Last time I went to Newcastle we lost 2-1 to a Cisse deflection, we had Romelu Lukaku and Shane Long up front with Zoltan Gera behind them both.
This time the side I, and 2,500 other Baggies would be watching saw a nearly unchanged line-up from victory at Old Trafford. Berahino was benched for Anichebe. Sess travelled but was the player not picked, suspect he will be off in August.
What was worrying as we took to the pitch was the average age of the XI. Lots of experience with so little pace against a Newcastle back 4 that was occupied by a CM, LB, CB and LM/CM.
We all know what Pulis will bring to away games, he sets up the same at Old Trafford as to St. James Park and we have to accept that. So the defensive shape began strongly. Fletcher, Mulumbu and Yacob ratting around and keeping Newcastle at bay along with Olsson who I have criticised of recent months but he was solid again yesterday.
An early corner from Craig Gardner was met by name sake Dawson and hit the post, the rebound fell to Mulumbu but his effort was well blocked. Whatever I think of the football, Pulis has perfected Albion set plays to a point where you just believe we will score.
When Albion had the ball a long, hopeful lump to another lump in Anichebe either saw his first touch turn to a trampoline or when he got it the midfield couldn’t get to him quick enough. Serious issues in transition for West Brom.
Cabella and Perez were running a mock and driving into space for the Geordies while Albion seemed scared to foul them. Newcastle did continually get decisions, with free kicks around the box. Were they correct? I don’t know, I was trying to work out who was who never mind whether it was a foul from my position!
Albion kept them out, Lescott cleared one off the line, which should have been a wake-up that Albion needed. When Dawson bombed on and won a free kick though you could sense the anticipation from Albion fans that this was a moment. Gardner stood over it. Lescott free at the back post… it went front stick and I thought it was an awful ball until Anichebe headed the effort into the bottom corner. Well placed past Krul. 1-0 Albion. We’d only had 3 shots!
Back to defending we went, venturing into the other half was a rare occasion and when another free kick was given away the worry began to spread. Another poor contact I thought until Perez touched it, a poor touch I thought until he leathered it into the far corner, somehow missing the 4 Albion bodies attempting to block it. Somehow fortuitous leveller but no more than deserved.
Half-time arrived and Albion were relatively pleased but you couldn’t help but feel if we could have got in at 1-0 the crowd would have turned toxic towards it all.
Second half saw Albion up the tempo a little but nothing really came of it. Jack Colback started dictating play and Albion set into their low defensive block once more. Sliding over and winning duals when required. Cabella became a menace whenever he could but eventually 3 red shirts would hault progress.
For all the dominance Newcastle had, Myhill only had routine stops to make and Krul at the other end was mainly a spectator until Berahino arrived on the scene with a bit of pace.
Albion don’t create much but we managed to hit the woodwork again when some interchange and good football saw Chris Brunt (who had a very good game) head an effort to be cleared off the line. From the re-bound he and Berahino both connected with the effort to smash the post.
Later on Berahino was released twice, first effort he saw blocked and saved, the second he couldn’t create a decent angle and therefore the effort was straight at Krul who punched away.
As Newcastle brought Cisse on, that day under Clarke came rushing back, Newcastle threatened. Ameobi bicycle kicking over the bar and Sissoko seeing an effort well saved by Myhill low down.
Albion saw out a point and safety. Not the greatest from Albion especially considering the opposition faced, but with Burnley down and Man City looking to relegate QPR the point was possibly better for Albion than Newcastle as Sunderland, Leicester and Villa all managed wins.
New players needed yes? Major rebuild? Probably not. Pulis seems to like plenty of these players. Pace is a big aim to sign, lacking it so, so much and the requirement for a striker is also a top priority.
The style of football is still a worry too, as effective as it is. 9 and a half hours of travelling to watch 90 minutes of trying to win set-plays is concerning. We are a long-thrower away from becoming the side he had at Stoke. We are far closer to Stoke side he produced than the Palace side so the people saying next season will be different is confusing for me. What are you basing that on?
Don’t think anyone had an awful game but mentions to Yacob and Brunt who I thought played well throughout. McAuley as clever as ever and thought Morrison helped things from the bench along with Berahino. Still unsure on McManaman though.
Good to be mathematically safe and with Chelsea and Arsenal left we can go and enjoy the days against them before we look ahead to the direction we need to go in next season.