Hodgson's task clear after West Bromwich collapse
West Bromwich Albion 3 West Ham United 3
Monday 14 February 2011
Michael Appleton began the week hoping to become West Bromwich Albion's new head coach. He ended it feeling he had endured a "microwaved lesson" in management after a canter turned into a collapse against West Ham. Now the heat is on Roy Hodgson.
Hodgson's frazzled tenure as Liverpool manager was effectively ended when Wolverhampton Wanderers won at Anfield. A repeat victory for the Premier League's bottom side in Sunday's Black Country derby, his first match as Roberto Di Matteo's successor, could drag Albion into the relegation zone for the first time this season. No pressure there, then.
The admirable Appleton, who is expected to revert to his role as first-team coach, met Hodgson on Saturday evening to discuss how a 3-0 lead almost became a disastrous defeat. It is safe to assume that the need to ally greater ruthlessness up front, ruggedness at the back and leadership to the creativity epitomised by Graham Dorrans was high on the agenda.
Momentum, argued the caretaker, is crucial in all sports. Albion had it when Dorrans, Jerome Thomas and an own goal punished some sleepy defending. Yet it swung West Ham's way once Demba Ba scored and belonged to Avram Grant's team after further goals by Carlton Cole and Ba, whose finishing could be to this relegation struggle what Carlos Tevez's was in 2006-07.
Appleton was left with the slim consolation that it could have been worse. "When you concede a goal, it's about getting into the players' heads that 'it's OK, we knew this could happen, we need to do this or that'," he said. "It's all right saying it but you need personalities on the pitch; people to take responsibility.
"We're fantastic between both boxes. We just need to be more clinical when attacking, and when defending we need to put our foot through things and be prepared to be a bit ugly. I use the phrase 'Quickly or carefully'. If we can break quickly, do it and counter-attack. If not, play carefully, play smart. We didn't do that enough in the second half.
"I'm hoping the experience Roy brings will help them make better decisions under pressure. He has a lot to work on with myself and the other coaches. But we've got some good games coming up."
Appleton's claim that "3-0 can be a dangerous score," would have seemed risible at any other club, but Albion's physical and psychological fragility made it all too plausible. West Ham, inspired by Scott Parker's half-time rallying cry, sensed and exploited it.
Grant has work to do on West Ham's own glass-jaw defending. However, Parker argued that Ba, the Senegalese signed from Hoffenheim, could yet fire them clear. "He's looked sharp in training, quite robust and strong, and he knows where the goal is," said the England midfielder.
"I think he'll adapt well to the Premier League. Out of all the leagues the German is more similar to ours. He made a massive impact today. Hopefully that will continue because we're going to need it."
Scorers: West Brom Dorrans 3, Thomas 8, Reid (og) 32 West Ham Ba 50, 83, Cole 58.
Subs: West Brom Morrison 6 (Mulumbu, 14), Barnes 5 (Thomas, 61), Tamas 5 (Dorrans, 82) Unused Carson (gk), Pablo, Vela, Cox. West Ham Piquionne 7 (Boa Morte, 57), Spector 5 (O'Neil, 78) Unused Boffin (gk), Faubert, Hitzlsperger, Kovac, Hines.
Booked: West Brom Brunt, Dorrans West Ham Boa Morte, Noble, Spector.
Man of the match Ba Match rating 9/10.
Possession West Brom 46% West Ham 54%.
Attempts on target West Brom 12 West Ham 11.
Referee L Mason (Lancashire) Att 23,916.
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