Reid sure Albion can seal cracks to build on Hodgson's solid start

Click to follow
The Independent Football

West Bromwich Albion defender Steven Reid is confident the team can add defensive resilience to their strength of character in order to win their Premier League relegation battle.

A late equaliser from the on-loan Arsenal forward Carlos Vela in the 1-1 draw at Stoke on Monday night highlighted West Bromwich's fighting spirit, but Rory Delap's headed opener for Stoke exposed deficiencies which still exist at the back.

West Bromwich have conceded 53 goals in 28 matches and Reid knows it is an area which has to be tightened up quickly. "It was a tough challenge but I thought we defended well, which is what we have been working on for the last two weeks," said the right-back. "Sometimes it comes down to heart and a desire to win the ball and we showed good character and spirit.

"We have been disappointed with the run we have been on for the last few months but we have shown we are a lot more solid outfit and at the same time we have players who can find the back of the net, with Carlos scoring two in two. We are looking a lot more solid, resolute and defending set plays better and if you can do that well against teams like Stoke it stands you in good stead for the rest of the season.

"It was a decent point at Stoke and we've now got 10 cup finals left. Birmingham [on Saturday] is another massive game because they are still down there as well and they will be buzzing and full of confidence after their Carling Cup final win."

Roy Hodgson has taken two points from his first two matches since succeeding Roberto di Matteo as Albion manager, but admits he is still learning about his players. Against Stoke he brought the goalkeeper Scott Carson back into the team for the first time since 4 January and gave centre-back Abdoulaye Meite his first league start for almost a year and his first Premier League appearance since April 2009.

"All of the decisions I make are difficult at the moment because I don't know the players that well," Hodgson said. "I've only been working with them for a couple of weeks and for me to be able to hold my hand up and convincingly say, 'This one is better than the other one', I need to work with them a lot longer than two weeks.

"Carson's performance was very solid. He is the more experienced of the two goalkeepers and that is one of the factors that prompted me to give him a chance. There are four good, senior centre-backs at the club in Gabriel Tamas, Meite, Pablo Ibañez and Jonas Olsson. All four of them seem to be very competent Premier League players and it is not easy for me to be 100 per cent certain which is the best duo."

West Bromwich would have won had it not been for the form of the Stoke goalkeeper Asmir Begovic, who made three good saves late on. The Bosnia international has edged ahead of Thomas Sorensen to be first choice this season but he is not allowing himself to become complacent. "In training we push each other every day and that is good for the club and healthy for competition," Begovic said. "Every day you have to prove yourself."

Stoke, in 10th place, have accumulated 34 points but are still only six points above the relegation zone and Begovic is keen for them to secure a fourth successive Premier League season. "A point keeps you going up the table, but we want to get to safety as soon as possible," he added. "We have a big double-header coming up with West Ham [in the league on Saturday and FA Cup quarter-final the following weekend] so we have to go there ready and try to give them a good game."