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Terry’s Baggies Blog

SQUEAKY BUM TIME

21-01-2008

Two home games in five days saw Albion advance to Round Four of the FA Cup and extend their lead at the top of the Championship. And that’s despite some dodgy defending. Terry Wills' fingernails are bitten to the quick.

“Rain, Rain, go away. Come away another day! Well the heavens opened when Charlton came visiting for the totally unwanted, unloved, replay of the once glamorous competition known as the FA Challenge Cup.

(A tarnished competition now only appreciated by lower league clubs who dream of a massive pay day if they can draw a Premiership team and possibly pull off a massive shock result; or by the big four or five, who realise that barring a miracle one of them will be seen parading around Wembley in May proudly showing off their annual prize. What price competition, eh?)

Despite reduced prices only 12,691 decided it would be worth braving the elements. The only consolation was eventually seeing Albion tortuously earn a Fourth Round trip to Peterborough after 120 minutes of mistakes and a penalty shoot out.

Early on Charlton looked the sharper but it was the scoring machine masquerading under the name of Roman Bednar who prodded home a left wing cross to give the Baggies a half-time lead and when James Morrison lashed home a second in front of a very subdued Brummie Road - to all intents and purposes that should have been ‘game over’.

But let’s not forget, eh, its Albion we’re talking about. Throughout the game they’d done their best to gift the ‘Addicks’ a lifeline – Pele, in particular, while being a solid defender, gave the impression he felt he possessed the passing skills and tactical ability of the legend whose name he shares. His ‘relationship’ with ‘keeper Dean Kiely at times borders on the hilarious.

‘Deano’ is a sound shot stopper but his kicking whenever under pressure, and sometimes when he isn’t, rekindled memories of those old Whitehall Theatre farces written and acted by Brian Rix way back in the days of a 12 inch black and white Television set.

Charlton for their part also did their best ‘not to win’ the game, missing chances that that even schoolboys would have put away. They managed a goal from Darren Ambrose on 64 minutes and with the ‘early bird’ fans wending their way home, in the last minute of normal time poached an equaliser courtesy of Chris Dickson aided by a continuation of more sloppy defending.

Penalties, not many past happy memories, but after Charlton had missed the first, eventually it was left to Roman Bendar to slot home the winner.

Heavens praised that Tony Mowbray hadn’t entrusted substitute Sherjil MacDonald to be one of the ‘Famous Five’. Still awaiting a debut goal, the Dutchman somehow managed to spurn two glorious opportunities and the question is being increasingly asked “Will he EVER find the back of the net?

Trudging home most of the chat and comments I heard gave the distinct impression that if progressing in the FA Cup meant a sharp decline in League form then they’d rather Charlton had won the game. Surely not?

On to Saturday, and a match that from my point of view could have been entitled ‘Heart Attack Albion versus ‘Conmen Cardiff City’.

Another rain soaked occasion and without doubt a great spectacle for a neutral supporter, but for Baggies devotees a truly horrendous reprise of the suicidal defensive tendencies that were for a while seemingly simmering below the surface, have now decided to break through to explore what lies above ground.

This became apparent after just 29 seconds when Paul Parry curled the ball home. Why no challenge in the build up?

Thirteen minutes. A tackle on ‘Tiny’ Miller. Down he went and after a spell of lengthy treatment he was replaced by Roman Bednar. More problems as sloppy defending allowed Parry to extend Cardiff’s lead. Memories of that awful 4-2 Carling Cup defeat were already being bought back into focus.

Renewed hope 90 seconds later as Bednar reduced the arrears with a glancing header. “Come on you Baggies”.

End to end football with Cardiff showing show just why they were currently enjoying a rich vein of form. They passed accurately, moved into the open spaces and always looked dangerous. But then faced with the ‘quality’ of Albion’s loose marking and tendency to give the ball away that was hardly surprising.

The downside to this was their successful attempts to waste as much time as possible. If a player was challenged it was time to recreate the ‘Dying Swan’, and this together with the antics of goalkeeper Michael Oakes saw a far from proficient referee add on six extra minutes. But credit to the Baggies they’d fought back from a 2-0 deficit to get back into the game only for yet ANOTHER self inflicted ‘cock up’ in the 57th minute leaving them trailing 3-1.

Damn, Blast” plus other adjectives. Surely that was it? Three points dropped there could be no way back. Wrong-wrong…On came Zoltan Gera and James Morrison for Pele and Robert Koren and Albion’s True Grit REALLY came to the fore. Wave after wave of attacks and Martin Albrechtsen made it 3-2.

Come on you Baggies

City - in between their cynical time wasting - still looked extremely dangerous and with Dean Kiely yet again exhibiting his less than immaculate kicking, Albion continued to live dangerously.

More scrambles in the Cardiff six-yard box. Phillips had a ‘goal;’ ruled out for offside. But whenever Gera, Chris Brunt, Carl Hoefkens, and James Morrison pumped the ball into the danger area there was always a chance.

“HALLELULAH! GOAL-GOAL- GOAL” and it mattered not a jot that an 88th minute attempted clearance levelled the scores. ANOTHER SIX MINUTES OF ADDED ON TIME could we snatch a winner? Indeed, could we still manage to lose the game?

At long last, the final whistle and on considered reflection a draw meant a point gained, rather than two points lost. Cardiff had caused numerous problems but once more Albion’s tendency to ‘overplay’ in the wrong areas of the pitch almost proved fatal.

Baggies Man of the Match? Roman Bednar. Chosen to warm the bench his early substitute appearance proved he’s a player who will always give 100% and has the knack of snatching goals just when they’re needed.

Amazingly this solitary point increased Albion’s lead at the top of the table to three points due to a mixed combination of results although the worrying aspect is that while the Baggies form has undoubtedly dipped the likes of Stoke and Crystal Palace are extremely dangerous.

But we move on, and thankfully there’s no midweek game until we move on to Preston on the 29th. Next Saturday we’re off to renew acquaintances with the Posh of Peterborough for a Cup game that judging from my observations, not too many Albion fans would feel distraught about losing.

However once the game kicks off I’m sure these feelings will rapidly change! It’s a game to be won so let’s gets on and do it. But please, please, please. We don’t want a replay for the obvious reasons that Tony Mowbray will drill into his players before they leave the comfort of the dressing room.

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