West Bromwich Albion 1 - Tottenham Hotspur 0
The moment I got on the train from Stourbridge, Palace scored their 2nd to relegate Stoke and prompt every Albion fan on the service to wear the angst and pain-ridden face of hope as they, to a supporter, remained face-down and furrow-browed doing maths on their phones. I sat in Zen, not allowing such silliness to overcome me. Don’t they know our motto?
Big Dave again got it right with the same team and system but opting for the weaponary of Chadli on the bench. I’d have done that too, perhaps for Yacob though. In fact the bench must have been the strongest in Albion history. Just look at it! Cue another 10 mins before kick-off of inner turmoil and anger about how we got here with this squad. And then back to zen in the glorious sun as the game got underway.
And that was it for about 40 minutes because we played very very deep for pretty much all of the first half. Rondon played most of the game deep in our half and we stood off Spurs - camped in but defending well when they got near our goal.
I think it’s fair to say they didn’t cause us much trouble apart from a close moment when Kane went one-on-one only for the ball to drift wide for a corner. Because we were so deep, we had no out ball and it was pretty much a Pulis performance. When we did win the ball back our quality was poor - too many players couldn’t pick a pass around the fast Spurs press and at times others just took to long and were robbed.
At around the 40 minute mark the hope-filled-fools in the Smethwick around me started singing that Swansea were behind and it coincided with our first spell of pressure after a loose piece of Spurs play we won a succession of free-kicks and corners that led to Hegazi nodding wide. We saw the half out and on a very hot and sticky day, I noticed what Scouse-Deutsche conspiracy theorists would be alarmed by; no sprinklers on the pitch.
2nd half we came out and engaged Spurs more. Rondon played much higher, pushing more on their last man and although it opened us up more it did get us up the pitch and make it more 50/50. Spurs were good but we defended well and broke out much better - Phillips and McClean got more on the front foot and Livermore/Brunt saw more of the ball.
It looked to me from one break that Rondon should’ve scored from 6 yards but stumbled on the ball and in goal Foster was equal to Spurs’ dangerous set pieces. Our right side began to look a worry when Nyom tangled with a petulant Rose before rolling around a touch embarrassingly.
With 15 to go Big Dave did what any sensible coach with this squad would do in the same situation and began swapping our honest runners for our ‘luxury’ players with Rondon (who saw laughable protection at times) and JRod making way for Sturridge and someone called Chadli. And they combined a few times fairly well although we lost cohesion and Rondon’s muscle.
McClean made way for Greg as time ebbed away and we created a couple of great chances on 90 minutes that Sturridge couldn’t convert. From a resulting corner Dawson powered in a header and there were oohs from the Brummie before pandemonium as Livermore poked home.
I had just enough time to pick my Zen up off the floor following a bit of standard boinging before Foster made another great save and the ref blew up.
The train home was nearly silent. I think everyone was exhausted.
If that was the game plan, and it was the obvious game plan, then once again you have to say the coaches and players got it spot in - perhaps don’t leave it so late next time though eh?
I’m still not a man of faith but Big Dave could still well be a prophet.
Absolutely fantastic game today guys.
As a writer for the Newcastle fanzine True Faith, I wanted you to win last week. Having been relegated twice I know what it feels like.
One more game to go lads. Come on the baggies.
Another heroic Albion display in beating Spurs at the death seemed all for nought as a weak effort by Everton allowed Southampton to get within 30 seconds of sending us down. But in another dramatic twist Everton tied it with a huge deflected goal five and a half minutes into four minutes added time.
The impossible dream lives on, but now it will have to come down to goal difference. We need Southampton and Swansea to draw and then hope that Stoke beat Swansea and Man City hammer Southampton by four goals at least on the last day. Oh yeah... and then we have to beat Palace.
If we get relegated, which still seems highly probable, this will go down as the 'if only' season.
If only we had got rid of Pulis last summer. If only we didn't hire Pardew. If only we had given Darren Moore ten games instead of six. If only we had converted a handful of the twenty six points we lost from winning positions. If only we had won one miserable game against Huddersfield, Stoke, Swansea or Southampton... if only, if only.
But mathematically we are still in it, so maybe it's karma.
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