West Brom 0-0 Palace
Written by: Sam Hesketh
The build-up to the match centred around the new Baggies manager, Alan Pardew. The Pards Ego Train was steaming through the station with our former manager discussing just how good he was at Palace, whilst failing to mention his abysmal record in 2016. It was a match that we just couldn’t lose, not only because we need points, but also to avoid his smug face being plastered all over the media.
The game itself was not a great spectacle and whilst Palace can point to a broken down train, a loud wedding party keeping them awake and various fitness test failures and injuries in the warm up, there was still little to be remembered of the 90 minutes on a rainy, cold Saturday in the midlands.
Wilf and Ruben must be switched
This has been mentioned in previous match reports, but once again it proved a major issue for us yesterday. West Brom did not provide much after the first fifteen minutes yet we continued to labour going forward, majorly stunted by the positioning of Loftus-Cheek and Wilf.
Thinking back to last season, we achieved a great deal away from home by using bursts of pace, hitting teams on the counter and allowing the wingers to provide ammunition for Benteke but without having Zaha out wide, we are really missing out.
Loftus-Cheek is a good player, of that there is no doubt, but having him pushed to the wing hindered us again yesterday. His lack of tracking back continues to frustrate especially when you consider how that side of Wilf’s game has improved. Were Ruben to have played central and lost the ball, he would have had Jimmy and Luka covering, but losing the ball and leaving Schlupp to deal with the oncoming attack is not helping us at all.
Again yesterday Wilf cut a frustrated figure, he is clearly not happy with seeing less of the ball and as fantastic a player as he is, he needs to be out wide, attacking full backs, especially when he is up against a player like Nyom, who he has history of beating over the past few years.
No changes on pitch or on the bench
One thing that has become apparent over the past couple of games and was the case yesterday again is the lack of changes both tactically and with regards to personnel.
I am a fan of what Roy has done since he has arrived and he is certain to point to two consecutive clean sheets, both away from home, which certainly cannot be sniffed at, but there is a nagging feeling that with a couple of changes, we could have come away from those two games with six points, rather than two.
The aforementioned switch on the pitch with Wilf and Ruben would have been a welcome change, but also the substitution of Townsend very close to the end of the game should have been made a lot sooner. Whether he was replaced by Sako or Punch, it could have provided some impetus to the team that looked devoid of creative ideas as the match progressed.
The issues we’d had before the game meaning we had to line up with a shorter bench than usual may have been in Roy’s mind, but we still had players that could have provided that little tweak that pushed us on to victory.
Man of the Match: Joel Ward
As a fan of our long-serving right back, it was great to see him put in a performance reminiscent of his form from a couple of years ago. He looked solid in the tackle, put in a great block to save what looked like a certain goal and even dealt with the initial very shaky first twenty minutes from Martin Kelly who played at right centre half.
Jules should get a mention for coming into the team late, making one excellent save and confirming another clean sheet, but Wardy just about pips him to it. With news that Manchester United are annoyed at Fosu-Mensah’s lack of playing time, Joel’s performance in the midlands proves his place in the team is justified.
Up next: Bournemouth
Another game against a team not too far from us in the league. We’ve been grinding out points with not particularly impressive performances over the past couple of games, but this is a match that should looking to grab maximum points from. Certainly not an easy one, but hopefully we can get back to the performances seen against Spurs and Everton an