After the past few matches, an away match at Cardiff was definitely classed as a 'must win game'. Following the loss to Norwich at The Hawthorns last week, the pressure was certainly on the team and players to get a win. However, after personally having high hopes of a win, it was with great trepidation that we trudged back to Cardiff city centre slightly more worried than before, only for news to break later in the evening about the dismissal of head coach Steve Clarke.
Cardiff was, for a Bristol-based Baggie like myself, certainly one of the highlights of the fixtures. One of the closest games and a new ground to tick off the list watching the Albion there. After meeting a few mates in the centre for some beers, we headed off towards the ground. The Albion team had two changes from the side that was beaten by Norwich the previous week, with Jonas Olsson and Shane Long returning to the starting XI. With a quick glance at the Cardiff team, the one name that jumped out was Peter Odemwingie, playing against the Albion for the first time since his well publicised transfer and Twitter explosion. You just had the feeling that the Nigerian was going to score.. Thankfully he didn't however....
Referee Howard Webb blew the whistle and the game was under way. Cardiff were the first team with a chance when Odemwingie and Peter Whittingham both seemed to hit a free kick that Myhill did well to push away for a corner. Billy Jones headed the ball away from the corner, but this fell to Cardiff's Kevin Theophile-Catherine (surely one of the longest names in Premier League history?) who fired the ball towards the goal, only for Mulumbu to jump in and block the ball, resulting in Gary Medel firing over from 25 yards.
Albion were next to have a chance just after 20 minutes when Cardiff defender Ben Turner nearly put the ball past his own 'keeper, David Marshall, amid confusion between the two of them. Shane Long managed to grab the ball through all the confusion and was unlucky not to create more from it. The first half carried on in much the same vein with limited chances; Cardiff having more of them however; Caulker fired wide of goal and just before the whistle, Odemwingie sent a cross into Fraizer Campbell that was duly cleared by Olsson.
Half time, 0-0 and that was a pretty fair reflection on what had been quite a poor opening 45 minutes. This game certainly had draw written all over it, with Cardiff, at a push, being the better team.
The second half started similar to the end of the first half, but it was the Albion with the first real chance when Long sent the ball goalwards, only for it to be blocked by Turner. Just minutes later, the Albion should have scored after Billy Jones fed the ball towards Morgan Amalfitano, who then cut back to Claudio Yacob, whose shot fell to Gareth McAuley, with his six yard effort cleared off the goal-line by Medel. Sessegnon was next to have a chance for the Albion, with him firing a shot over from 25 yards out.
However, just minutes later, Cardiff were to take the lead when Peter Whittingham headed the ball home from close range. Whittingham managed to jump in just before Billy Jones to head the ball into the net following a Noone cross. Just a couple of minutes later, Cardiff could have scored again but Olsson managed to clear the ball.
Nearing three quarters into the game, Albion had a penalty shout when Shane Long went down following a challenge by Turner, who looked to barge Long from behind but Howard Webb waved this away. Following this, Clarke made a double substitution, putting Berahino and Sinclair on for Amalfitano and Yacob respectively. Albion kept pushing for an equaliser, and at the death Long looked to certain to equalise with a header until Marshall pulled off a top-class save in the Cardiff goal to deny him and with that miss the curtain drew on Steve Clarke's tenure in charge of the Albion and condemned the Baggies to their fourth successive defeat.
As aforementioned, I thought this was a game where we would get three points. Following this loss and our loss to Norwich the week before, it is certainly a worrying time for us Albion fans. Next week's game against Hull is literally a must win game now alongside West Ham just after Christmas.
With uncertainty as to who is now going to take the reigns at Albion, we head into a very important Festive Period – a time when it is imperative we get behind the boys in blue and white and show them our support.
Have your say on Albion's defeat here at Baggies Banter.