Stoked Up

Terry Wills on Albion’s defeat to Stoke.

Inevitable. Day follows night. People complain about the weather and the cost of living. Christmas spending reaches record levels and worse of all Stoke City supporters gleefully chant “We always beat West Brom” as they leave for the Potteries gleefully celebrating another victory. In the process they underlined the fast they have yet to concede a Hawthorns goal in a Greed League game. Depressing in the extreme.

What went wrong this time? First, Steve Clarke’s team selection. Obviously he knows better than any supporter what’s needed for a particular fixture but six changes? That was radical and in the opinion of most pundits, amateur and professional was way over the top.

But in saying that, whatever the team, they need to match the opposition in style, determination, and more importantly, confirming that home advantage SHOULD see them dictating the game. For long periods we did just that but when it came to translating possession and chances into goals Albion in truth rarely looked like scoring. No width. Outmuscled whenever they put the ball into the box. Body language? Let’s just say that the Potters looked confident while too many Baggies gave the impression that they knew they were second best.

Not that Referee Kevin (far from) Friend did us any favours.  Yes he brandished yellow cards against Stoke players on three occasions but anyone who saw the game will have seen so many blatantly wrong decisions. As for the goal, for me it was the indecision of Boaz Myhill that led to a misplaced Jonas Olsson header and, when following up, passed the ball to a striped shirt of the wrong colour.

Certainly the return of Ben Foster will be welcome although Myhill hasn’t done a bad job in his absence.

So now fifth in the table amidst a clutch of clubs all striving to finish in an end of season European spot. This week it’s Arsenal at the Emirates against a Gunners team firing off target. Under fire Arsene Wenger is roaring defiance. “We have no problems. We’re confident and we’ll soon be back on track”

No doubt they will but here’s hoping the track isn’t righted this week.

Prospects? Given a point now I’d take it. The coming fixtures won’t be easy but then there aren’t any easy games these days. In-form West Ham and Norwich at home and a ‘battling’ Queens Park Rangers away. All rounded off with a visit to Old Trafford. Oh, for an adequate points return. But if that’s to be achieved they’ll need to play a hell of a lot better than in the game against our bogey team from Wedgwood territory.

A final comment. In a post-match interview Steve Clarke said “I thought we played well. I ‘me not to disappointed” Sorry Steve, I somehow believe that opinion wasn’t shared by the majority of dejected Baggies fans.

Come on you Baggies.

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