Goalless again as Albion continue to lose touch with what little hope they may still have.
It was a half where chances were few and far between. As expected, Burnley were well organised and more than willing to be patient rather than take the game to Albion.
Possession was fairly equal in the opening stages, but in the final third Albion looked as though they had more impetus. Gallagher was busy in midfield whilst Yokuslu neatly anchored the midfield. Of the few clear cut chances in the first half, Furlong saw a left footed effort curl just wide of the far post, and Pereira also drew a necessary save to stop the ball finding the bottom corner.
It would not have been an Albion game without making it extremely hard for themselves though. A woeful effort from a freekick in what was a threatening position for Albion was capitalised on, and Ajayi, not helped by his teammates, found himself in no-mans land defending against the onrushing Vydra, who intercepted a sloppy back pass. With little option but to block the ball with his hand to stop a clear run towards Johnstone; he was dismissed after a VAR check.
Of the decisions that have gone against us this season that was one that can have no complaints. However, a catalog of errors saw us go from a strong position up the field to being a man down- which is unacceptable. Errors of that kind have persistently blighted our season; from Gibbs’ slap away at Everton, Livermore’s tackle on Grealish to Ajayi’s dismissal, those lapses of judgement have defined our season and will continue to do so until they get eradicated.
Phillips was the one sacrificed for O’Shea in what saw a shift to a 4-4-1 as the first half drew to a 0-0 close.Embed from Getty Images
With the second half underway Albion again played themselves into trouble and were extremely lucky to not have conceded a penalty when Bartley looked to have controlled the ball with the underside of his upper arm. Some things never change.
As the half went on neither side took a definitive hold of the game. But chances did continue to be made as the game stretched a little. The first clear cut chance of the game went to Diagne as he attacked from the right hand side, skipped past Lowton on the edge of the six yard box, and having seemingly done all the hard work could only lash the ball against the bar. His effort summed up the lack of decisive attacking quality on show from both sides today.
Just eight minutes later, after a surging run from Maitland-Niles he fed Diagne who crossed it back to Pereira for what should have been an easy tap in. Pereira, reluctant to use his weaker foot, got in a tangle and the glorious chance passed. The ball fell to him again in the seconds that followed his first effort only for it to be excellently cleared off the line by Tarkowski. Somehow the game remained goalless.
The game ended with a flurry of cards and freekicks but neither side could leave Turf Moor as their happy place.Embed from Getty Images
The reverse fixture towards the start of the season was the first goalless draw of this season so why did anyone expect anything different?
It appeared as though the tide would have turned following Ajayi’s red card but credit to Allardyce and Albion, they set up well and did not capitulate like we would have expected. This was helped of course by the poor performance of Burnley who struggled even against our ten men.
Chances came and went for Albion, who with an expected goals of 1.59 to Burnley’s 0.65, should’ve taken the three points. The second game in a row in which Albion have squandered good chances and dropped four points that should have been theirs. But then again this has been a season of should-haves and could-haves with neither Bilic or Allardyce able to instil that ruthless winning mentality.
There has been noticeable differences since the new signings arrived. Yokuslu was excellent in midfield; dogged, determined and reminiscent of a Yacob, but even better with the ball at his feet. His role in the team allows more positional freedom for Gallagher and Maitland-Niles to make progressive runs. Diagne has provided a presence in attack, and as we have seen, also has the awareness to get into goal-scoring positions. His composure in the final third has been questionable, but whose hasn’t?
On the positive, Albion showed more character and determination than most expected following Ajayi’s red card and for the second game running they have been arguably the most threatening side in attack. However, for those supporters who are still clinging to some hope — and I commend you — this was a game where the three points were vital to even start the debate of a momentous fightback.
Ratings: Johnstone (6); Furlong (6), Ajayi (4), Bartley (6), Townsend (6); Yoksulu (8), Gallagher (6), Maitland-Niles (7); Pereira (6), Diagne (7), Phillips (5). Subs: O’Shea (6)
West Brom: Johnstone; Furlong, Ajayi, Bartley (C), Townsend; Yoksulu, Gallagher, Maitland-Niles; Pereira, Diagne, Phillips (O’Shea 33′).
Red Card: Semi Ajayi
Unused subs: Button, Diangana, Grant, Livermore, Peltier, Robinson, Robson-Kanu, Sawyers.
Burnley: Pope; Lowton, Mee, Tarkowski, Taylor; McNeil, Cork, Westwood, Brownhill; Rodriguez (Mumbongo 81′), Vydra.
Booked: Jack Cork (76′), Ben Mee (90′ + 3), Matthew Lowton (90′ + 4)
Unused subs: Bardsley, Benson, Driscoll-Glennon, Dunne, Long, Nartey, Norris, Peacock-Farrell.
Referee: Mike Dean