Terry Wills looks back at a mixed week at the Hawthorns.
It’s been a hectic week. Three games – win, draw and defeat. In sequence the best result saw Albion force a draw at Stamford Bridge with a very impressive 2-2 performance, twice coming from behind with goals from Craig Gardner and James McLean. Add a sound defensive display restricting big spending Chelsea to just two attempts on target (albeit both were gratefully accepted) plus a Tony Pulis team adapting a rare attacking policy that came as a surprise, hopes were high that the second away game at Southampton three days on would be enough to gain at least a point.
Ouch. A complete contrast. Never in the game. The Saints strollede to a 3-0 victory that saw Tony Pulis admitting that Southampton had been far the better side. For Baggie supporters the most worrying aspect were injuries to James Morrison and Darren Fletcher. Midfield is an essential part of any team and missing Morrison for up to ten weeks is a major blow.
On to the good news, beating Bristol City in the FA Cup replay at Ashton Gate. This was a solid if unspectacular display to banish the memory of the dismal Hawthorns performance in the original tie and in the process proving that Tony Pulis is taking the possibility of a long cup run seriously. Apart from the injured trio of Olsson, Morrison and Fletcher he selected a strong side that were never seriously threatened. And what a treat to see the heavily criticised Salamon Rondon calmly slot home the winner. More please, Salomon.
This week sees the Big One – Aston Villa at the Hawthorns. Villa are fighting desperately to avoid the drop while Albion are hoping to complete a rare double over what for me are our biggest rivals. As ever in such games the form book can be thrown out of the window. Any result is possible and for sure Villa fans will be hoping that their current mini revival will continue.
Forecasting a local derby is never easy. Albion will probably start as favourites with home advantage. To offset this Villa’s need for points is the greatest. So who knows?
One thing IS certain. Both sets of fans will be sure that if their team can’t win, they should make sure they don’t lose.