Wow! Where did that come from. Although, after following Albion for decades we probably should’ve expected the team who have only won once away from home to turn over the Baggies at The Hawthorns.
The expectation before the game was that Albion would roll over Rangers after some impressive home victories – hell, we even beat Stoke. Talk on the Baggies Banter messageboard was about the team to ‘thrash QPR’ and even SwedishBaggie made the trip over from his homeland. He’d never seen Albion lose until Saturday.
Tony Pulis made two changes to the side that lost to Manchester City with Chris Brunt and Brown Ideye recalled to the starting XI.
Albion went into the game knowing that a victory would almost certainly guarantee top flight football next season. Yet – for not the first time this season – Albion started flat and were second best in the first half. Yet we did have our chances.
Ideye wasted an early chance when he headed over at the far post after Fletcher’s deep cross. What do they say about heading the ball down? The ball went down the other end and Rangers scored. Baird was easily beaten to the long ball, Lescott backed off and Vargas fired into the far corner from 25 yards.
That man Ideye passed up the chance of an equaliser minutes later when Baird’s cross bounced off his thigh and inches wide. It would prove to be a costly error and Rangers doubled their lead when Charlie Austin escaped Gareth McAuley at the near post to nod in from close range.
Even at 2-0 I still felt the Baggies would get back into the game after the break. But just before half time, Bobby Zamora pulled out a ‘worldy’. The striker somehow out-paced Joleon Lescott and chipped Boaz Myhill in no-man’s-land with the outside of his left boot. Other’s booed but I had to applaud the effort.
After the break
Albion were that poor in the first half that he could’ve made 11 changes. However, he settled for just one with sick-note Anichebe replacing the ineffective Sessegnon. The Baggies changed from a 4-4-2 to an unfamiliar 4-3-3 formation.
The switch worked for Albion. Anichebe was powerful and dominating up front. That’s the frustrating thing with him. When he’s on the pitch and fit he’s a handful. Unfortunately, Anichebe and full fitness are seldom used in the same sentence.
The Baggies continued to waste chances. Gardner fired straight at Rob Green after good work from Anichebe. But the next chance, Anichebe converted when the flicked home Berahino’s cross.
Ideye saw a volley tipped over by Green before Pulis changed things around again by switching to a 3-4-3 formation. It was meant as a positive switch but the move saw Albion lose their width and the chances dried up.
Berahino wasted a free header from the six yard box as Albion’s attempts at an unlikely comeback became more and more unlikely. In fact, the next goal came for the visitors. Joey Barton fired home after more calamitous defending from the Baggies to put the icing on the cake for Rangers.
It was a horror show from Albion. On the day, only a couple of players showed up. The rest had stinkers. Even the consistent Darren Fletcher struggled to impose himself in the middle of the park.
Yet for as bad as Albion were, we still had the chances to win the game. Ideye – who misses too many chances to be a consistent goalscorer in the Premier League – could’ve had a hattrick. Berahino and Gardner both missed good chances as well.
But we simply can’t expect to win games when we defend like we did. There were some good finishes but all four goals were preventable. None of the back four did themselves any justice. Myhill was also at fault for Zamora’s goal.
Albion simply have to bounce back against Leicester on Saturday. Thirty-three points isn’t enough to guarantee safety and the Baggies’ run-in includes some tough games. We can’t afford any more performances like Saturday.
COME ON YOU BAGGIES.
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