West Bromwich Albion 1 - Stoke City 1
Well, we would have all taken seven points out of nine at the start of the season, but there's just a tinge of disappointment after today's game. Hegazi is getting the blame for losing us two points, but when you sit as deep as we do after going ahead, defensive errors, penalties etc are always likely to happen. His error apart, Hegazi has looked like an excellent signing so far and shows that you don't have to spend millions if you have a decent scouting system. The other master stroke has been convincing Gareth Baggie to join us. He was by far our best midfielder today and hardly made a stray pass. Better for England than Livermore.
But MOTM has to be Nyom, not just for his excellent cross to find J-Rod, but his timely tackling and endless running. Wish we had more like him. J-Rod didn't do much before or after his goal, but if all he does is score goals like that we will be delighted.
Pulis is bang on about the stupidity of having the transfer deadline after the season starts. Let's hope the idiots running the league see sense. I really hope Jonny E stays - losing two captains in three months would be a real bummer, not to mention his massive presence on the pitch. I could rant on about our defensive tactics, but I am resigned to the fact that this is the trade off we will have to take for premier league 'security'.
I thought a draw was probably a fair result.
I was happy enough with the starting 11 - it was great to Morrison back in the starting 11.
We started OK but it was generally a bit of a scrappy game that was low on quality and opportunities.
For our part, we nullified Stoke quite well but neither side looked like they had any ambition to gamble in order to try and win the game - both sides content to go through the motions a bit, work the set-plays but unwilling to commit players forward.
I thought that Rodriguez was very quiet on the left and struggled to get into it and I also think that his lack of pace was more noticeable out there - he didn't do badly but I don't think he was as effective or as able to break out as McClean or Chadli are. He was wasted out there and I wouldn't bother with that again - if we are going to start him and Rondon I wouldn't mind seeing him in the advanced midfielder role with Barry and Morrison in behind him, but that might be a wee bit 'open' for our manager.
What he did do however, which is probably a victory for the Pulis methodology, is take the only sniff of a chance he had by showing great instinct and desire to get on the end of a great run and cross from Nyom - a goal that came out of nothing.
And I thought after the goal we began to play a bit better - Barry, Morrison and Rodriguez began linking well and probably on a wavelength that was beyond most of the others and, with the right final pass, we might have gone on to nick a second.
However Pulis went for his tried and tested 'stick with what we've got' sub and took Morrison off for Yacob. I thought this invited pressure on to us a bit, and out of anyone I'd have taken Livermore off after he'd lost the ball cheaply several times.
Everyone knows the goal was a cock-up and Pulis will be disappointed we didn't see this one out but I don't think we did enough to win the game.
On the positive side we looked big, strong, well organised and I thought Barry was absolutely mustard, to the point where I was pondering if his international career is really over (how many defensive players who can keep the ball do England actually have?) and whether Arsene Wenger might have missed a trick having seen his leaderless and rudderless show-ponies humiliated without a fight. Barry looks a great bit of business. Nyom also had a bit of a barnstormer.
The subs all get 6 - they didn't really improve us. Burke is clearly going to take some time to get used to this level.
Rodriguez stoops to conquer: Crouch stoops even further to draw.
After two fairly dour, albeit winning, performances, Albion's changes, to their winning starting line-up for this game, promised a little more going forwards through the middle, in that Morrison came in for Field, but then removed a little of the going forwards down the flanks, by virtue of McClean's left-sided-wide role being given to Rodriguez, even though the latter had only had some twenty minutes out there in the previous game. With HRK unavailable because of his needless suspension, the latter switch meant that Rondon got his first start of the season, as the isolated striker. Yacob would remain on the bench, with England internationals Livermore and Barry, being asked to be the two deeper-lying centre-midfielders.
Around the 23 minute mark, one of Stoke's three central defenders, Zouma, who seemed to be constantly getting further forwards than either of our two defensive midfield players, at least in open play, got off a shot that, because of a deflection from within the ranks massing in front of him, saw Foster needing to tip it over the crossbar, but that was about as exciting as it got.
The second half had pretty much continued on in a similar vein to the first, however, around the hour mark, Nyom swung a cross over that went over and ahead of Rondon, but would be met, at the far post by a stooping Rodriguez, who got between two Stoke defenders, neither of whom made any attempt to impede his run towards the ball, let alone attempt to make any contact with it: maybe, by then, they had just forgotten that he was on the pitch.
Taking a one-nil lead with thirty minutes to go suggested that another three points would be accrued, and with Yacob coming on for Morrison to restore the three defensive centre-mids with only twenty minutes remaining, there would have been few betting against us, and even the swapping of McClean for Phillips, with our goalscorer moving to the right-side seemed more like a move to get fresh defensive legs on, than any attempt to grab a second.
It was with some surprise then, although those of us who worry about the luck that's needed, to hang on to what we have so often, running out every now and again might be less surprised, that a nothing ball into the Albion box would see Stoke draw level, as Hegazi, who was shaping to put his foot through it, must have seen, out of the corner of his eye, Foster darting off his line towards it. Whatever the two said, or didn't scream, by way of telling the other who was taking charge of the situation, the end result was Hegazi hesitating enough, presumably for fear of putting his foot through Foster's head, to miss the ball that Foster wasn't getting near anyway, and so it travelled on to Crouch who, despite having to stoop a long way down, could hardly miss heading the ball into an empty net.
With three minutes to go, new signing Burke, whose acquisition may have paved the way for a clearly not-quite-ready-to-breakthrough Leko to go and get some quality time in a lower division, got to play the part of the wide man coming on for the striker with a few minutes to go, in that he replaced Rondon, although by then the game had started petering out towards a result that a game in which both sides managed just two attempts on target suggests it should have done.
Albion fans could at least console themselves with the knowledge that, despite being sent out to warm up at one point, Billy Big Knob spent yet another 90 minutes being paid to sit on a Hawthorns bench.
Also of interest would have been that last week's opponents Burnley, who had failed to turn twenty-odd attempts into one on target against us, managed to turn three out of thirteen onto the target against Spurs, and even scored from one of those, courtesy of Albion discardee, Chris Wood.
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