A cruel game

Posted by Matthew Evans

Romelu Lukaku brings West Brom back into their game at NewcastleGettyImagesRomelu Lukaku brought West Brom back into the game at Newcastle

I'm not one for cliches but "football is a cruel game" is certainly one statement that Albion fans can relate to following a second successive injury-time defeat - this time to Newcastle United at St James' Park.

What made the result even harder to take was the performance Albion put in. First half, Newcastle were slightly the better side, taking the lead through Demba Ba who seemingly can't stop scoring against The Baggies. Despite this, it was quite conceivable that Albion could have gone in at half-time 2-1 up - Romelu Lukaku twice going through one on one only to be denied twice by Tim Krul.

It was surprising to see the on-loan Chelsea forward start considering the form Shane Long has been in recently, but despite the two missed chances, Lukaku led the line very well, causing a lot of lot problems for the Newcastle back four and was rewarded for his display with the equalising goal in what was nothing short of a superb second-half display.

Lukaku headed in from Zoltan Gera's cross to level the match, and Albion dominated possession and chances, even when Steve Clarke chose to change things up, swapping Lukaku for Long and bringing on Markus Rosenberg. Whilst last week's result can be blamed on the naivety of Steve Clarke as a head coach, this week was just downright bad luck.

There was no over-attacking from Albion, there was no poor defending, it was just one of those things as Sammy Ameobi's shot deflected off the backside of Papiss Cisse and past Ben Foster. The most impressive thing about the Albion display in my view was that it was without some key players.

Previously, if Albion had been missing players as important as Claudio Yacob, Chris Brunt and a recognised right-back, they would have rolled over and lost, particularly to a team as good as Newcastle. As it was, their replacements stepped into the breach admirably. James Morrison dropped into the deeper midfield role, Zoltan Gera into the advanced role with Graham Dorrans getting another chance to impress.

As a whole the midfield performed well, with Youssuff Mulumbu putting in the most notable performance of all the midfielders. The inter-changing of roles was also promising, as Dorrans, Odemwingie and Gera constantly swapped positions causing all sorts of problems for the Newcastle defence.

Dorrans put in a very good performance and that will be encouraging for both Clarke and the player himself, although it now provides the manager with another selection dilemma ahead of Southampton, alongside the right-back concern, and who he plays up front; Shane Long or Romelu Lukaku.

In my next blog, I intend to take a statistical look at the battle between the two front men and who should start Monday night's game against Southampton, where hopefully there will be no more last-minute heartbreak.

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