Joseph Chapman gives his verdict on Albion's defeat

It seems that no matter who the manager of West Bromwich Albion is, they cannot break the hoodoo held over them by notorious bogey team Stoke City.

Stoke earned their first away win of the season in the drab encounter. Dean Whitehead netted the solitary goal, while the Baggies slipped to suffer their second defeat in four days.

Steve Clarke made six changes to the team following a recent hectic schedule. Full backs Goran Popov and Steven Reid replaced Liam Ridgewell and Billy Jones, while Dorrans, Long, Gera and Rosenberg came in for Brunt, Morrison, Odemwingie and Lukaku.

Tony Pulis made one enforced change from the starting XI which beat Newcastle midweek. Peter Crouch was replaced by Kenwyne Jones due to the loss of a number of teeth in a clash with Fabricio Coloccini. Recent match winner Cameron Jerome fell out of the 18 man squad altogether.

First half

The opening stages were frenetic and the atmosphere generated was excellent. Shane Long was isolated up front for Albion, Robert Huth and Ryan Shawcross the ultimate test for any lone striker, and the full backs Geoff Cameron and Ryan Shotton pinned Reid and Popov back.

The first chance fell to Jones. Matthew Etherington swung a hanging ball into the area, and the Trinidadian beat Olsson in the air, but also beat Myhill's far post.

Stoke were the better team for the much of the first half. The Baggies had to contend with the long ball style and only really offered any threat themselves from set pieces.

The best move of the first period however, came from the hosts. Reid and Dorrans were involved in some lovely one touch football on the right before Mulumbu's effort was closed down. The officials, including referee Kevin Friend, were not proving popular with the home following, completely disregarding a quite obvious pass back to keeper Begovic. 

As Albion broke in the 35th minute, Robert Huth received a yellow card for a late tackle on Shane Long. Steven Reid from the halfway line, whether intended or not, almost caught the Begovic out with a speculative effort which the Bosnian tipped over.  

Albion ended the first half the stronger of the two, a handball shout was waved away but otherwise the half fizzled out following a period of scrappy play.

After the break

The second half began in more lively fashion, promising much. The hosts looked more capable of scoring than they had done in the first period, but there was still a need for Long and Rosenberg, who was making his first start, to link up more. 

The Swede, out of his favoured position, cut in from the left and his dipping shot deflected beyond the post and away for a corner, a set piece that resulted in Claudio Yacob heading straight at Begovic.

Stoke were sitting quite deep, hoping to release Jones on the counter but otherwise happy to soak up the pressure – a trait which normally you would associate with the Baggies.

Graham Dorrans made a mazy run across the pitch, laying the ball off to Gera but his cross was taken away from target Long by the defence.

Pulis and Clarke made substitutions on the hour mark in an attempt to influence the result. Lukaku and Odemwingie came on for Rosenberg and Gera for the Throstles, while Whitehead and Michael Kightly replaced Etherington and Adam.

Albion fans were given a scare in the 69th minute. Jones brilliantly turned away from Olsson and Gareth McAuley on halfway. But just as the forward was about to pull the trigger, McAuley recovered with an excellent challenge.

The gut wrenching moment for three quarters of the ground came with 15 minutes to go, due to a lack of communication between Olsson and Myhill. The Swede headed the ball away hurriedly after the keeper failed to collect the ball and although Olsson tackled Jones in the corner, the ball fell to Kightly and the winger teed up his fellow sub Whitehead who drilled home from inside the area.

Clarke threw Brunt on late on in the hope of rescuing something, but Albion failed to rediscover their momentum they had been carrying most of the second half and so lost their second match of the season at The Hawthorns.

Ratings

WBA: Myhill 6, Reid 7, McAuley 7, Olsson 6, Popov 6, Mulumbu 7, Yacob 6 (Brunt 5), Rosenberg 6 (Lukaku 5), Gera 6 (Odemwingie 5), Dorrans 7, Long 6. 

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