So another home game has arrived and it’s another game we were unsure what we could get from the game with our tactics adopted recently of defending then counter-attacking. I was still optimistic, but, as always, worried about where the goals were coming from. On the subject of goals, it was great to see Shane Long back on the bench and his name on the team sheet no doubt lifted the Hawthorns faithful.
Mulumbu and Scharner were also back in the middle of the park, meaning young George Thorne was put back on the bench. Billy Jones didn’t shake off his thigh injury meaning Jara-Reyes took his right back berth. Cox was given a start that some felt he deserved; personally, I would have picked Fortune as I feel he can hold the ball up better and involve his strike partner and midfielders during play. McAuley was also fit after a scare and started next to Craig Dawson.
We started the game well showing more of an attacking intent than we did in previous games. We looked down the wings for balls into the box, but we missed the left foot of Brunt as Thomas wasn’t as effective and Morrison wasn’t great. I think Shorey was probably the best crosser we had!
The movement was good and we were certainly looking likely to score the first goal. A cross field ball was controlled well by Odemwingie on the chest moving the ball out of his feet. He hit a rasping drive from 30 yards out which stung Ruddy’s fingertips and somehow hit the bar!
Morrison then threaded the ball through to Cox who got in-between ball and defender but he couldn’t dink it over an on-rushing John Ruddy, who was getting increasingly annoyed at his back line. Shame it didn’t include Leon Barnett!
Corners came in and we were getting flicked headers on them, but when Morrison caught a volley nicely on the edge of the box it was goal bound until Daniel Ayala got his head in the way. A yard higher and the defender can’t get it and he’s blocking the ‘keeper so it’s in! But no luck.
Thomas had a penalty shout turned down when he cut inside and went down. From my view I couldn’t tell whether he was even in the box, but I am told it was Thomas being Thomas and trying to cheat to win a penalty.
Norwich were still dangerous though on the counter with their pace – and Jara-Reyes’ positional sense! Their chances were good and they had me worried when they broke away and managed to get the ball past an on rushing Foster only for the ball to spin and spin and eventually find the outside of the post. I think McAuley had it covered, but it was close.
Norwich obviously saw chances on the break and were doing the simple three pass counter to great effect as our lack of pace and position was easily found out. They got their goal when Simeon Jackson ran and ran at our retreating defenders. He waited for an option and found the unmarked Andrew Surman at the far post who volleyed past Foster. The players trying to get back were watching the ball and not the man. Surman was ran past at one point and was still allowed way too much space to get a volley at goal. It was obvious to all what was going to happen: if you don’t take your chances in this league you’re not going to get anything. We didn’t take ours!
Everyone at Sue’s (Homemade) soup kitchen, which had record sales, saw a touching tribute to the King Jeff Astle and, as Geoff said, we could do with him now! After we saw Geoff behind the goal in ’68, we went back to our seats.
We were decent for three minutes. Then they attacked and Jara-Reyes was constantly caught out of position. McAuley and Dawson were decent in the air against difficult opposition. We did what we could but we didn’t create much until the subs came on. Long and Dorrans on for Odemwingie and Scharner.
Long made an immediate impact with him getting the ball from the wing, turning and shooting, but he could only find the outstretched leg of Ruddy. The shot lifted the fans, got us on our feet and gave us hope. Long was really providing an edge for us, holding the ball up over and over again, charging defenders down. It makes me wonder why Odemwingie can’t do it as much! Long found Cox on the edge of the box who cut inside and struck his shot only to find John Ruddy, who again pushed it up and caught it on the second time of asking.
Then the penalty. Thomas got inside his man and was running to either shoot across the ‘keeper or knock it across the box. Daniel Ayala flew in and fouled him. All eyes turned to ref Mike Dean who pointed to the spot. But what about the punishment? We felt in a week of two-footed challenges this was another worthy of a red card, but not in Dean’s view, who only gave the former Liverpool man a yellow card. Long stepped up and waited for Ruddy to go one way after a hesitated run and hit the corner of the net convincingly to put us level. The delight surged around The Hawthorns. We could win this or at the very least hold on! The penalty was one like Graham Dorrans’ – right in the corner!
We were pushing forward for another goal with Dorrans on corners we looked good for a winner. Dawson nearly gave us the lead with a looping header which went straight at the chest of Ruddy. Unfortunately our attempts to get the winner meant we were open to the counter and this was shown when Mulumbu was disposed as he attempted a shot. Kyle Naughton started the counter, the ball was spread out wide into the massive gap into the path of Grant Holt who crossed to an unmarked Steve Morison to powerfully header past Foster, who could only help it into the net.
We didn’t really go for it at 2-1 instead preferring to play square balls. The lack of creativity again was there for all to see. I don’t know much about Scott Allan, but I hope he has ambition and tries something new! We had 15 minutes to find a winner with the four minutes added on and created next to nothing with the best chance falling at the end to Fortune who failed to connect with on his header and it went wide.
We need to take our chances. We attack well but leave the defence open. We missed Billy Jones as he can attack and defend but we can’t keep playing Odemwingie if he keeps playing below par. Fifteen goals last season was the past, if he can’t do it now don’t play him! Long is the only player I feel that gives us any sort of hope. Morrison’s shots were closer to me in row Z than the goal!
I say play Fortune IF we are to consist with 4-4-2 as he can hold the ball up. I also feel George Thorne can start more after Scharner and Mulumbu failed to do much. We must make it clear no place is a given and must show we are not frightened to chop and change! I’d like to see Scott Allan play now and replace Thomas as he provides very little for me and is very predictable.
Terry Burton is a very one dimensional coach, route one, i think. We need a Mowbray or RDM kind of coach somewhere in the staff showing attractive football and fast paced attacks. At the moment we don’t seem to have that attribute. On the transfer wish-list for me has to be a clinical finisher. We can’t keep relying on Shane. He’s good, but injuries have shown that when he’s out what do we do? We really did hold hopes out on Gera, what was Plan B Roy? We don’t seem to have one. We’re very limited!
Have your say on Albion's defeat here at Baggies Banter.