After doing my good deed for the day in helping distribute the ‘Justice for Jeff’ leaflets before kick-off I made my way into the ground just as the Liquidator was being sung.
After Wednesday’s no-show against Sunderland, Mel made four changes to the starting XI – Amalfitano, Dawson, Mulumbu and Olsson all recalled.
The Baggies almost took an early lead when Stephane Sessegnon hit the underside of the crossbar in the second minute. Referee Probert checked to see if the ball had crossed the line, but waved play on.
Albion were bright early on and Sessegnon had another goalbound strike deflected wide for corner. However, with pantomime villain Peter Odemwingie up against Chris Brunt, Stoke always looked dangerous going forward.
They should’ve taken the lead when Brunt was left isolated and Jon Walters headed wide from close range. Time and again, Albion were being outnumbered in midfield with Ireland and the powerful Nzonzi getting the better of Morrison and Mulumbu. In fact, the Albion pair were being completely dominated in the middle as Albion struggled to cope with Stoke’s movement. There was absolutely no organisation or leadership in the middle of the park.
Stoke took the lead in the 22nd minute. Amalfitano failed to track his runner and Marko Arnautovic fired the ball across goal. Gareth McAuley stuck out a leg and poked the ball past Ben Foster.
Albion were all over the place. Passes were going astray, there was no movement or willingness to want the ball. Amalfitano was non-existent. Morrison and Mulumbu nowhere to be seen in the middle. Morrison had Albion’s last chance of the half when his long-range effort was palmed out by Thomas Sorensen.
After the break
Following an eventful half-time break when members of the WBA-MAD soup kitchen were threatened by an elderly gentlemen searching for a personality, it was Stoke who again took control.
Arnautovic tested Foster three times after cutting in – one hitting the outside of the post. Albion tried to find a way back into the game. There was more willingness to get forward and the tempo was slightly better.
Mulumbu found Dawson down the right, the young defender fired the ball across the box and Stephane Sessegnon found the bottom corner. Albion had somehow found an equaliser. The goal rejuvenated Albion. Mulumbu did well to bundle his way forward but his volley found the inside of the post but agonisingly bounced clear.
Mel threw on Victor Anichebe to get a winner. After Odemwingie had been hauled off after a poor show, Sessegnon overran the ball when through on goal. Anichebe then came close to putting Albion ahead. The burly forward turned on the edge of the area but fired his left foot effort inches over.
But just as against Tottenham and Cardiff at home, Albion were to throw it away late on. Mulumbu and Morrison again failed to track runners from midfield. This time substitute Charlie Adam broke forward and fired past Ben Foster from 25 yards.
The game summed up Albion’s season. A lethargic, underwhelming performance from under-performing players. Pepe Mel’s tactical naivety was again highlighted. Time and time again Stoke’s midfielder’s found too much space in front of Albion’s back four. Neither Mulumbu or Morrison were strong enough or disciplined enough to get a grip of the game. Despite pushing forward for a winner, Albion were hit on the counter late on and points were needlessly dropped.
This season must go down as one of Albion’s worst in the club’s history. There’s been the Clarke saga, the Anelka saga, the Scott Sinclair saga, the Dave McDonough saga, the sock saga. It’s been one thing after another. Having finished 8th last term, the side had narrowly avoided relegation. The squad is aging and one paced. A number of players are out of contract and club’s manager is likely to leave next week. Our traditional stripes are under attack because our commercial department is blinded by pound signs. More worryingly, the majority of the club’s fans are disillusioned with the club. If messing with our sacred stripes wasn’t bad enough, the decision not to back the Justice for Jeff campaign has left a sour taste in the mouth of fans.
Albion fans have always been loyal followers of the club. But this has been a terrible eight months. The decisions from the club’s hierarchy over the next few weeks will decide whether next season will be as dismal.
Let’s hope not.
COME ON YOU BAGGIES.
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