Brave Bilic gets stung at the last


I was not confident before this match. I always hate playing sides like West Bromwich Albion, and managed byTony Pulis the prospect is even less attractive, since regular readers will now my detestation for agricultural and pragmatic football. Furthermore, the pre-match team news confirmed the absence of Carroll. I won’t say “I told you so” but I told you so. This is the problem with this player and our reliance on him; he is far too prone to injury and was always going to break down sooner rather than later.

Looking at our line-up before the match, the midfield looked solid but it was up front that the question marks remained and I have to confess I anticipated a match with very few goals. Under 2.5 looked a good bet. Right, well don’t be asking me for any betting tips anytime soon!

We had the worst possible start and particularly against a side like Albion. An early defensive mistake again highlighted the lack of quality right back acquisition during both recent transfer windows. Kouyate is a wonderful player but he is absolutely not a right back and was, as the vernacular goes, totally mugged off for our first goal in common with Randolph who allowed it to pass in between is legs. Your heart sank. You just knew that the game would already be reduced to the Midlanders parking the bus and our hapless attempts to break them down. This is certainly what transpired during that first period. We had long spells of possession but found it very difficult to pierce their resolute rearguard. True, we did have what what looked to be a perfectly good goal ruled out since there was an Albion defender laying prostrate in the penalty area and playing everybody on side but, once again, we created very little of incisive quality and the visitors were relatively untroubled. The inevitable conclusion was that this was just the sort of game that we really did need wor Andy for. During the half time interval we were all left scratching our heads wondering just how this game might be turned around. In truth, at that stage, I could personally find few answers.

At least Bilic tried something. A knock to Cresswell meant some reorganisation was required in any event and we went to a flat back 3, given the lack of threat from the opposition and our own need to score. Inevitably though Pulis reacted to this fairly quickly and you wondered if the game would return to its former stalemate self.

However, this was not the case. In truth for almost the entire second half it was the Hammers that were playing all of the football and, in the absence of the big man, it was pleasing on the eye and comprised a lot of neat approach play with Antonio, Lanzini, Ferghouli and even Noble looking the part. When the goal eventually arrived, it was no more than we deserved. After a spell of determined and almost incessant pressure, a drop of the shouder and an unerring strike by Lanzini was surely the winner! But of course, as we know, sides managed by Pulis just keep going and = whatever the rights and wrongs of the corner award – you sensed danger during injury time when Albion were forced to chase again. A lack of big men on the line and some relatively weak defending saw them snatch an undeserved point and so it was honours even in a game that we surely deserved to win.

In the end, it felt like a defeat. I am going to praise the manager for pushing on in the second half and being the only manager of the two to show any determination to win the game. Very sad then that, once again, football was a loser!

On the plus side, Allardyce lost again I suppose!
  • Goatygav

    Slaven’s going to find himself in hot water.

    • Headmaster1

      He may well do, Gav but you gotta love the dude, eh? He’s only saying what many of us watching feel, I believe. There was one side that wanted to win this game and it looked to me as though a perfectly good goal was ruled out. Arguably there was a foul in the build up to their first goal and in incorrect throw in decision which directly led to the corner. I think we’re all gutted to not beat Pulis’ Ponies. Hopefully just a fine – he can stand that. I love his passion.

  • Guesty

    I’m not going to analyse this match too much as it’s not my thing but what will say is I actually thought we were the better side in the first half and at least deserved to go in level but for some pretty disgraceful referring from the unaccountable ones and then we got even better in the 2nd half where I thought we run wba ragged. The officials were shocking on every decision in my opinion. I was really pleased with the shift put in by Fegouli and Calari. There’s hope for both of them in my view. Fonte and Reid looked so assured and Lanzini was my star man. We never deserved to lose and I have to say I think my club under Slaven, who really cares, are in a really good place and they’ll come back from Dubai in good shape. Sorry guys I can see no negatives after that performance. COYIs

    • Yep. Agreed.
      And Randolph MOTM again (only kidding)

      • Guesty

        Lol Graybo. You wouldn’t let it lie!

        Yeah Head I was looking at what I saw today which was a team, and manager, full of passion and commitment. A real joy to watch at times. There is a bigger picture concerning strikers and full backs I agree and once again you see us in that position we’ve all seen before, the one that goes “all we need to do is build on this side and we can really push on” well perhaps, just perhaps, we will this summer.

        I see promise in Calari and remember he’s only 23. Mind it’s probably irrelevant as he’s not ours anyhow.

        • Headmaster1

          Therein lies the quandary Guesty – ‘perhaps’. I’m not quite in the camp of Fareham Hammer on twitter but I have no faith in our owners to spend serious cash. Year on year we get the same tidbits leaked and fed to us, prior to ST renewal deadline day; we’re in for this big name, that big name and we all know what we end up with.
          Me, I’ve resigned myself to top 8 at absolute best with these two at the helm.

          • Guesty

            Well “top 8” could conceivably mean 4th or even 1st so I think we are in agreement Head lol.

            I think you mean 7th or 8th is our peak and when you consider ManU are 6th having spent £200M or some mad figure each of these past 2/3 years then you are probably right and I don’t really think the current owners will ever compete with that. I’m not even sure I want owners to spend that kind of money.

            Time will tell and we will come back to this discussion end of August but yeah I predict they will buy big and buy smart close season. This squad only needs 4 players and we will at very least push the top 6. IMO of course.

    • Headmaster1

      Agree with most of that, Callieri excepted; for me the guy is utter pony.
      No negatives? Hmmn; no bespoke right back and no replacement for plans A, B, C and D (Carroll) – blame laying squarely at the owners’ door there of course.
      That said, I guess they, like we, have settled for the security of a mid table finish this year and it’s all about the summer.
      We played well today, really well in parts and I, like you, am happy enough all things considered.

  • Nothing to add. Perfect summary.
    Warm weather training here I come. Yeah, right, in my dreams.
    Best I can look forward to is double digit temperatures (just) for golf at Stansted on Tuesday.

  • kevin mousley

    Apparently we were after signing Gabbiadini but we didn’t and Southampton did. It is obviously a bit previous to judge a striker after two games but he looks the business to me and the kind of striker that would have put West Brom away and this is my problem with Slaven. There’ s little reason to his risks ..he bets big on long shots and keeps returning to the table long after the bet has proved unwise persisting with Antonio at right back. He’s put all his chips on Carroll who we all know , brilliant as he can be, struggles to string four games together. He’ll have Kuoyate ..undoubtedly our most potent right back when if there was one thing in the last three windows he should have done was bought a specialist there. Its so frustrating because we are 80 per cent there as a team and on today ..yet another bollix of a ref plus if you are a good team you simply shouldnt concede in the last minute..he used to be a centre back for Christsakes.

  • Beasticus Maximus

    Another bad start!! Oh well, sometimes we are our own worst enemies. I agree almost entirely with HM’s appraisal of the game, but I would say although it was poor defending from Kou that let the man through it was a really lazy pass from Noble out to Feghouli that started the attack off. Outside of that I think we were the better side in the first half.
    The second half change changed everything, With Antonio back out wide where he belongs the midfield looked much more potent and much better balanced.
    Callieri is a bit of a lightweight and probably not up to the job in the PL but at the very least we looked much better, even without a quality striker.
    More importantly than anything. We were able to turn it round against a team with a reputation for parking the bus, a couple of JCB’s and a King Tiger in front of the goal. It was a determined, at times svelte and really quite enjoyable performance topped off by a lovely strike from Lanzini.
    Had the ref done his job we would have won.
    Ah well. Thems the breaks I suppose

  • Tom

    Good summary HM, I actually would like a look at Calleri match sharp … definitely not pony for me but definitely needs that extra half a yard of sharpness …

    • Guesty

      Agree Tom I said as much below but Head doesn’t agree. I’m not sure it’s relevant tho as we have no option to buy him.

    • DevoDevo

      I also think there is a player in Calleri too, Tom. Don’t think he will get enough time to prove it though.

  • Philtheiron

    Hmm, I’ve been working so I have been struggling to catch up with the game and hopefully try and comment objectively.
    Unfortunately I think I’m still struggling as after trying to watch as many re runs and extended highlights I still feel I’m a little off kilter with some of the comments and ca totally see where Slav is coming from.

    (Fantastic response from the big man when commenting on whether he would/should be punished after his red card. “I’ve already been punished enough today!” Class).

    Anyway, I digress! My first impressions of the game were that we were a little hard done by and that they definitely got away with it.

    Also I know I’m not best pleased with what unfolded and that my thoughts could be clouded by the fact the defeats hurt all the more as I get older and that I quite simply detest pulis and his anti football.
    But I feel I must call to account and say how disappointed I am with some of the comments by the usually intelligent Danny Murphy, look at me Wright and tha smug git that is spud boy lineaker!

    Like I say I may be struggling to catch up here but the way they just dismissed or ignored the major incidents was not only I believe disgusting but biased to the extreme as usual.

    The points in question. Where do you begin?

    First of all can I say that a huge bug bare of mine is players who know the decision is against them, ie a foul, corner, free kick throw or offside but still they appeal it as though the decision was in fact in their favour.
    Not only is this cheating but it makes it even more difficult for the officials and they then cannot complain if they then get a bad decision go against them.

    Anyway, Our defending in the build up for the first baggies goal was unacceptable. Especially from Cheiko, even schoolboys know you must play to the whistle.
    Also Feghouli must be stronger on the ball especially on the edge of our own area. But the fact remains the WBA player was nowhere near the ball and absolutely clattered Feghouli. Basic foul, basic free kick?!

    In explanation for the disallowed goal it was stated that Feghouli was offside, contrary to what was said on motd. Basically the prone baggies player plays everybody onside!

    Then there was the Antonio “fresh air attempt” from the corner. Well yes he did mis the ball completely but that was only due to Forster pulling him back by the neck! I kid you not, what h the incident again it is as clear as day. How the cameras/commentators let alone the officials missed it is just staggering.

    Then there was the throw in for their second goal. Ok yet Again it was schoolboy defending with Randolph particularly at fault,
    (if you leave your line to come for the ball then you must make it yours or at least get something on it),
    But even 56,000 people could see it was our throw, despite antonio’s best efforts! I noticed that our friends at motd didn’t show any slow mo’s in contemptuously dismissing the incident.

    So all in all it was a game that we largely dominated especially in the second half, and one that we probably deserved to win.
    Especially when you consider we were playing against a team who had no intention of playing football, who constantly had eight at least behind the ball and relied on the set piece and break aways for their goals. (Sound familiar anyone?).

    However, we knew what was coming and that the one thing we couldn’t do if we had any hope of seeing any kind of football match, was to concede the first goal. For this would allow them to play just the kind of anti football pulis wanted and allow them to try and kill the game as an entertaining event.

    So to concede the first goal in the manner which we did was as disappointing as it was frustrating. For we only have ourselves ultimately to blame.

    And I suppose that could be how best to really summarise this match. Overall Yes we did play well, well enough to comfortably win this and any number of football games. But even although the officials did do their best to ruin the match and prevented imo us comfortably winning the match, we ultimately gifted them a point with some schoolboy defending.

    And I believe that was what really disappointed Slav the most and played no small part in his dismissal.

    • Guesty

      Good post Phil.

    • Goatygav

      Hi Phil

      Sorry but the goalkeeper was ahead of Antonio. The only player between the goal line and Antonio was on the floor. Therefore there was only one player between Antonio and the goal line meaning that Antonio was offside.

      • Headmaster1

        I think, on reflection, that is correct Gav and I owe the officials an apology. I am also pretty sure MOTD showed enough of the throw in to reveal that there was indeed the faintest of flicks off Antonio’s boot so again, correct decision.
        That brings us back to the foul on Feghouli in build up to first goal and the tug by Foster on Antonio – both of which were indeed apparently missed by the officials.
        Moreover, the frustration must surely be that we were by far the better side, defended atrociously for both of their goals and got absolutely robbed in the 93rd minute. Unfortunately that sort of happening inevitably leads to irrational and emotive responses and on that score, Slav is one of us; it’s why we love him.
        Great post as usual, Phil.

        • Tom

          Evening HM, I thought their second was a set piece master class .. they ran one to check Ginge and Olsen covered behind so he couldn’t get back allowing Evans a free head … called doing your homework .. which begs the question of who does ours …

        • Philtheiron

          Hi mate,
          You are spot on concerning the letter of the law and its many interpretations.

          Here we are debating the finer arts of the offside law and Tom has it straight from the horses mouth the goal was disallowed for an infringement on the keeper by Antonio!

          Whatever happened to being beyond the last defender or interfering with play as the markers for being the markers of being offside? Lol. 😂

          Thanks as ever for your knowledge and patience.

      • Philtheiron

        Hi mate,
        But whether the player is on the deck or not is irrelevant?
        He was I believe behind both the keeper and Antonio and so played everyone onside?

        Also Antonio doesn’t have to move out of the keepers way and if the reason offside was given is for the minimal contact between the two and not feghouli who was beyond him when he collected the ball, thenthats a bit harsh in my view.

        • Goatygav

          That’s correct buddy. It is irrelevant if he’s on the floor but the offside law states that two defensive players must be between the goal line and the attacker who is in play when the ball is passed forward.

          Surprised me when I did my FA Level 1 badge that one.

          Great post as always, Phil, notwithstanding 😊.

          • Philtheiron

            Hi mate,
            Sorry to keep going on about this, I don’t mean to be a pain but I believe it wasn’t Antonio who scored but feghouli.

            Also and I don’t mean to be sounding perdantic here but for the actual equaliser Antonio was again offside when feghouli scored.

            Anyway, yes the rule is very surprising and only goes to make the offside more confusing than it already is or really needs to be.

            Thank you for your patience and excellent knowledge.

            I will just have to console myself with the fact that I dislike intensely smug spud boy and co on motd and the foresters missed grab round the neck!

          • Goatygav

            Yeah – hear what you say there Phil. When you look at the angle of the linesman the ball does appear to pass Antonio and, therefore, makes him active and interfering with play I suppose. Interpretation of the law – eh?

            Agree that there was some really bad officiating overall mate. Not the first time that Michael Oliver has had a howler in charge of one of our matches. Agree, also, about the selective coverage by the MOTD editors when Murphy (who I also rate really highly as a pundit), Wright and Lineaker.

    • Tom

      Evening Phil, I played golf with the fourth oficial yesterday … the Fegouli goal was disalowed by the linesman for interfering with play … ie he came into contact with Ben Foster … harsh but that is the rule I am afraid … as for Fegouli’s fouling … 7 out of 10 get it but no one appealed and play went on … both Koyate and Randolph will be getting megged in training all week for that fiasco .. finally, I thought their second was a superb set piece … shame we are no so clever …

      • Philtheiron

        Hi mate,
        Wow, straight from the horses mouth! Can’t really argue with that. Harsh though it may be.

        Thanks for taking the time to explain.

        It also appears we need to do something that for me goes against the grain,
        Namely start appealing more for decisions and not kept relying on the officials to do their job.

        Other than that I cannot have any complaints about their well taken goals.
        Only that we gifted them through schoolboy defending and allowing ourselves to be distracted by the decisions of officials, correct or otherwise.

        • Beasticus Maximus

          I can’t help but think the ref should do his job regardless of wether the players appeal or not

          • Philtheiron

            Hi mate,
            You certainly would have thought so!
            Although I freely admit this is a bit of a bone of contention with me,

            it does seem I believe that some teams are brought up to play to the whistle and respect the officials

            while others are schooled to dispute every decision and play right to the edge of what is considered good sportsmanship.

    • DevoDevo

      Sorry, Phil, but you’re wrong on most counts! 🙂
      Feghouli was marginal but not a foul for me. Noble’s weak pass didn’t help him.
      Antonio was offside when the ball was played (Gav has corrected your interpretation of the offside law – a common one I may add). As he also pushed Foster, how could he not be “active”?
      Snodgrass – no penalty.
      Antonio flicked the ball off for the throw that led to the corner that led to the goal so Oliver spot on there.
      Only contentious issues for me was the incident where Antonio tried to follow up from his headed challenge and appeared to be tugged by Foster and their winner, which involved blocking off as aforementioned by Tom and Fletcher impeding Randolph.
      Notwithstanding all of that, there is no doubt in my mind that we have been on the wrong end of many more decisions this season than we have benefited from.

      • Philtheiron

        Oh, but apart from that then……! 😂😂😂

  • Philtheiron

    Yeah another thoughtful summary of the match HM.

    But I was a little surprised that you didn’t highlight slightly more strongly some of the more contentious incidents in the match.
    Was that a little “war weariness” on your behalf? Having witnessed so many bad decisions go against us in the last few seasons. Lol.

    I also thought your AC comments were possibly a little harsh.

    While I fully appreciate that his horrendous history of injuries doesn’t lend one to much sympathy towards the player.
    Especially when you consider that his failure to look after and condition himself earlier in his career had a direct impact on his failure to keep fit and I’m sure we are not alone in having our patience stretched due to his poor injury record since we signed him.

    However, I also believe he is now leading a lifestyle that is now better suited to an athlete and a footballer and that we are all reaping the benefits of this in both the terms of improved fitness and goals.

    I’m not defending his injury record as quite frankly who could? But I just feel in today’s game there are more injuries hence the big squads and that maybe Andy could possibly now get a bit more of the benefit of the doubt due to this improved form, fitness and goals?

    Although I do fully understand that for some he has a long way to go to be treated more equally in this regard.

    Apart from that faultless sir!

  • DevoDevo

    Good post, HM. I wasn’t able to watch the game live but from the highlights I have seen, we looked like we played well and were more than unlucky not to win.
    Good to see players stepping up to the plate following the departure of Payet, but we desperately need another RB & striker to move on.