Norwich City F.C. 4-0 WBA
this was, without a doubt, the worst performance of the season by west brom. steve clarke (quite rightly) wanted to have a look at what he's got in terms of players who haven't seen much time in the squad this year - most notably markus rosenberg - and being free to experiment, he used his side's safe position in the table as an opportunity to have a look at some different attacking formations.
what had been a resounding success away to southampton a few weeks ago was an unmitigated failure on this visit to carrow road. fair enough. the gaffer could see this and made the appropriate adjustments going into the second-half. with his side still only down one-nil to kevin snodgrass' early goal, the baggies got back in the game and looked the better side for the first few minutes after the restart. that's when tragedy struck and put getting a result beyond the baggies on the day.
ben foster, coming well off his line in trying to make what would otherwise have been a routine clearance, missed the ball altogether and allowed grant holt to walk it into an open net to put city up by two goals.
in foster's defence, he may have been distracted by jonas olsson's clumsy backtracking, as his centre-half appeared to be moving into a position that threatened to close down the goalie's clearance. whoever is to blame for the amateurish mistake, it knocked the heart out of the albion. unlike the two previous matches - both good performances at the attacking end, if not the best defensively - the baggies quickly became inept in attack and their play going forward tentative. they went on to overcook every ball played into the opposition penalty area and created nothing for themselves in the way of opportunity to get back in the game.
the four-nil scoreline didn't so much reflect how good the home side had been, but rather how poor the baggies were on the day. although there is still an outside chance that the baggies will get a result when they close out the season against manchester united on the last day of the season, i wouldn't bet on it and standard logic would tend to dictate that their best opportunity for reaching the stated goal of achieving 50 points in the league table has now passed them by.
Manchester City F.C. 1-0 WBA
match text commentary
with the best of intentions, steve clarke forgot that supporters generally aren't interested in evaluating resources or even being entertained by attractive football; they want results regardless of the circumstance. even if we have now been able to determine that markus rosenberg just might be a worthwhile footballer, or the gaffer learned an important lesson about when to make substitutions, nothing will make up for failing to get an expected result.
by and large, football supporters want to hear the final whistle the moment that their team has gone ahead in a match. never mind that a game of association football is supposed to be decided over a full 90 minutes of play. if their side goes ahead in the first five minutes, the average supporter would be happy if the contest ended right then and there.
if steve clarke had any doubts as to the matter, a quick listen to any of the rabid and raving critiques delivered in thick black-country dialect on tom ross' post-game radio show after the away fixture with norwich, he would have unquestionably been put right as to what is expected of himself and his team.
whether he listened in or not, the gaffer has got the point and stated to the local media in birmingham that the baggies will be going back to basics for the season finale at home to the league champions.
WBA 2-3 Wigan Athletic F.C.
match text commentary
there probably wasn't a better game of football played in the PREMIER LEAGUE this week than west brom's home fixture with wigan. as per usual, the lancashire side were going for yet another one of their trademark end-of-season "great escape" routines - a situation that has inspired them to some top form football in the past - making a match with wigan athletic a perilous proposition for anyone coming up against them in the league at this time of year.
however, coming off a big win at saints, the baggies looked ready for the challenge and wigan actually played some of the most mediocre football that they have in weeks. it still didn't matter in the end. as exciting as the baggies were going forward, they were still subject to some slack defending on set-pieces (a problem all season) and even when the draw looked an inevitability, wigan found a way to get a late winner and keep their hopes for yet another top-flight survival run alive for yet another week.
the latics' best player on the day was without a doubt shaun maloney. the veteran mid-fielder was key in the creation of wigan's last two goals, and if they don't manage another "great escape" then he's someone who will probably see considerable interest from several top-flight clubs, any one of which who would do well in acquiring his considerable personal skill.
Southampton F.C. 0-3 WBA
match text commentary
while for the past three seasons the baggies have suffered a loss of form that starts just around christmas and carries through until february when they go on a bit of a tear and manage to survive the PREMIER LEAGUE quite comfortably, they have stuttered a little this year. however, with an adventurous setup that included three attacking forwards, it seemed as though they had finally made the breakthrough with this trip to the south-coast.
all three of the starting forward line scored, and while this was somewhat of a sacrifice at the defensive end of the pitch, they still managed a clean sheet and we were rewarded with one of the baggies' best all-round performances of the year.
this was an extremely important result and keeps the baggies on course for the 8th place finish which the team has been building towards since just before christmas. while wins have been hard to come by for west brom since then, their contemporaries in the league haven't done any better with swansea, norwich, newcastle, fulham, west ham and stoke all having similar difficulties in producing a full three-point result in fixtures played over the last five or six weeks. of course, the top TV pundits will quote all the key statistics as evidence of the relatively poor quality of this year's almighty, bloody PREMIER LEAGUE. for the rest of us - that is, supporters of the aforementioned clubs - will be more concerned about our sides keeping pace with their contemporaries in the league and out of the relegation battles. for the moment, that'll probably be good enough.