It’s October at last so maybe the hoodoo can be lifted and we can muster a win? I think it’s fair to say that this afternoon’s encounter will be the first of our must-win matches for this season. The Palace game was such a sickener and showed up our defensive failings most horribly. As that final minute free-kick was about to be taken, the commentators on SAFCSEE were pointing out that Benteke was standing on his tod waiting to knock in the winner so how come none of our staff pointed this out? From what I’ve seen of Denayer he should be in instead of PVA. I heard, not surprisingly, that Moyes has had them doing a lot of defending practice during the week so perhaps we’ll see some improvement today. Just to add to a week of joy, Januzaj will be out for ages too and both Catts and Pienaar will be unavailable today through injury. The Baggies are already seven points ahead of us and will have Berahino back in their side, and we could’ve done without him to torment us. If McClean is playing I’m sure he’ll be given a warm welcome (not). A win and then a weekend off to try and get some of our injuries sorted would be great but I’m not feeling too positive so my match prediction is a 1-1 draw.
I was hoping to watch the match with a load of our fans at a pub in the East End but when I called, the manager told me that they no longer showed any live games. The Old Red Lion in Angel, the ‘official’ London Branch pub, also said they weren’t watching a 3.00 match. I didn’t like the look of a couple of online streaming sites either so for the second week running it would have to be SAFSEE. (If any London-based fans know of a venue that shows our games or if anyone knows of a safe streaming site, please contact me via ALS.) Anyway, the afternoon got off to a good start when close rivals Swansea lost at home to Liverpool. When I got the team news, the back four had been radically shuffled with Denayer and O’Shea coming in for PVA and Djilobodji. I couldn’t argue with that. McNair and Khazri were also starting and that pleased me too. For West Brom, Berahino was only on the bench, as was Gardner.
I gave SAFSEE’s audio-link plenty of time to load up but ten minutes later I still hadn’t heard a word so I had to resort to the twitter feed and snippets from Talksport. We had a great chance to take the lead in the third minute when McNair fed Defoe but despite having only Foster in goal to beat, he short wide. We continued to apply the pressure and were apparently playing with some swagger but then again we were winning 2-0 last week and still lost. West Brom came back into it in the twelve minute when we allowed them too much space down the right and the ball was passed to Chadli, whom I always think looks dangerous, and he forced Pickford into a good save. By all accounts Watmore was playing well but we were starting to play far too deep. McClean, who was receiving the expected hostile reception, had a shot on target and I had the horrible feeling he was going to score. After supporting Denayer earlier, he was making a few bad errors. Round about the midway point we started to rally and Manquillo went on a great run before crossing into their box and then slamming into the advertising hoarding. Ndong was starting to shine as we pressed forward and our fans were in good voice. However, it was West Brom who took the lead in the thirty-fifth minute and it was Chadli who got it, shooting into the corner after a pacey move started by Fletcher. Many of our fans got up and disappeared at that point, though whether it was just for an early break remained to be seen. A minute or so later it could’ve been 0-2 but Phillips shot just wide after another Chadli shot was blocked. We were definitely on the back-foot and at the very least had to try not to concede again before the break. Elsewhere the Mags took the lead and by the end of the afternoon it seemed quite possible we’d be staring at each other across the divide between the top of the Championship and the bottom of the Premier League. There were two minutes of stoppage-time and it remained 0-1 as the whistle went.
I managed to get SAFSEE to work as we kicked off again. Commentator Gary Bennett said we needed some more creativity to unlock their defence or take a chance and go two upfront. Our bench wasn’t looking too inspiring and only Gooch looked like he could add a bit of sparkle. We were doing most of the early pressing but it sounded that again we weren’t passing well and Bennett said we weren’t on the same wavelength. Kirchhoff signalled that he had to come off and it was PVA who replaced him, slotting into the left of midfield. I hoped for a good run or two from him and we needed something soon as the hour-mark was rapidly approaching. Ominously Chadli was being allowed a lot of space upfront and we might well suffer for that. GB said we had no fluency and West Brom “wanted it” more than us. The time was running away awfully quickly and I doubted we were going to manage an equalizer. McClean had been putting himself about a bit and he received a yellow card. PVA picked out Khazri who fed Defoe but he couldn’t make it count, though that was more like it. Rodwell replaced McNair and at the same time Craig Gardner came on for McClean, who received hisses and boos as he dawdled off. We didn’t seem to have the invention or the guts to break them down but surprisingly with seven minutes to go we pulled a goal back and it was PVA who got it, shooting into the left of the goal after receiving a Watmore pass. Gardner, who’d earlier been applauded by our fans as he went to take a corner, nearly turned in a cross but we survived and went on the attack ourselves as the game went into an unexpected dramatic finish. Our fans were sounding lively as we were put under considerable pressure. Gooch came on for Khazri as we entered five minutes of stoppage-time and Chadli went off at the same time. We were going for the winner but couldn’t manage it and it ended 1-1 with a smattering of applause from the crowd at the end.
This feeling won’t last, I’m sure, but at the moment I feel rather happy that we managed a draw. We’re off the bottom... at least until tomorrow afternoon.
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