There was a time ago under Roy Hodgson and Steve Clarke where Albion were a 45-minutes side. Usually we’d be poor in the first half and then have a stirring second half comeback. It was very much the same against West Ham yesterday.
The introduction of Rickie Lambert at half time changed the game in Albion’s favour. Before the break Albion were awful. Long hopeful balls were pumped forward by Albion’s defence with the hope that Salomon Rondon could get near the exocet missiles launced by McAuley and Olsson.
Albion were lucky to be only one-down at half time. Despite West Ham’s dominance it took a fantastic free kick to give the hosts the lead. McAuley was harshly adjudged to have held Sakho as the forward backed in. Mauro Zarate stepped forward and curled an unstoppable free kick from 25 yards into Boaz Myhill’s top corner.
At the other end Albion were disjointed and fragmented in attack. McClean worked hard to try and support Rondon but time and again play broke up after poor passing. The closest Albion came when Rondon managed to pull the ball out of the air and fired inches wide from 20 yards.
But it was the introduction of Lambert which really changed things. Lambert has often looked overweight and off the pace at times this season. It was his physical presence that caused West Ham problems in defence. Lambert controlled the ball out wide and followed Darren Fletcher’s burst into the area. The ball dropped kindly for him and his volley hit the arm of Winston Reid and into the net. The deflection helped Albion, but would’ve a penalty been awarded had the ball not hit the net?
The goal transformed Albion. We were a completely different side to that in the first 45 minutes. Rondon and Lambert worked well together. Morrison, McClean and Fletcher all supported the attack. It looked as if there would be only one winner.
Morrison missed his kick when the goal was at his mercy. Rondon then saw a point-blank header saved a yard out by Adrian in the West Ham goal. The striker really should’ve scored. James McClean blasted the rebound over when a bit of composure was required.
Albion were actually passing the ball in the middle and looked threatening. McClean then had another good opportunity when he raced through but his control let him down again and the ball fell harmlessly into the hands of Adrian.
After such two different halves of football a draw was probably a fair result. Boaz Myhill kept Albion in the game in the first half and it took a world class free kick to beat him. But Albion will look back at their own missed chances after the break and wonder what may have been.
Rickie Lambert showed Albion fans the player we’d hoped we had signed at the start of the season. The former England international gave Albion a different option going forward and helped link Albion’s attacking play.
Lambert’s display has given Tony Pulis a real selection headache. Does he stick with the 4-4-2 formation against Spurs on Saturday or revert back to his tried and tested 4-5-1 formation. For the first time this season I actually enjoyed watching Albion after Lambert’s introduction. Although there was still an element of direct play, the Baggies were more intricate through the middle and looked threatening whenever they went forward.
More of the same please, Mr Pulis.
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