Monday, December 24, 2012
So history repeats itself at The Hawthorns… well, not quite.
Eight seasons ago we settled for a point long before the end of a never-to-be-remembered 0-0 draw against a very poor West Brom side who almost went down to the Football League with us.
On Saturday we spent much of the second half trying to hang on for another Black Country point.
This time, though, we were facing a considerably better Baggies side – one who might yet find themselves in the Europa League next season – and couldn’t do it.
All good things come to an end. The unbeaten run was going to finish sooner or later, I can live with that.
And we can’t show resolve or ambition in every single game.
But take away one piece of set-play and Saturday shows yet again – as if we needed any reminders of where our goals are coming from.
Twenty in 18 league games, of which four have come from Grant Holt, with one each by both Simeon Jackson and Steve Morison.
It’s both encouraging and a matter of relief that so many other players are chipping in with the goals, but it just goes to show again that if we concede two goals – even if they’re due to impeding goalkeepers, corners that weren’t or poor marking for headers – we’re going to make life very difficult for ourselves.
Yes, West Brom have either been in the Premier League or getting parachute payments for more than a decade now.
Consequently their income stream is in a totally different league to ours.
As a result they can bring on a £6.5m signing in the form of Shane Long. We can’t.
We won’t have that kind of money to spend in January either.
But Saturday should act as a reminder that take a certain No 9 out of the equation and you start to restrict the effectiveness of your forward play. No moves in the transfer market could be asking for trouble.
Despite all that, we still ran West Brom close. But for a more guaranteed goal source and as positive an approach as the home side we could have come away with something from The Hawthorns.
Instead that’s five successive second halves in which we’ve been a great deal poorer than in the opening 45 minutes.
That can’t be a coincidence.
And yet, for all this, when you consider what our outlook was when this run began back in October, can I really get too despondent about losing away to a side sitting in the European places? No.
The bottom four all lost. It’s another week less for them to have the chance to make up that still enormous 10-point gap between ourselves and the relegation places.
We still need the small matter of five victories from our remaining 20 fixtures, and when you look at what happened elsewhere on Saturday the likes of Fulham, Newcastle, Reading and Southampton have all still got to come to Carrow Road.
But that Newcastle game particularly stands out.
Lose to all of Chelsea, Manchester City and West Ham – it could happen, especially if we can’t make things count up front – and then also fail against Chris Hughton’s former sides, then talk of post-Christmas slumps and what happened in 1995 will be everywhere.
And I think Saturday gave us quite enough reason to look back rather than forward to the rather more likely prospect of a third straight season in the Premier League.
At least Saturday wasn’t as bad as our last defeat at The Hawthorns – an embarrassingly one-sided 2-0 loss in 2007, when Jim Duffy was in charge after Peter Grant’s resignation. Now that really did give cause for concern.
• FA CUP CLASH WILL HAVE ‘HOME GAME’ ATMOSPHERE
The number of Peterborough fans for the last three league games at London Road have been around 5,500 against Bolton on Saturday, 4,887 for the visit of Middlesbrough and 5,087 versus Blackpool.
A week on Saturday in the FA Cup is going to be just like a return to League One days, and not just because of the, shall we say, more basic spectator facilities at London Road. With a crowd maybe split 50-50, it’s going to have the atmosphere of a home game on a day when we’re not limited to the standard 3,000 or 10pc-of-capacity away allocations.
Three seasons ago having up to a quarter of the gate was a fairly common occurrence.
Now the crowd of 10,064 at Colchester had only 1,900 City fans, obviously, so the occasion that comes closest to Peterborough was the 7,520 attendance at Leyton Orient, of which 3,000 were Canaries supporters.
Just so long as we don’t get the same outcome as in east London, where the home side seemed to rise to the indignity of having their supporters kicked out of the Main Stand on a night when we could have secured promotion.
• IT’S PART AND PARCEL OF THE TOP-FLIGHT
Presumably the new deal with Front Row Management Services means the end of first-team pre-season friendlies at Thurlow Nunn League outposts then.
Will it be a case of goodbye Dereham Town, hello DC United?
But for about the four millionth time it does display the difference between the club’s standing now and three years ago.
This time in 2009 we had 23,943 home fans for the defeat of Huddersfield – so not much change there – but you look back at the programme and just see the general lack of club-focused blue-chip commercial interest. But for an accident of geography we wouldn’t have any involvement from Aviva, at a time when a typical opposition shirt sponsor might be a local builders’ merchant.
All right, so the over-commercialism of top-flight football is going only one way, and the press release wasn’t written by someone who had [British] English as their first language, but when it’s your club you’d still rather be on the inside looking out than the outside looking in.
• IT WAS A MISSED OPPORTUNITY
“It could have been us, oh Norwich City, it could have been us…” At least when we went out of the FA Cup last season to “big-spending” – copyright the Norwich City programme, as though that made it more acceptable – Leicester we ended up missing out on a quarter-final tie which, nine times out of 10, we would have lost.
Wednesday night’s draw just reconfirmed what a missed opportunity the Aston Vila defeat was.
A Wembley final, win or lose, is not a “distraction”, incidentally, despite what some messageboard posters might have you believe. It makes up for years of visiting northern outposts such as Hull or Burnley, actually.
• GET READY FOR A RUSH OF TV GAMES
City will have been featured in only six live TV games come the end of February.
That means quite a few of their last 11 fixtures might be televised to bring them up to speed – especially since neither of this week‘s matches were selected, somewhat surprisingly.
Maybe not the visit of West Brom in May on the evidence of Saturday – although it was higher up the Match of the Day running order than I expected – but at the moment my money is on Man Utd (away), Wigan (away), Swansea (home) and Aston Villa (home).