just smashed it away every time.
Fans got restless. We were pitiful, not taking risks and not switching the ball when it got tight, Amalfitano came on for Dawson, who did ok for a first time right back but he certainly had a word with Downing as he was taken off, a good young English defender ruined by a lack of chances.
With three at the back we now had three up front with Berahino pushing forward. He had a couple of efforts from range that moved in the air but Speroni found himself behind all attempts. Again though we had a huge problem with all our strikers running away from the ball, not to worry though because Vydra, who was causing a couple of problems with his shoot on sight policy, would be taken off for Scott Sinclair.
But that changed nothing and fans got suicidal when Yacob was hauled off and put Sessegnon put on. Three subs that made no sense given Long, Gera and Popov could’ve been subbed with no arguments after poor displays.
I suppose we can class a couple of pin balls in the area as chances as Lugano ended up as a striker as well! Speroni did a Fulop and punched the ball backwards but we still couldn’t score. We even resorted to horrendous diving, congrats Shane Long for that effort, turned himself into the area and then fell over. Stay on your feet Shane, you fooled no one, and it’s happening far too often.
As many were leaving a bloke with far too much hair gel – Chamakh - was given the ball from Bolasie, who rinsed McAuley and drew Foster out of his goal, a simple tap in applied and the aptly, Phil Dowd blew the whistle.
I don’t even want to reflect on that. It seemed like we threw players out to get minutes and played first teamers where there was a space without a fringe player needing to play. No thought of how to break Palace down and we got exactly what we deserved against an average side that took the game seriously.
I’m clutching at straws looking for positives but I thought Vydra and Berahino looked dangerous with their movement and strikes on goal.
So out we go and another campaign ended prematurely when looking at the draw as a whole there were clearly some big sides going out this round and a chance to progress.
I can’t believe I paid to watch that.
Have your say on Albion's cup exit here at Baggies Banter.