Going into the game all of the talk was about Albion’s want-away striker Saido Berahino. After his outburst in the week claiming to want a move on to ‘bigger things’ Berahino was brought back down to earth having been dropped to the subs’ bench. He wasn’t the only one. Clumsy fullback Andre Wisdom and the injured James Morrison were replaced by Chris Baird and new signing Darren Fletcher.
Baggies boss Tony Pulis started with Foster in goal, Dawson and Baird at full backs with Joleon Lescott thankfully returning in central defence alongside Gareth McAuley. Sessegnon, Fletcher, Brunt, Yacob and McManaman made up the midfield with Anichebe the lone striker.
Since Roy Hodgson left the club, Albion have been a side that only plays for 45 minutes. The same happened against Burnley – just as it had against Spurs the week before. Albion were unbelievably poor in the first half. It was no surprise when Burnley took the lead in the 10th minute. Ings pulled the ball back to Barnes who had an easy header with Albion’s back four all over the shop. It would’ve been worse for a fantastic save from Ben Foster.
Yet it did get worse just after the half hour mark. Brunt inexplicable let Boyd run down the right and cross for Ings who headed in off the post. Albion were all at sea. Throughout the team, players were guilty of poor control and an unwillingness to take the ball and pass forward to an Albion shirt. On so many occasions the ball was simply blasted up field. When the ball did go to feet, Albion’s players were unable to control leaving Burnley in full control.
It got slightly better for Albion when the lame Anichebe trotted off. Bad boy Berahino came on and Pulis went from a 4-5-1 formation to a traditional 4-4-2. The switch seemed to suit Albion who looked far more composed on the ball for a change.
Albion earned a late corner searching for a lifeline back into the game. McManaman swung over the cross and Chris Brunt headed home to give Albion a foothold in the game.
After the break
It had to get better for Albion simply by the fact it couldn’t get any worse than the first half. Baird was replaced by Brown Ideye with Chris Brunt moving back to left back. The Baggies tried to raise the tempo but failed to create any chances. After much huffing and puffing, Albion won a corner. Brunt swung the ball across Ideye glanced the ball into the net at the near post.
Albion only looked threatening at set pieces and Joleon Lescott saw his free header saved by Heaton in the Burnley goal.
The Baggies were lucky not to concede a penalty when McAuley handled in the area. But it was almost a perfect comeback by the visitors when Saido Berahino’s close range and bundled off the line and away to safety.
After Albion horror start it was encouraging to see the Baggies fightback to earn a point. It would’ve been disastrous had the Baggies lost to Burnley and the point moves us three clear of the relegation zone.
But despite the comeback, Pulis still has a huge job ahead of him. To start with he’s got to find two players who can fill it at right back and left back. He obviously doesn’t fancy Gamboa or Pocognoli. Wisdom hasn’t done it all season and Baird was hauled off after a poor 45 minutes.
Pulis has also got to find more creativity from midfield. McManaman looked better and put some better crosses in – the problem was nobody was in the area. Anichebe looked disinterested up front and Berahino and Sessegnon offered little when they were paired together.
The issue of possession also needs to be addressed. Too often Albion were guilty of giving the ball away under no pressure. How are we ever going to create attacks and score goals if we keep giving the ball away? Fletcher grew into the game and Pulis showed real authority to take the armband off Brunt and to the Scotsman.
It was encouraging to see Albion fight back from two goals down. But on the flipside, why do we always have to be one or two goals down before we start playing? Pulis has got to find a way of motivating Albion from the kick off. We can’t carry on hoping to get back into games in the second half.
Come on you Baggies!
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