Well, that wasn’t in the script was it? On the day when Albion and the wider footballing community came together to honour Jeff Astle, the Baggies failed to deliver where it mattered the most – on the pitch.
Prior to kick off, the atmosphere inside the ground was electric. Music from the 1960s and 1970s brought an air of nostalgia to The Hawthorns. The Baggies were wearing a replica kit to the one Astle donned in the 1968 cup final and entered the arena in the same tracksuit tops as were worn at Wembley nearly 50 years ago. It was all set up for a victory.
The Baggies started on the front foot and took an early lead. Darren Fletcher flicked the ball home at the near post from a Brunt corner. Leicester tried to scramble the ball clear but the goal-line technology signalled a goal. Albion were in control and it looked likely another goal would follow.
After the Birmingham Road End stood as one to honour the King, a goal did come – but it was from the visitors. Leicester took a quick free quick and fired the ball forward. McAuley was outmuscled and Lescott caught on his heels as Ulloa headed down and Nugent fired past Myhill. It was Leicester’s first attempt on goal.
Yet Albion fired back pretty quickly. Brunt crossed from the left, Ideye headed down and Gardner swivelled to volley into the bottom corner.
Despite being in the lead and in control of the game, Albion were shaky at the back. The Baggies were given a lucky escape when Ulloa blasted over from close range.
After the break
Following a heartfelt speech from the Astle family at half time, the Baggies emerged to The Liquidator to get The Hawthorns rocking again. Leicester made a tactical switch at half time that saw them revert to a three-man defence with two wing-backs.
Albion couldn’t cope with Leicester’s width and were caught in one-on-one situations time and time again – especially down our right. Craig Dawson was given a torrid time against Schlupp with little protection offered by the poor Craig Gardner. He wasn’t the only one having a stinker.
Brown Ideye was hauled off in favour of Victor Anichebe – thank God he wasn’t give the number 9 shirt. The Baggies were still struggling to get to grips with Leicester and Albion’s number 9 – Saido Berahino – was forced to play wide left with Anichebe the lone striker.
Pulis had saw enough and matched Leicester with a 3-5-2 formation. Yet Albion weren’t able to adapt and huge gaps appeared down our flanks. It was only a matter of time before Leicester equalised.
It came with 10 minutes to play. Albion failed to clear a corner and Robert Huth was allowed a free header into the bottom corner.
Albion head dropped and you knew there was going to be a winner for the visitors. It came in stoppage time. McAuley dallied on the ball and was robbed on the half way line by Vardy. The striker ran past Lescott and fired into the bottom corner.
How many times over the past few seasons have we seen Albion play one decent half of football and then completely go to pieces? It’s like déjà vu at this club. The Baggies rode their luck in the first half but probably deserved the lead. However, after the break was arguable the worst half of football I’ve ever seen.
A lot of people are pointing the finger of blame at the players. But Tony Pulis must take the majority of the blame. His tactics and in-game management against the Foxes was absolutely awful. When in the lead, his team sat back and invited pressure. As the home side, we should’ve been on the front foot against the bottom team. Instead, we were forced to change our formation in attempt to cling on to a lead.
I’m struggling to think of an opportunity we created in the second half when the Leicester keeper was actually tested. The showing after the break was embarrassing and smacked of a team sliding towards relegation. I only hope the teams below us continue to struggle to pick up points. With Pulis’ tactics and mentality, it’s the only hope we’ve got of avoiding the drop. Relegation with this team and manager would be a catastrophe.
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