Match Report: Sam Allardyce finds plenty in reserve to stall the West Bromwich Albion bandwagon
West Bromwich Albion 0 West Ham United 0
Monday 17 December 2012
The four November victories that enabled Steve Clarke to pick up his first manager of the month award look increasingly valuable after a solidly resistant West Ham took a point from the Hawthorns to leave the Albion manager to ponder over a four-match run without a win.
Since they followed a home success against Chelsea with a thumping triumph at Sunderland, Clarke's run has been stalled by defeats at Swansea and Arsenal either side of a home loss to Stoke and now another home performance without a goal.
After a drab first half in which the best chances fell to West Ham, Albion found a higher gear after the break but still could not find a way through a staunch rearguard effort by the London side, for whom Winston Reid in particular was outstanding at the back.
James Morrison went closest, hitting the woodwork with a header from a Chris Brunt corner 16 minutes from time, but there were other opportunities that slipped away from the home side on a frustrating afternoon for Clarke that Sam Allardyce, his West Ham counterpart, took as a point well won given the length of his injury list.
West Ham were without six first-team players -- seven if summer signing Alou Diarra is included. After losing midfielder Mohamed Diame, who is facing a long lay-off with a hamstring injury sustained against Liverpool last week, and full back George McCartney, whose knee ligament injury in training required the right-footed Joey O'Brien to fill in at left-back, Allardyce could find only six players to name as substitutes.
"In situations like this you worry as a manager about whether your team will be able to hold out," he said. "The players who are missing include all our flair players and we didn't create as much as we wanted but out defensive qualities today were exceptionally good. We frustrated West Brom, who had little or no clear-cut chances, and that's credit to our players."
In addition to the outstanding efforts of Reid and fellow centre back James Collins, West Ham impressed with their workrate across the field, from the movement and industry of Gary O'Neil and Mark Noble in midfield to the tireless efforts of Carlton Cole as a lone striker.
Clarke tinkered with his system, beginning with a 4-4-2 that he abandoned at half-time, switching back to his regular 4-2-3-1 after the break. It sparked a significant improvement after a first half in which Albion looked flat, even tired at times, but not enough, in Clarke's view, to merit a victory over the club he used to coach, when Gianfranco Zola was manager.
"There were positives in that we stopped the run of defeats and we kept a clean sheet but I didn't think we did quite enough to win the game," he said.
With a schedule of six matches in 20 days ahead, Albion's lack of zip must have concerned Clarke. In the first half, apart from a couple of openings worked for himself by Shane Long, they created little and West Ham went closest to taking the lead. Reid missed a good chance when a Collins header sent the ball to his feet and Boaz Myhill was a little lucky when he could only parry a stinging effort by Cole and the loose ball just evaded Kevin Nolan, following in.
Although an O'Neill curler almost dipped under the bar, the second half saw West Ham largely stationed in their own territory. Jussi Jaaskelainen could not hold one effort from Zoltan Gera but back peddled in time to catch Long's attempt to chip the rebound over his head, but apart from Morrison's near miss Albion did not really go close.
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