Games of two halves

Terry Wills on Albion’s derby with Villa, and other happenings.

Well at last, Albion fans who had been crying out for a return to the early season form, fast attractive football that at times saw the opposition struggling to cope were rewarded – if only for 45 minutes.

Opposition defenders, as if wearing a deep sea divers boots, were static and seemingly unable to cope with a series of attacking moves that threatened chaos on the grand scale. The problem was that it wasn’t the Baggies displaying these attributes it was our great rivals from down the road Aston Villa, who played what was generally acknowledged by their supporters and the media as being their best performance of the season. Two tremendous goals, especially the screamer from Benteke, and Agbonlahor opened up a 2-0 lead and if Ben Foster hadn’t pulled off a great save it could have been 3-0 and probably game over.

BUT Steve Clarke, considered by many as being mild mannered, laid into the team with a taste of industrial language during the break and how it worked. An early goal from the current ‘whipping boy’ Chris Brunt ignited the team and the fans and from then on it was definitely a game of two halves. On Match of the Day the commentator said “There’s an Albion goal coming” – indeed you could tell that and when Peter Odemwingie netted an equaliser there was a sense that if there was to be a winner it would come from Albion. There wasn’t and in truth it was a fair result from what had been a tremendous spicy local derby. Villa supporters felt they should have settled the game in the first half while Baggies supporters were equally disappointed that we hadn’t turned the game on it’s head to gain the three points.

A major plus point was the display of Jerome Thomas coming on as a substitute. Clever footwork that spelt danger when Albion were pushing for a winner – more please, Jerome.

Looking back at Villa’s first half performance I was astonished to see them lose to Bradford in the League Cup semi-final. Anything like that and they had to be favourites to reach Wembley and all it proved was that in football any result is possible whatever the odds against.

This week due to Albion’s non-involvement in the FA Cup there’s no game until next Wednesday’s trip to Everton. But at least it will give Steve Clarke a few more days to see if the injury list can be reduced. After that it certainly doesn’t come any easier, Spurs at home followed by Liverpool away. Three teams pushing for European football, and without a distinct improvement from the current indecisive performances I fear these are games that could spell trouble with a capital T.

But who knows? As Bradford proved against a shell-shocked Villa it all depends on what happens on the day, does it not?

Come on you Baggies.