Cats clash is a must-win game

Tuesday 17th September 2013 16:31

Gareth McAuley: Netted the late leveller at Fulham

Gareth McAuley: Netted the late leveller at Fulham

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West Brom FanZoner Joe Chapman says next weekend's clash with Sunderland is looking like a 'must-win' game for Steve Clarke.

Pure ecstasy or sheer relief?

Ultimately, it was a bit of both for West Brom fans in the away end at Craven Cottage on Saturday. The timing of the goal only contributed to the former emotion. Funnily enough, the last goal Albion scored in the Premier League- the hat-trick completer for Romelu Lukaku against Manchester United- would've produced similar celebrations among their fans.

And so we're up and running. Four games in, one goal and two points. This time last season (coincidentally, our fourth match of the 2012/13 campaign was also away at Fulham) we had seven points, as well as scoring six goals- against better opposition. With our fixture list arranged the way it is (a trip to Old Trafford sandwiched between league and cup meetings with Arsenal await), next Saturday's welcoming of Sunderland is worryingly looking like a must win for Clarke.

It was the first time I'd been to Craven Cottage before and I would like to accredit their following, who are a friendly and conversational bunch. The first 45 minutes belonged to the hosts, who are renowned for their home form. Clarke and Kevin Keen must have said something at half-time, for the Baggies stepped it up a notch at the beginning of the second half.

All in all, I think a point apiece was a justifiable result given the performance from both sides.

Clarke gave full debuts to two deadline-day arrivals. While the highly anticipated Stephane Sessegnon awaited the arrival of his work permit, Victor Anichebe and Morgan Amalfitano showed what they are capable of. Neither 100% match fit, so neither got 90 minutes, but in the time they were on the pitch, there was promise that Albion look more of a threatening machine going forward.

Chris Brunt returned, and played well; his corner assisted compatriot Gareth McAuley's equaliser, the centre-back's third in three games for club and country. The full-backs remain an issue, something that most Albion fans recognise. I'm a big fan of Billy Jones, but as he demonstrated once again on Saturday, while he is a dab hand at going forward, he can be vulnerable at right-back. Neither left-back option fills me with any reassurance, and that's always been the case. Not since Paul Robinson, who incidentally is still performing with his usual gusto at Birmingham, have we had a left-back at the club I've had full confidence in.

Nicolas Anelka was another to disappoint on Saturday. He seemed to be on a different wavelength to his team-mates for long periods, although he perhaps should have had a penalty when trying to regain a ball he had initially miscontrolled. Youssouf Mulumbu was his usual busy self, displaying the qualities that Albion fans adore him for.

The fans themselves, by the way, must have the last word. They were phenomenal on Saturday, and while it's never been too difficult to outsing Fulham, the support they provided for their team - by and large - was certainly a factor in their side's last-gasp leveller.

On to Sunderland now, where Sessegnon will almost certainly make his debut- against his former club, of course. Now, where's that script?

Boing boing!

You can follow Joe on Twitter at @jcwba16 - and don't forget to follow @FanZone too for links to all the latest blogs.

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