Burnley 2 - West Bromwich Albion 2
I thought the starting lineup was a bit strange - not sure what benefit the club gets out of playing Wilson at the back and although I was happy to see Field get minutes I thought a game like this would be ideal for Chadli - flat track bully as he is, he'd surely get chances against Burnley.
The first half for us was a total write-off. I have nothing to say other than I felt sorry for Rondon who was given no support and sorry for Field because he surely gets better passes from the back or midfield when playing for our kids.
It turned out that we were playing an under-strength Burnley who are one of the poorer teams with a full squad. And yet they had the best of the first half and but for a good Foster save and a great tackle from our resident lunatic (albeit somewhat redeemed off the pitch following a warm interview on Football Focus last week) we might have gone in behind.
2nd half we were marginally better although we went behind when Livermore probably gave a penalty away that wasn't given, but that Daws thought should have been as he went to sleep.
I feared we wouldn't get back into it but a few changes and a brief improvement in our performance led to McClean getting down the left, keeping his composure and squaring to Rondon who took a good touch before firing home on the spin in a similar way to his Man U goal last season.
He has taken a lot of flack and at times has looked like a lost soul but I ask anyone who's given him stick to objectively view the way we play - he's not a world beater but with a bit of support and supply he would get 15 goals a season.
And soon after we took the lead through a standard set play and looked to have stolen a victory from a fairly terrible performance. Except that with 10 to go Brunt and Mozza made a right mess of a free kick in going short when long was the sensible option, which was followed by a silly foul for a free kick, a long punt and a rare-this-season misjudgement from Foster who should either have claimed the ball and stayed on his line.
There is not a lot else to say - the game was there for the taking, we nearly lost it, got ahead and then threw it away. I don't think many of our players can take much credit out of the game and I worry a bit about how we have dropped off so badly - will we be able to lift it again next season?
I'm hoping we have one of those performances from nowhere next week and beat Chelski to lift everyone.
Brendan summed up the game well, so I will ask; what are we to make of this team? Were we really this bad all along, but brilliantly motivated to overachieve earlier in the season by our master strategist TP? Did the effort of attaining 40 points take so much out of our old legs that we hit the wall at 29 games? Or, as someone suggested a few weeks ago, are the players just being human and throttling back now that Premier league status, and therefore their salaries, are guaranteed for another year?
To be fair, it's hard to detect a lack of effort. We showed some fight in somehow managing to nose ahead in yesterday's game. But the lack of quality on the ball is glaring. We couldn't string more than three passes together and created nothing until the goal. As Brendan said, how can you criticize Rondon with that kind of service? We have not had a real playmaking midfielder of Premier league quality for as long as I can remember. Chadli doesn't seem to have it. Mozza is past his best. Brunt still shows flashes of brilliance, but like Mozza, he is on his way down. It doesn't matter which striker we sign, without a creative link he will have to feed off hopeful punts from Gmac, Foster and Dawson. I will be watching the off-season activity with great interest.
And did Sean Dyche's side survive,
Given the two managers' praise for the other in the media in the week ahead of this one, there may have been an expectation of a feast of football, however Pulis and Dyche served up a meaningless mid-table mediocrity of a match that wouldn't have looked out of place in the second tier; full of no-nonsense, get-rid-of-it clearences and long aimless lumps up the field that, in the case of one or two, would surely have cleared the highest of chimneys of the mills along the M65 corridor. Add to that a scrappy congested midfiled mire and you really did have the epitome of traditional English football being beamed all over the world.
Having said that, both managers will have come away content with the result, what with Pulis's Albion finally breaking an eight-hour fifty minute goaless spell and ending a run of four defeats, courtesy of a first goal in eighteen top flight games for the tireless runner Rondon and the birthday-boy, Dawson, bagging yet another goal from a set-piece, whilst Dyche's Burnley added a thirty-third home point to their total of forty, thus becoming the second club in a row to achieve that magical mark against a club who had long since passed it, without really bothering to go all that much further past it.
Albion's starting eleven chnages saw Mark Wilson at left back, along with the pairing of Fletcher and Field, in as part of the three-man midfield shield, whilst Brunt and McClean offered left feet out wide on both flanks.
Ten minutes in and Rondon would chase down a clearence only to see his off-target shot blocked, although from the resulting corner, Brunt woud eschew the usual delivery into the box in favour of a pass backwards to Livermore, whose attempted cross sailed high and wide of all those massing in the area.
The one shot on target of the first half would come ten minutes later when Vokes, one of two strikers that Dyche deployed, managed to get a side foot onto a looping deflection of a cross which did require Foster to go to ground to save, though of more concern than that scare would have been the sight of Evans going to ground under no challenge but clutching his ankle, although after two minutes of treatment, the game would restart with him still in it.
Given that the whistle stopping the game allowing the training staff come on and tend to Evans at 30:17 and that the throw-in that restarted the game ocurred at 32:26, it came as some surprise to only see one minute of time allowed for stoppages as the half ended though given the lack of action, perhaps it was a good thing.
Evans would last just five minutes of the second half before being replaced by Nyom, although Dawson would move into his more unfamilar centre-half role, allowing Wilson to continue at left-back, from which position he would, shortly thereafter, get to impersonate one of the other holders of the role, in getting forwards and blasting one high and wide from the edge of the box.
On 55 mins, Barnes would run into Wilson's side of the box under a challege from Livermore, and although the latter appeared to both wrestle him back and push him to the ground, Mike Jones waved play on, at which point, Barnes would get up off the ground the quicker, nutmeg Livermore, and play in Vokes, who should have had Dawson in attendence had the latter, presumably expecting the penalty to be awarded, not come to a dead stop. Vokes would slot the ball home at Foster's near post.
Ten minutes later, Albion, and Rondon, finally had the opportunity to celebrate a goal when the Burnley right-back completely misjudged a long ball out to McClean who was then able to drive into the box and, although his cross took two deflections, Rondon was able to keep enough of an eye on it to then swivel and direct it across the goal and beyond the Burnley keeper.
Morrison had replaced Field by the time Dawson hedaed in from four yards, having got onto the end of one of the small number of Brunt corners that were up to his usual quality on the day, and put Albion ahead with thirteen minutes to go, although it would turn out to be an unlucky thirteen, during which McAuley brought to ground a player who looked to have spun him halfway inside the Albion half and then, from a fairly hopeful free-kick, Foster would advance off his line, stop well short of getting off the ground, let alone getting a glove to the ball and then stand and watch the ball glanced over him and into an empty net.
With three minutes still to see out, Pulis took off Wilson and moved Brunt to left back, whilst bringing on Yacob to shore up the centre, and was rewared for his tactical aplomb with what could turn out to be another vital away point against a side from the lower reaches.
Albion, of course, reamin in eighth place, although with Southampton not making up any ground as a result drawing at Liverpool and then losing their game in hand to Arsenal it may also be Leicester, West Ham and Bournemouth, who have a say in the final positions at the bottom of the top half.
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