A week at the Hawthorns

Terry Wills on Albion’s last match, and their next one.

To say Albion needed a result against fellow strugglers Hull City was obvious. A win and three points would have been great, a draw acceptable, but a defeat would have meant the pressure on Alan Irvine to receive his P45 would have increased tenfold.

So what consolation could be drawn from a game that should have been won and would almost certainly have been if Irvine hadn’t taken the controversial decision to leave Saido Berahino languishing among the substitutes?

Well on top from the kick-off, a penalty for the Baggies. No Berahino, so Graham Dorrans became villain of the piece with a tame, side-footed effort comfortably saved. The chance of a desperately needed victory spurned and Albion are edging closer towards the bottom three relegation spots.

It was clearly a poor game, that was agreed by the fans and media alike. The regulation weaknesses were there in force – lack of pace, no width, little or no creativity. Irvine seems determined to pick a team not to lose rather than to win a game. He’s stressed that he’s not a cautious head coach and claims he approaches every game with a positive attitude. That’s hard to believe judged on current results.

This week it’s the big one! Aston Villa at the Hawthorns.The game that no fan wants to lose. They’ve also been struggling, with manager Paul Lambert receiving even more stick than Alan Irvine, if that’s possible. But back to back wins against Crystal Palace and Leicester City have hoisted Villa into a comfortable mid-table position. The return of Christian Beneke has given them a major boost and if Albion’s defence give him time and space he could cause major problems.

Will Alan Irvine finally select players with pace, notably Gamboa and Varela? Will the Baggies, realising just how important this game is to the fans, raise their game to lift the gloom that’s seemingly took residence over the Hawthorns?

Time will tell. Any local derby is difficult to forecast, especially one against our greatest rivals. It could go either way. I’m just hoping that the sense of the occasion and the three points at stake can finally see an end to Albion’s demise.

However, taking all the plus and minus points into consideration I feel the most likely outcome will be a point apiece.. What I do know is that fans of both Albion and Villa will settle for any result as long as it’s not a defeat.