West Bromwich Albion 0 - Crystal Palace 0
The beginning of a new era and we started the game with a 'proper' 4-3-3 with HRK and JRod right up alongside Rondon. Little complaints with that. The big relief was Gibbs being passed fit although it was a blow that Phillips didn't make it having shown real signs of life and positivity in the preceding 2 games.
One thing we looked lacking in on paper was pace but for the first 20 mins or so we were well on top with some decent play from the whole forward line, Field and Gibbs down the left.
We couldn't convert pressure or chances into goals though despite a willingness of players to shoot and get forward. We looked a little nervy or unsure when in the final third with a few poor decisions - I think that genuinely might be down to us having such little experience of having the ball in open play in the opposition half. For example, JRod got caught offside a number of times; the awareness of such things hasn't been something he's had to contemplate for 6 months.
After the opening 20 it was more even and the half ended with Palace on top but we'd dug in having lost Barry to injury for Yacob. I thought in tougher periods our lack of wide pace to counter stood out more.
2nd half Pardew switched Rondon and JRod so that big Salo was left of our front 3. It helped us and we took the initiative, looking like the side most likely to score. We did create a few chances that with better quality we might have done better with.
But as the half wore on uncle Roy began to apply his defensive python and slowly squeezed the game into a scrappy, bitty affair with no space at all in the Palace half. We know it only too well and apart from a few breaks at either end neither side were able to get into dangerous positions and the game petered out.
Overall it was much more entertaining, we attacked and took shots at goal, the formation and subs made sense given our options, we had some pretty good performances and we looked better defensively as a 4 - it's no surprise that our switch back to this provided our first clean sheet in ages.
But we desperately needed the win and I think over Xmas our league position might well get worse before it gets better. Critically we need Phillips, Chadli, Morrison and Brunt back as options.
We have to beat Swansea next week. The winnable fixtures are already starting to run out.
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