The Baggies fail to hold on to what would have been a pivotal three points.
In classic Albion fashion it seemed as though it was a race to concede first. It took just nine minutes for Fulham to find the back of the net. Mitrovic plucked a long ball down excellently, and within three touches had thread a neat pass through to the onrushing Decordova-Reid who finished smartly.Embed from Getty Images
It was all too easy for the visitors who looked like scoring every attack. Albion were extremely lucky to not be two behind after 18 minutes when Gibbs, who lost his footing, allowed Decordova-Reid a free run on goal. Fortunately for Albion, he only managed to strike the inside of the post.
The magnitude of this game showed. Thanks to the sloppy goal conceded after just nine minutes, Allardyce was forced to play his cards early. On 23 minutes, he introduced Grant for O’Shea and altered formation to a flat back four with Grant taking up a role on the left of midfield.
Little changed as Fulham continued to relentlessly impose their dominance upon what was a side that in all honesty looked defeated already. Failing to string more than a handful of passes together in a single spell, Fulham were eager to press and capitalise on mistakes.
It took until the 40th minute for Albion to register their first attempt of the match — tame though it was. One attempt to Fulham’s eight.
Despite the dire performance they managed to get to halftime still in the game. Thankfully, after that terrible first half, it could not get much worse.
Whatever expletives were used during the break seemed to have worked. After just two minutes Albion’s quick start reaped a reward. Pereira, with a recycled cross from the left hand side, found Bartley who opened up his body and directed the ball past Areola.Embed from Getty Images
It was the response that Allardyce wanted and it was the response the fans needed. They finally looked like a competitive outfit. Fighting, scrapping and at times playing some good football.
Albion who looked like a completely different team- galvanised no doubt by the towering presence of Diagne, continued to press in what was a complete role reversal from the first half. A searching ball crossed in by Diagne was met by the toe of Pereira, helped by a deflection it found its way into the far corner.
Scott Parker was now the one who had been forced into making a change, he responded with the double change of Harrison Reed and Ivan Cavaleiro. They soon linked up with Albion sitting deeper and perhaps resting too much on their laurels. Cavaleiro came sliding in at the far post to head home an inch perfect cross that De Bruyne would have been proud of.
After a frantic end to the game which saw chances for both sides, Allardyce and Parker had to share the spoils.Embed from Getty Images
Realistically, neither manager would have been satisfied with a point going into the game. Yes, Albion denied Fulham an extra two points, but Fulham will however be the most satisfied. Coming away with a point having gone behind keeps them above us, which for them is a massive mental boost.
At this point it is going to take a momentous effort to retain Premier League status. The game against Sheffield United on Tuesday is make or break. A win will prolong our already diminished hopes as fans. A loss, in my opinion, will seal our fate and push us even closer to a bottom placed finish.
However promising the second half reaction was, it was still not enough to make up for a dismal first 45 minutes. Diagne had an impact for sure, and he will more than likely continue to do so. The return of Townsend, should Allardyce utilise him, will also provide a boost after Gibbs did not have his finest of afternoons — especially when it came to defensive duties. The addition of another defensive midfielder will hopefully bolster options and add a much needed sense of security.
This is all well and good but until Albion put in a solid 7/10 performance for the full 90 minutes, eliminate sloppy errors and slow starts, then the second half of this season will be more about damage limitation and planning for life back in the Championship.
Player Ratings: Johnstone (6); Furlong (5), O’Shea (5), Ajayi (6), Bartley (6), Gibbs (4); Snodgrass (5), Livermore (5), Gallagher (5); Pereira (7); Robinson (5). Subs: Grant (4), Diagne (6), Phillips (5)
West Brom: Johnstone; Ajayi, Bartley, O’Shea (Grant 24′); Furlong, Livermore (Phillips 83′), Gallagher, Gibbs; Pereira, Snodgrass; Robinson (Diagne 46′)
Unused Subs: Button, Ivanovic, Townsend, Peltier, Sawyers
Booked: Bartley (75′)
Fulham: Areola; Aina (Tete 81′), Andersen, Adarabioyo; Decordova-Reid (Cavaleiro 72′), Lemina (Reed 72′), Zambo-Anguissa, Robinson; Loftus-Cheek, Mitrovic, Lookman
Unused Subs: Rodak, Hector, Ream, Kebano, Onomah, Kamara
Referee: Anthony Taylor