Burnley 0 West Brom 0
Despite it being a largely terrible game of football, there were positives for Sam Allardyce in the goalless draw at Turf Moor, but the over-riding negative was that Albion failed to take all three points.
It has been a rare occurrence this season that Albion have deserved to take all three points, and to do it for successive games is a sign of definite progress, but it is more than likely too little too late with the Baggies still eleven points from safety with just thirteen games left.
Furthermore, that Albion were disappointed not to have won having played an hour with only ten men is even more impressive, but it just makes it more annoying that they didn’t take the chances they had to win the game. The two best opportunities saw Mbaye Diagne hit the crossbar and Matheus Pereira have a effort cleared off the line and, while both had mitigating circumstances, they both really should have scored.
Diagne was on his weaker foot and was trying to lift the ball over the defenders retreating to the line and lifted it just a little too high. For the Pereira chance, the initial ball to him by Diagne was a little behind him, and he never really connected with the shot and Burnley had two players on the line, one of whom cleared.
As for the red card, it was probably the right decision given the laws as they are, but I’m not sure that it was a deliberate handball. However, the interpretation of it in today’s game deems that as deliberate and all Baggies fans would have been screaming for a red card had it been a Burnley player.
Despite Ajayi’s dismissal, Albion never looked to be a man down. They coped easily with the hosts’ attacking forays and looked very dangerous on the break. Perhaps the one impact of the red card is that the Baggies may have looked to get more on the front foot had they had a full complement of players – Burnley were very poor and I think the Baggies could have won very comfortably had we had eleven players.
The midfield three of Okay, Gallagher and AMN look so much better than the combinations that have preceded them this season. Gallagher was excellent other than the poor ball that led to Ajayi’s red card, the Turk put in another superb display and lasted the full ninety minutes, while AMN did a lot of good things including a superb run that led to the Pereira chance late on.
The defence looked solid, with O’Shea’s introduction not weakening the back four noticeably and, while Sam Johnstone didn’t really have a save to make, I thought he commanded his area well with a number of excellent punches and catches that were particularly impressive given the difficult blustery conditions. Given that it is the one part of his game that has come in for criticism, it just shows how he is improving as a goalkeeper and must surely be in the conversation for the England squad.
Pereira looked great on the ball, but his set piece delivery was particularly disappointing, while Mbaye Diagne continues to impress – if only he had taken that chance!
The fact remains that Sam Allardyce’s team now look like a side capable of competing well at this level, but they now need top four form to get themselves out of trouble, and that is probably beyond them.