By Terry Wills.
From an Albion fan’s point of view it’s difficult to find a great deal of difference between the 2-1 defeat at home to Manchester United and the setback against Chelsea.
The media were full of praise for Baggies performance; press, TV, and radio experts all singing from the same hymn sheet:
“West Brom are a good side,” “Deserved at least a point,” “They won’t be struggling like they did last season,” “Will beat teams based on this display” and so on.
Pre match-their views were somewhat different, 3-0 to Chelsea being the most favoured scoreline, and the fact that manager Andre Villas Boas was forced to listen to a storm of booing from his own supporters confirmed they expected to see Albion on the end of a comprehensive thrashing.
But, as I expected, we did lose to subsequently find ourselves in the bottom three – hopefully for a short period of time.
The first-half must have been an eye opener for the watching TV audience as not many teams dominate and create chances as did Roy Hodgson’s side. The VERY impressive Shane Long opened the scoring, and if his pass to Somen Tchoyi hadn’t been over-hit it could have been a two goal advantage and the very realistic possibility that a highly unexpected three points were heading up the M1 back to the Hawthorns. But it wasn’t to be and despite a battling defensive performance in which Jonas Olsson stood out and a sound performance from Ben Foster, a late goal from Nicolas Anelka (how he loves scoring against the Baggies) gave Chelsea their first win of the season.
Even then, if Peter Odemwingie hadn’t directed a late chance straight at the Chelsea keeper we could still have come away with a what would have been a well-deserved, if somewhat surprising, point. The news that Odemwingie had agreed a new contract was what every fan wanted to hear and when he and Shane Long, injuries permitting, form a regular partnership there won’t be many defences enjoying a trouble-free 90 plus minutes.
On to the Carling Cup at sunny Bournemouth and a comfortable 4-1 win, courtesy of a second string Albion side, was enough to see the name of West Bromwich Albion in the hat for the third round draw.
And so to Sunday and Tony Pullis’ Stoke City. A team ugly in style but very difficult to beat as our record of just one point against them last season, confirms. Logically, but then in football logic can fly out of the window, we need to beat such teams to begin a climb away from the bottom three.
At last Roy Hodgson will have the luxury of a full strength squad to pick from and with Odemwingie and Thomas available following injuries, and Zoltan Gera’s three match ban completed, most supporters will be praying that at long, long, last, a three point haul will send them home celebrating the first league win of 2011-12.
Can we? Will we? Let’s just say signs appear to be good but in view of the Potters’ record against Albion (they have the knack of winning even when not playing well) we’ll have to hope for a determined attitude and the belief that this will be our day.
Come on you Baggies!!