That was fun, wasn’t it? Football is supposed to be entertaining. Awaydays are supposed to be entertaining, but despite raising our game in the second half (aye, right, I knaa, it would have been difficult not to) we were comprehensively put to the sword by a solid and well-organised (i.e. Tony Pulis team) West Brom. There was a time, way, way back, when trips to the Hawthorns meant a goal-fest, as we’d come from behind to either win 3-2 or draw 3-3, or even further back draw 2-2. There was even that rare win in the awful season when Steve Watson scored an OG to give us the points. There was no chance of that today.
Apparently Manquillo has joined the injured list, so we entertained ourselves in Lichfield by trying to guess the team and subs bench. We failed, partly because – like most of the players, it seems – we’ve begun to run out of enthusiasm, and when that happens the whole of the awayday begins to lose its appeal and you feel – like most players, it seems – like you’re simply going through the motions, like you’re doing it out of habit because you can’t be arsed to do anything different.
O’Shea Papy Denayer
Jones Honeyman Seb Rodwell PVA
Well, I think that was the plan. We were kicking away from the sold-out away section (are we radged or what?) but it was mostly West Brom who had the ball. You could sort of see what we were trying to do, and Rodwell was getting into things with Honeyman doing the hard running, and we managed to keep the home side at bay – somehow. A goal-bound effort hit Phillips (not on the arse, as I was hoping) and deflected wide with Vito beaten, then our keeper got down well to his left to keep out a proper shot from the same player. Perhaps we could build on these two missed opportunities and get forward with a bit more support for Defoe, who was taking a bit of a battering from the home defence. It was one of those games where, even after 25 minutes, we were looking at the clock, which is how I knew it was 25 minutes, and thinking “only 65 more minutes of this and we’ll have a point.” We did manage to win a corner, but didn’t manage to do anything with it, then they attacked and everything went into slow motion as we conceded a corner, got loads of bodies in the box, but failed to challenge effectively for the ball as it bounced off heads, then dropped onto Fletcher’s chest. He turned and volleyed as PVA first backed off, then turned his back on the challenge. 0-1, a frustratingly bad goal to give away.
Still, there was an hour to play. With SAFC, this is quite often a bad thing, and ten minutes later it became just that. Again, we defended more sloppily than a one-year-old with their first chocolate pudding, Vito could only palm the ball into the path of a WBA player who managed to hit the bar from a couple of yards, but Brunt hit the rebound as sweetly as you’ll ever see from the edge of the box and that was game over. There was the pain of an added minute, then the chance to sit down and pull your hat over your eyes and wish the world would go away.
Then the ref started the bloody game again. Such is life. Surely, we’d be better – and we were. We sort of resorted to a flat back four with Denayer pushing forward more, and we actually started to control bits of the game. There was even a spell when, accompanied by ironic “OLE” cries, we strung together over a dozen passes – a move only ended when Januzaj was fouled in the D. PVA took the kick (a shame, as Seb’s late effort at Burnley on Tuesday had been a belter) and hit the top of the wall and when the loose ball came to him he fired it a yard over the top. Well, at least we were having a go, and Honeyman was carrying the ball well. We’d been shouting for Anichebe for a good few minutes before he came on in place of Januzaj, who’d had another frustrating afternoon. I know he’s about as likely to get stuck into a tackle as I am to ask for Shearer’s autograph, but I don’t think we should be booing our (temporarily) players. That gave Vic 25 minutes to make an impact, but all that seemed to happen was the ref give a free kick to WBA because previously their defenders had knocked Defoe over and Vic is twice the size and they were bouncing off him.
Anyhow, we were forced into another change when Denayer, coming forward, took a canny bang to the face, and an even cannier one to the delicates. After lengthy treatment, he gingerly limped around the touchline holding said delicates in place and on came Borini.
He won a free kick or two, one of which, from just outside the area, was buggered up in a style reminiscent of Laurel and Hardy and ended up with a Baggies attack that Honeyman bust a gut to break up. Yellow card for the foul on Phillips. The home side were cruising, because they didn’t need to do anything more as we struggled to make a significant impact on the game. Pulis then did his usual trick of involving McClean in a substitution, just to get up our noses even more. There was a bit of a kerfuffle at the far end, which TV later revealed to be caused by Papy punching Fletcher. Magic, they’ll probably give him a ban and make us play Bracewell. The five extra minutes caused by the rearrangement of Denayer’s family jewels dragged by, the whistle went, and all we needed was Moyes to come over and motion us to keep our “chins up.”
Thankfully he didn’t.
Man of the Match? Honeyman looked like he cared – enough to get booked, actually – and he looked like a proper footballer. Unlike some. Apart from Defoe and Rodwell, who had a reet go at each other for some reason.
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