West Bromwich Albion 0 - West Ham United 0
First the positive; we got a point from a game in which we managed one weak shot on target.
On paper the team had a more balanced look about it - it's good to see that Pulis reads the posts on 'Boing'. In fact, we moved the ball around nicely in defence and deep midfield for a brief period in the first half. Barry, Gibbs, Evans and Krychowiak looked classy on the ball. Phillips was the one forward who looked 'on' and it was he who created our best chance, squandered when Mozza muffed his header. And Brunt did well to beat his man on the bye line and cross for Gibbs, who might have had better luck with his shot.
BUT... that phase quickly faded and from then on West Ham, poor as they were, looked the more likely to score.
From an attacking standpoint we were bereft of ideas. It was the 87th minute before Hart calmly gloved HRK's tame header, our only shot on target.
Some observations; Brunt and Mozza have been great servants, but are past their best. However, they are still our best (only) creative midfield options, especially if Chadli is going to remain on the bench. J-Rod is not a target man. We will demoralize him just like we have done with others if we continue to play him as the lone striker. On this display, we had better start thumping in some headers from dead balls, because we are not going to get many from open play.
A pretty terrible game and 2 points lost I thought.
When I saw the starting lineup I was happy overall as it seemed to have the aerial cover defensively to deal with Carroll but balance a bit of creativity - it looked to be a step in the right direction.
But when the game kicked off it became clear that Brunt and Phillips were playing on the opposite wings to their natural side.
So having rectified the inbalances at fullback from last week, we shifted the problem further forward to the wings.
A consequence of this was, although I thought Brunt and Phillips actually did OK individually at the critical moments they were either on their weaker foot or we lacked natural width to cut West Ham open.
We probably had the better chances first half - Gibbs should have put everyone into the net with his effort and Mozza should have scored with a header after great work from Phillips, but it wasn't great apart from that.
2nd half was even less effective and we struggled - West Ham could have scored from set plays and nearly got in a couple of times.
We had no way out - by the mid-point of the first half it I would have liked to seen Brunt and Phillips switch for 20 mins just to try and get some crosses into the box but it didn't happen at all until Brunt was (probably harshly) hooked for HRK, sending Rodriguez wide left where, apart from a poacher's goal against Stoke, he's but absolutely anonymous in 2-3 games.
Soon after he was shunted right to make way for Howlin' mad McClean but that meant we lost the pace of Phillips who had been a bit of a threat.
What's disappointing is West Ham really are not very good and are very dodgy at the back, yet we gave them a relatively easy game by hoofing it from the back to Rodriguez, who won nothing all game. I don't think we'll face many poorer teams this year to be honest.
On the few times we got it down and strung passes together we got through them quite easily. It was probably Morrison and Brunt who combined the best and mostly in the first half.
I think what this game also proved is that, for all the stick Rondon has been getting, playing up front on your own for us is very difficult and that is down to tactics and playing style. Rodriguez had all the same problems and didn't carry the same physical presence or pace. Also, our pressing was non-existent. We didn't even try and challenge West Ham players until they were well into our half.
On the positive side - we managed to combine 2 or 3 really slick passing moves way beyond what we've seen from a Pulis team before and although they broke down before the final pass there is hope there of more things to come. I don't think this 11 was too far away with a couple of tweaks and a slightly more progressive and patient style.
None of the subs were really able to change the game or swing momentum in our favour.
Finally, the ref had a right stinker. What kind of a person decides they want to be a football referee anyway?
Another home point: but is there any point to it all?
This was an abysmal spectacle. Two side seemingly capable of serving up nothing more than countless long hopeful punts, overhit crosses and dead balls, all interspersed with a litany of misplaced passes over even the shortest of distances.
In theory, Morrison's inclusion in the midfield three should have offered up some much-longed-for creativity through the middle but in practice there was about as much creativity from there as there was down the flanks, what with Phillips and Brunt being played on their wrong sides so as to keep that all important defensive shape narrow and compact. And when Mozza did "break into the box", his header, from around the penalty spot, went out for a throw.
The first-half was clearly so forgettable that whoever did the stats clearly forgot that, in the third minute, Phillips had played in Brunt on the right-hand side of the Hammer's box and that the latter had rolled it back to the Hart, the WHU keeper, who was thus able to pick up the ball right in the middle of the goal, though perhaps it wasn't counted as a shot on target as it had been thought to be so lame an effort that it was unlikely to make it over the line anyway. As it was, Albion's one official attempt on target would be noted as coming three minutes before the ninety were up, HRK's header not really troubling the keeper.
The few moments of note in the eighty-four minutes between those two attempts were few and far between. Brunt left a defender on his arse by the bye-line but the ball he drove hard and low into a mass of bodies didn't get a lucky bounce. Around the half-hour mark, Pulis's plan for restricting the opposition to shots from distance caused Obinag to shoot from all of 40 yards but, with Foster backpedalling and beaten, the ball bounced back off the bar. Albion's rarely troubled keeper would get another slice of luck in the second half, when his studs-up challenge, as he charged out of the box to deal with Hernandez, following Carroll finally managing a meaningful flick-on from all the balls lumped up to him. saw a card come out when the studs caught the WHU player's boot in mid-air but, with Hernandez adjudged to be going away from goal, it was merely a yellow.
For the record, the record of which in the ref's notebook being about all that our substitutions achieved, this game's "move our woefully supplied striker out to the wing" swap saw HRK coming on for Brunt, which meant that Albion were forced to play with a right-footed winger on the right for three long minutes before Phillips was replaced by McClean, so that Rodriguez would end the game doing a job in front of Dawson. The effect of playing Gibbs, as a left-back at left-back, on the average height of the back four must have been on the minds of Pulis and Megson all through the game but, give them their due, they resisted temptation until seven minutes to go, at which point they cracked and put Nyom on.
Even with all that height available though, a free-kick, with just two minutes of the five stoppage time remaining, didn't even see our centre-backs thrown forwards in an attempt to win a game in the usual manner - yes, we couldn't even be bothered to try to nick this one at the death.
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