Well I was very wrong about that. I thought we'd be behind early and that the crowd would get on the players backs and it would all go down hill from there.
To be fair I thought we started the game well, and the fans were much more supportive than in recent weeks. Still didn't look like the better team, but as West Brom are one of the best teams in the division that's no shame. Also I felt that the crowd (me included) could have made more effort to get behind the players. I had every intention of making a lot of noise but I failed both myself and the team. The best way I can describe it is that if you are feeling a little miserable you don't tend to smile a lot, which in turn makes you feel more miserable. Conversely if you are feeling very upbeat then the way you behave tends to make you feel more and more upbeat. Maybe I'm just making excuses, but yesterday I couldn't find it within me.
We played better without looking good. However, towards the end we looked considerably weaker than West Brom. That could have been confidence, it could have been fatigue or it could have been as a result of the substitutions, but I was confident at half time that if either team was going to win this game, it wasn't going to be us.
Halford, who I have been critical of in recent weeks, played much better and unsurprisingly I accept that Pardew knows a lot more about team selections than I do based on this showing. Lita showed what he is capable of, but also looked like a player that hadn't scored for what I read was sixteen games. He missed chances that I'm sure a confident striker would have scored. His touch also looked like he hadn't been in and around a first team for a while.
This is the dilemma with loan players. If they have talent and form they will never be available, so you have to accept that they will not make an immediate impact. From memory I cannot think of many players that we have signed on loan that have made that immediate impact, particularly forward players whom I believe are much more reliant on confidence. Andy Gray on the other hand, who was signed as he was supposedly in form is clearly not now. His inclusion, for me, added little to a team that looked like it could stay out all day without the strikers scoring from open play.
The other player worth a mention is Ambrose. I have a lot of time for Ambrose, but he is clearly not a winger, and as such when he plays out wide he has good games and bad games, yesterday was the latter. Maybe he looks better on the left as he can come in on his right foot (where he is better suited to play) and have a better impact on the game. Either way he contributed little on the right wing yesterday, but his tackling made him look a little slow. We are all allowed a bad day, and to be fair we looked weaker with Thomas (who had a good game yesterday, all be it with little impact in front of goal) on the right and Cook on the left. Cook, for me doesn't look fit, or confident enough following his injury, and as a consequence he seems too light weight. Again, I'm confident that after a run of six games he would be much more effective. Another question mark over the loan deal.
Other than that none of the players looked poor, or inspiring for that matter. Thomas, as already mentioned, showed why he is the only player in our squad that I believe could hold his own in a decent Premier League team, but his passing was often poor and he mishit a couple of chances that I wouldn't have said were easy, but he really mishit them.
The thing that really, really stuck out for me was that when ever West Brom were in possession they were able to find a team mate. Few of their passes were world class, and most of them were short, but they clearly knew where their team mates were. I could be wrong, but I suspect that this has a lot to do with having a settled side, and not just for this season either. Maybe we will benefit from this next season, but at times yesterday (understandably) our players didn't seem to know what where their teammates were.
Over all it was an enjoyable game of football, we pretty well matched the "Best Footballing Team" in the division, a title that we can no longer claim. We have now managed three draws and a defeat against West Brom this season, and should they fail to get promoted in May I suspect that with no more parachute money they will actually be weaker next season. Phillips for one will be a year further over the hill, and I suspect not as effective, and I cannot see them gambling on further investment with a reduction in income of something like £11m.
As I have already given up hope of promotion this season I was able to enjoy the ninety minutes in isolation. For thus reason I applaud the players, who gave a decent account of themselves under the circumstances. I would concede that on this showing there are a couple of changes required in the summer if we are to mount a serious challenge on the top two next season, but I'm as fed up with complaining about our performances as I am hearing Pardew make excuses for them, so I'll leave it at that.
Wolves up next. Another ninety minutes of football against a team that will be trying to win and that we have a score to settle with following our away defeat in October. This is a game that could go either way, so all to play for.
By the way, Preston have beaten Burnley, so we could still be just one point off the playoffs with six games, a massive eighteen points to play for. Pass me those straws, quick!