Terry Wills comments on Albion’s battling draw with Manchester City.
We’ve won the cup, we’ve won the cup, ey aye addio we’ve won the cup
Of course we hadn’t but that was the feeling reverberating inside and outside the Hawthorns on Boxing Day as Baggies fans celebrated with looks of sheer delight plastered on their faces.
It was as if they’d be given a totally unexpected Christmas present (which we had) and I was no exception seeing that along with 99% of the faithful I sadly predicted the Billionaire outfit from Middle East Manchester would trot out to continue their now-established winning habit – but was I happy to be proved wrong.
There they were, a starting line-up reported as being recruited for a ‘mere’ £200 million pound and a subs bench purchased for £94 million. Paupers! What chance had an Albion defence, seeing as the keeping of a clean sheet was a unique experience and the City outfit hadn’t failed to score in a ‘Greed League match all season? But on the day that counted for nowt! Roy Hodgson managed to instil a sense of discipline and determination, very rarely seen, into a defence and midfield that simply refused to creak, and inevitably crack, under waves of constant pressure.
His proffered 4-4-2 formation was plain to see. Two straight lines marked and tackled superbly. The rigid formation frustrated the likes of Balotelli (a talented but play-acting character) who grew increasingly frustrated as the clock ticked down. The duo of Shane Long and Peter Odemwingie also caused City problems as the game wore on. Okay, at times they still aren’t on exactly the same wave length (pass or shoot or pass?) but there are signs that eventually they will cause problems for defences.
Great play was made in the media of the amount of possession City enjoyed but possession doesn’t win matches. This was borne out as I counted around 12 passes making not one iota of forward movement. They were all played in front of Albion players – and that negated the retention of the ball.
Second half, and with confidence growing City found themselves having to work harder as Baggies came more into the game; if (a small but significant word) a couple of chances had been put away the national media headlines would have been reporting a staggering result. Shane Long scorned a clear heading chance and Jerome Thomas had the crowd on their feet as his shot hit a post with Joe Hart beaten. What a roar would have been generated had that found the net!
So a point apiece and it was well earned despite City’s amount of (it counts for nothing) possession and the chances they also failed to tuck away. Every player pulled their weight. Bargain buys Billy Jones and Gareth McAuley dovetailed perfectly with Jonas Olsson, Youssouf Mulumbu, and Nicky Shorey Paul Scharner showed his experience, Chris Brunt and Jerome Thomas, despite their critics, didn’t let the side down. Did all this mean that at last the players and fans can look forward to a somewhat more relaxed second half of the season?
Back on the box on New Year’s Day as Everton come visiting. Prospects? It would be easy to say that after holding the Greed League leaders we will beat the Toffees but it’s West Bromwich Albion we’re talking about so who knows? Mulumbu will be a big miss but if James Morrison returns that will be a bonus and hopefully another victory against the team we did the double against last season.
Come on you Baggies.