Recent disappointing league performances have seen the FA Cup become a welcome distraction for Albion, with a home game against League One opposition surely providing us with a reasonable opportunity to progress into the fifth round of the competition.
Unfortunately, another lethargic display saw Albion have to settle for a draw against the hard-working visitors, who certainly deserved a replay after an impressive second-half performance.
Tony Pulis named a strong side, with the only real surprises being the inclusion of Sebastien Pocognoli and Saido Berahino in the starting line-up after both had barely had a look-in during recent league matches.
Albion got off to a bright start and were ahead after just 14 minutes. Berahino was the scorer, collecting a pass from Rickie Lambert and finding the bottom corner with a perfectly-placed effort from 25 yards.
Berahino has once again been the subject of much speculation this month, but his ability in front of goal could prove to be the difference between us finishing relatively comfortably in mid-table or being dragged into a relegation battle if we are able to keep hold of him.
Without playing particularly well, we were comfortably the better side and should have doubled our lead towards the end of the half, as James McClean dispossessed visiting defender Ricardo Santos but saw his effort when clean through saved by Ben Alnwick.
We started the second half on the front foot and came close to going 2-0 up through the otherwise disappointing Rickie Lambert, who just failed to connect properly with a dangerous Stephane Sessegnon cross.
These missed opportunities either side of the break seemed to give the visitors confidence, and they started to enjoy the majority of possession. Playmaker Erhun Oztumer, who I saw playing in the Ryman Premier (three leagues below League Two) less than two years ago, was controlling the game in midfield, with our central midfield duo of Claudio Yacob and Craig Gardner unable to put a foot in and break the play up.
Peterborough's equaliser on 79 minutes was deserved but also easily preventable, as a long diagonal ball forward caught out Pocognoli and forward Shaquile Coulthirst made the most of poor positioning from Boaz Myhill to beat him at his near post and draw the visitors level.
We responded almost immediately though, and regained our lead with six minutes remaining. Berahino once again showed his quality in front of goal, sending a powerful effort with his weaker left foot from a difficult angle across Alnwick and into the far corner.
From this position, you would normally expect Albion to see the game out. If the game had finished 2-1, most supporters would have been slightly disappointed at the performance but pleased with the result, which is ultimately all that matters in cup football.
Unfortunately, we failed to do this and allowed Peterborough to equalise almost straight after the restart. Again, the goal was preventable, as Pocognoli was left outnumbered in trying to deal with a long ball forward, and the ball fell kindly for substitute Jon Taylor to send a well struck volley past Myhill and just inside the far post.
This was another disappointing performance from Albion, who were unable to capitalise on taking the lead twice and now face the prospect of a tough away trip to a confident Peterborough side if we are to progress into the fifth round of the FA Cup.
As has been the case all too often this season, our build-up play was too slow and we failed to create enough chances to wrap the game up before the visitors finished the game strongly and deservedly earned a replay.
Just as concerning, however, are the manner of the goals we seem to be conceding on an increasingly regular basis. Our defensive organisation was a big positive earlier in the season, but sides are no longer having to work hard to create chances against us. Combined with our often predictable play in attacking areas, there is still plenty of work to be done if we want to avoid being dragged into a relegation battle and if we want to win the replay.
The one positive to take from the game was Berahino, whose two goals were expertly-taken and showed exactly what we will be losing if we sell him before the end of the transfer window.
The next 24 hours or so could be season-defining for Albion, as it is clear that the squad needs strengthening if we're to finish the season strongly. The signing of defensive midfielder Sandro on loan from QPR is a good start and keeping hold of Berahino should be a priority, but we could also do with a left-back and ideally a winger to give us more options going forward.
Whether we are able to do this remains to be seen, but failing to improve the squad now would be a big risk based on the signings some of the sides immediately below us in the table have already made this month.
Hopefully there will be a couple of new faces in the squad when we take on Swansea City on Tuesday, in what was become a very important game after our last two league results.
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