Trapdoor opens wide for Robson's West Brom

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The Independent Online

West Bromwich Albion 0 - Southampton 0

West Bromwich Albion 0 - Southampton 0

Bryan Robson will argue to the contrary but there seems to be little more proof required that his West Bromwich Albion side will be playing in the Championship next season. This month has brought three consecutive six-pointers for the side propping up the Premiership, from which their total return has been two.

A draw may be better than nothing but last night's stalemate leaves them four points short of safety. Southampton, who had the better chances, could equally have been better served by a victory but while Harry Redknapp's side remain in the bottom three, they at least move ahead of Norwich on goal difference.

Robson had described the occasion as one of the most significant of his career, and commentators in Southampton billed the game as the Saints' biggest since the 2003 FA Cup final but, given that their 26-year stay in the top flight is under threat, that might have been an understatement.

By half-time, both sides had gone close, with clear chances shared evenly. Henri Camara, booed for his past association with Wolves, had the best for Southampton, nudging the ball against a post after challenging goalkeeper Russell Hoult, then allowing Hoult to save when Graeme Le Saux presented him with a free header.

But Kieran Richardson, on loan from Manchester United, had the Saints' crossbar wobbling with a thunderous effort from 25 yards, having earlier seen a free-kick tipped over the top by goalkeeper Paul Smith, again deputising for the injured Antti Niemi.

The tackling was fierce, and referee Mike Riley was not in the mood to let many pass unpunished. Richardson and Zoltan Gera of Albion were both in the book by half-time, as was Southampton's Rory Delap.

In the second half, the football turned decidedly cagey, neither side willing to leave themselves exposed. The pace of Camara was clearly a threat to the home side and the Senegalese international rarely went anywhere without Neil Clement for close company. Total containment was impossible, however, and Albion were grateful Camara could not produce a decent finish when a burst of speed saw him skin Clement only to shoot over the bar.

Albion struggled at the other end and Southampton should have gone ahead with 20 minutes left when Nigel Quashie, set up by Peter Crouch, shot straight at Hoult. With 10 minutes to go, David Prutton squandered another, blazing over after Olivier Bernard had spotted his run to the far post.

West Bromwich Albion (4-4-2): Hoult; Albrechtsen, Gaardsoe, Clement, Robinson; Wallwork, Gera (Scimeca, 80), Richardson (Koumas, 74), Greening; Campbell, Earnshaw. Substitutes not used: Purse, Horsfield, Kuszczak (gk).

Southampton (4-4-2): Smith; Delap, Lundekvam, Jakobsson, Le Saux; Prutton, Redknapp, Quashie, Bernard; Crouch, Camara. Substitutes not used: Poke (gk), Phillips, Higginbotham, Telfer, Davenport.

Referee: M Riley (Leeds).

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