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Terry’s Baggies Blog

BLACKPOOL ON TUESDAY…BACK TO REALITY

07-04-2008

Albion’s FA Cup semi-final defeat against Portsmouth leaves Tony Mowbray’s team with just promotion to chase, starting tomorrow at Blackpool. Terry Wills reflects on a weekend on heartache - and hope.

Sad to say my forecast for Pompey to beat the Baggies and meet Cardiff City in the FA Cup final proved correct. But for all that everyone who watched the game whether live or on the ‘box’ had to be impressed with the quality of Albion’s football.

But quality football doesn’t guarantee winning matches – hence the old saying "it’s goals that count."

It means the dream of a Cup and promotion double to rival that unique 1931 historic Albion team is over – and in reality, it’s highly unlikely to be repeated by any club.

Why did the Baggies lose? Conversely why did Portsmouth win? What could have been done to ensure those 33,000 Albion fans would have been singing their way out of Wembley and enjoying a high octave journey back to the Midlands?

The first ‘shock’ had nothing to do with the match itself. It was the sight of seeing a photocopy, on the front of the Bobby Moore statue, of ‘King’ Jeff Astle together with a floral tribute.

This proved a great attraction and goodness knows how many supporters took the opportunity to pose for a unique nostalgic photograph in tribute to the ‘King’ and our last FA Cup winning side, me included.

All week the intriguing question had been "Who would Tony Mowbray select and what formation would he adopt?"

It was 4-4-2. Kevin Phillips and Roman Bednar up front. James Morrison getting the nod over Chris Brunt out wide, at the back Neil Clement had done enough to link up with Martin Albrechtsen. The usual ‘suspects’ making up the rest of the team.

Certainly a promising start, in fact after just 10 minutes Mark Lawrenson on the BBC commented "Remind me who is the Premier side?

And for the many millions who watch the English FA Cup final around the world simply because of its reputation and were unaware of the respective standings of the teams, they must have asking the same question.

The Baggies passing game being more than a match for a Portsmouth side who simply couldn’t get hold of the ball. Neat sharp inter passing. Intelligent running and movement and hey I was beginning to believe we could win despite my pre match prediction!

The only, and most important missing ingredient was the failure to force David James into serious action.

Similarly at the other Dean Kiely hadn’t been faced with any genuine problems while the infuriating niggly (I’ll dispute any decision) Milan Baros was eventually ‘rewarded’ when Referee Harold Webb produced a yellow card for deliberate handball. And how ironic that turned out to be when moving on to the only goal of the game.

Half time. Nothing between the two sides and for sure it was Baggies fans who felt the happier. Aptly summed up by Alan Hansen telling telly watchers "West Brom are a team. Portsmouth are a team of strangers. The only consolation for Pompey is that it’s still 0-0- they can improve you’d think"!

They did in the 54th minutes taking the lead thanks to a VERY disputed goal from ex Albion favourite Kanu.

I’ll admit from my position high in the stand I failed to see another handball from the already booked Baros, but it was later confirmed by the TV cameras.

In attempting to chest the ball down he repeated the offence, but the ref failed to spot it. Baros then had his shot parried by Dean Kiely. In raced martin Albrechtsen to clear but unfortunately he only succeeded in teeing up Kanu for the simplest goal imaginable.

Head in hands Baggies fans slumped back in their seats. Pompey’s celebrated in style and at last they began to come into the game as a Premiership team should.

Tony Mowbray’s substitutions saw Ishmael Miller and Chris Brunt replace Roman Bednar and James Morrison followed by Kim taking over from Zoltan Gera.

As Albion chased the game Pompey’s sub, David Nugent, went close to putting the game out of Albion’s reach but Dean Kiely made some vital stops.

Refusing to give up and prepared to burst lungs and endure sore throats for days on end Wembley resounded to the passionate rendering of "Come on you Baggies" as fans leapt to their feet in anticipation every time the ball was anywhere near the Portsmouth penalty area.

Agony as Robert Koren struck a tremendous drive only to see it hit the top of the bar with David James beaten. Followed by relief as Dean Kiely thwarted a goal scoring opportunity from David Nugent.

A genuine chance. ‘Tiny’ received’ the ball wide, cut inside but it went begging - his attempted cross to a far post waiting Kevin Phillips finding the safe hands of David James.

Ever since Kanu’s goal I’d had the sinking feeling it just wouldn’t be Albion’s day - sadly confirmed as a cross from Carl Hoefkens was side footed the wrong side of the post by Ishmael Miller.

Three minutes added on time but with a solid, well organised experienced Pompey defence, knowing what was needed to run down the clock the game was as good as over.

As I’d expected Pompey had won although the Baggies display had been a credit to the Championship. Their football had been expressive, exciting, and praiseworthy a view shared by Harry Redknapp, his players, and in every match report.

But what was also true was that the number of chances created and shots on target had been minimal - the towering presence of Sol Campbell at the heart of the Pompey defence had been the difference between the teams.

For all that every Albion fan should be proud of this display. I most certainly was because as far as I was concerned we’d demonstrated ‘our’ style of football would be capable of testing many of the Premiership clubs bearing in the fact that Portsmouth came to Wembley holding a top six spot and anticipating possible European Competition next season.

But now it’s back to reality and THAT so important chase to reach the Greed League and while naturally every supporter wanted to see a Cup triumph realistically the chance of promotion was always the main priority for Tony Mowbray and his players.

Next up it’s a Tuesday night trip to Blackpool where in contrast to a 33,000 travelling band of supporters watching a game in a 90,000 capacity Wembley Stadium it’ll be a three sided Bloomfield Road, and a car park, to greet around 1,000 fans desperately hoping a 100th goal of the season will set the Baggies on the way to a much needed victory.

For sure NO one wants to go back to Wembley via the Play offs. Yes it IS a great Stadium but after suffering the anguish and disappointment of two defeats already the thought of a third visit in just 12 months is hardly an alluring prospect.

" Come on you Baggies".

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