West Bromwich Albion 0 - Leicester City 1
Having relinquished our season tickets last year, we finally found the spare time to get to this game. The first disappointment was that Bathams Bitter had been removed from the menu - after questioning the catering person (where do they get these people from - interview - 'how many brain cells do you have? - answer - one) there was no explanation forthcoming.
Then to the game. Got seats to the Smethwick End of the Halfords Lane Stand, where various casual employees of WBA are allocated seats, but seem to have no interest in the game, getting up & down throughout the time we sat behind them, obscuring the view.
However, to the game. Both teams contributed to an awful spectacle, due to wayward passing They both seemed to favour. I do feel that Rondon needs help up front - every time he gets the ball, he is outnumbered two or three to one. I know he was caught out for the goal, but you can't fault his effort.
Good luck getting to the Chelsea game on time - the rearrangement of games for satellite telly being the main reason I didn't renew last year.
Shakespeare's Play Fortyfied: Pulis, who Loves Labours, Lost
Tony Pulis maintained his state of honorificabilitudinitatibus, ("the state of being able to achieve honours", in case you are not a fan of the Warwickshire wordsmith), despite recording a fifth goalless game in a row, and thus bestowing a new record, though perhaps an unwanted one, onto the history of our club.
Southampton's loss, in mid-week, of one of their games in hand, meant that Albion's aspirations to eighth fell back into their own hands and so, with the pressure off, our manager finally felt free to freshen-up Fletcher by rotating him to the bench, and thus provide an unexpected match day experience bonus for the three teenagers who got to sit alongside him, as the Albion sought to prevent the Champions from claiming just their second away win of their season: Morrison moving from the bench into the centre of the five,
Two other seemingly regular rotations could be more correctly categorised as changes enforced through injury - to HRK and to Phillips - Nyom and Brunt swapping left-back duties, with the former left-winger-turned-left-back getting tp reprise his right-wing role in place (or out of place, depending on your viewpoint) of Phillips, with Rondon replacing HRK, although the pre-match comments suggested that HRK would actually have been rested no matter how fit he was. Pulis could also point to the appearance on the bench of Ricky Harper, a player who could have become the first player born this century to have played in an EPL game had he got on, as a partial fulfilment of his post-Liverpool statements about now being able to give the youngsters a chance.
Albion would have the best chance of a poor first act when Brunt would get above Simpson at the far post, onto the end of a diagonal ball from Evans, but although getting the header on target he couldn't get going far enough across Schmeicel, which allowed the keeper to palm it over extravagantly.
With half-time approaching, a goal-kick from Foster, punted towards Rondon, stationed on the right wing just inside the Leicester half, would see the Venuzelan bring the ball down on his thigh but then have little option other than to play the ball all the way back towards Evans, however with the centre-back as far away from the lone striker in midfield as his midfield support usually are when he's up front, when he underhit the backpass, Okazaki would have acres of space in which to size up the situation and play Vardy, running into almost as much space again between Evans and McAuley, into a one-on-one with Foster from which the striker would not only get a third consecutive goal in visits to the Hawthorns but, apparently, get a third winning goal here as well, with the win seeing the away side reach the same magical 40pt mark as their hosts.
As befits what was billed as a battle of two long-ball, sit back and break-away sides, the half-time possession was shared 50-50, with Albion actually out-punting the reigning champions by the odd long-ball in 347 passes.
Indeed, Albion would also have the better of a surprisingly open second-half - out-passing Leicester by 218 to 150 and so ending the game 10 percentage points ahead in the possession polls - a second-half full of passages of end-to-end football, echoing the point and counterpoint passages of Shakespeare's play, with both sides counter attacking with enough abandon to leave themselves open to the counter-counter-attack and then again to a subsequent counter-counter-counter-attack: but who's counting.
For the record, McClean was once again the proxy substitution in another Nyom/Brunt left-back swap, on the hour mark, whilst at eight minute intervals thereafter, Fletcher and Leko replaced Yacob and Morrison, but whilst both McClean and Leko would at least inject some direct running with the ball into the game, Albion's best chance of the half, as you might expect, would come from a corner when Dawson's near-post goal-bound header would find the back of one of a number of the team-mates all contributing to the melee' and not the back of the net.
Albion, of course, remain in eighth, but although Southampton missed an extra-time penalty, the one point they gained from their goalless draw still sees the fate of the battle for eighth place now no longer completely lie within Albion's control, and more goalless games, even goalless draws holding on to the point that we start all games with, may yet see then merely having to rely on hope that "all's well that ends well".
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