After meeting a few of the regulars in Birmingham for a few pre-match beers, I made my way to The Hawthorns hoping Albion would end their four-game losing streak against Hull City.
I was surprised to learn that Ben Foster was back in goal following his return from injury. Keith Downing also gave recalls to James Morrison and Scott Sinclair.
But I was disappointed to see that caretaker Downing had picked a side – at least formation wise – that cost Steve Clarke his job only seven days ago. How much longer are we going to have to watch negative 4-5-1 football at home? Against sides such as Norwich and Hull we should be going into fixtures with an offensive mindset – rather than just lumping the ball forward to an isolated Shane Long.
Albion looked like a side which has lost the previous four games in the first half. Despite James Morrison playing in an advanced role, Shane Long still looked isolated up front as Albion looked devoid of any ideas of confidence going forward.
Hull opened the scoring from a rare Albion attack. Morrison tripped over the ball on the edge of Hull’s area leaving the Baggies exposed from a corner. Danny Graham raced up field and fed Jake Livermore with a clever through ball. The midfield slid the ball underneath the on-rushing Ben Foster to give the visitors the lead.
Albion huffed and puffed but failed to break down a well drilled Tiger’s backline. The hosts failed to muster a shot on target in a dreadful opening 45 minutes. We looked every much like a side heading towards relegation.
After the break
Downing and his side-kick Dean Kiely had saw enough in the front half and sent on Saido Berahino for the ineffective Scott Sinclair. Despite it being an attacking move, Downing stuck with the same 4-5-1 formation which had left Albion struggling for ideas going forward.
Berahino’s energy gave Albion added impetus after the break. The young forward stung the hands of Allan McGregor in the Hull goal in the 54th minute with a volley the Scot could only palm around the post. It was Albion’s first effort on goal.
Albion almost drew level minutes later when Youssouf Mulumbu’s goalbound volley was turned over the bar by Tom Huddlestone’s out-stretched leg.
It was all Albion at this point as the Baggies aimed to find a way past Hull’s three-man defence. But it was Ben Foster who was tested next. Mulumbu failed to track the run of Huddlestone, whose effort was pushed away by Foster. The England international did excellently to get back to his feet to save the rebound from Elmohamady.
Back came Albion. Berahino should’ve done better with a header from a Chris Brunt corner before Keith Downing’s final throw of the dice. On came Matej Vydra and Zoltan Gera. Albion finally had options going forward.
Mulumbu fed Long who did well to turn on the edge of the area and play in Gera. The fans’ favourite fed Vydra with an sublime through ball. The Czech international calmly slotted the ball home with his first shot in the league this season.
The goal finally gave Albion some energy going forward – and gave the subdued crowd something to cheer about. Unfortunately, time ran out as the Baggies pushed for a winner.
Vydra’s late goal finally gave Albion’s fans something to cheer about. It was a cool finish from the young Czech forward – who looks like he should’ve been given more opportunities this season. Zoltan Gera also gave Keith Downing something to consider ahead of the trip to Spurs with an 20 minute eye-catching cameo.
But for long periods yesterday Albion struggled against a newly promoted side. Our ‘creative’ players simply look devoid of any ideas. Shane Long is isolated up front and has to try and make opportunities with aimless long passes. It’s no surprise we’re not creating any changes. In fact, at the moment, our most creative player is Billy Jones at right back.
If Downing is in charge for the game on Boxing Day against Spurs, he has to be more offensive. Why sack Steve Clarke if he’s going to pick the same team with the same tactics? Albion desperately needs some new ideas. Let’s hope the search for a new manager is resolved quickly and Albion can start picking up some more points.
I get the feeling it’s going to be a long season.
COME ON YOU BAGGIES.