The Daily Telegraph - Sport
West Brom give Allardyce hope as he
West Bromwich Albion’s great escape of 2005 will always be remembered as the Premier League’s most unlikely rescue act.
If Sam Allardyce somehow guides the club to survival this season, it would undoubtedly top even Bryan Robson’s achievement 16 years ago.
West Brom remain eight points adrift of safety but have secured two successive victories to keep their slim hopes of avoiding relegation faintly flickering. Albion overcame an inexplicable Var decision early in the contest to brush aside an abysmal Southampton, who have now lost 10 of their past 13 league games under Ralph Hasenhuttl.
Allardyce has never been relegated from this division as a manager and time is against him, but West Brom are finally displaying appetite for the fight, refusing to go down with a whimper. In 2005, they stayed up on the final day, despite being bottom at Christmas, and this situation is even more severe for the league’s master escapologist.
The dream is still alive, but only just. “Unfortunately for us we have to rely on other teams losing and all we can do is win the next game and keep our fingers crossed,” said Allardyce. “It’s two great wins in a row that will prick up people’s ears about how well we’re playing. There was pressure on us after Newcastle won but we’ve got the gap down to eight points.
“We’ve slipped up in front of goal too much and if our finishing was better I think we’d be sitting on the 30-point mark. We’re still fighting and I hope it gives the players belief. We wanted to play Aston Villa this weekend as neither of us had a game but we’ve not been allowed to for some unearthly reason.”
West Brom must wish they had dispensed with Slaven Bilic sooner, despite the controversy which surrounded the decision. There has been a steady improvement under Allardyce, including the 5-2 thrashing of Chelsea the previous weekend, but games are running out and their revival may still come too late.
He could do with facing more willing opponents like Southampton, who were woeful less than a week before the FA Cup semi-final against Leicester at Wembley.
West Brom dominated from the start and should have been ahead early but for another farce involving Var. Mbaye Diagne was clearly onside in the fourth minute when he flicked in Darnell Furlong’s halfvolley from a few yards out, but the goal was disallowed for an alleged offside.
The PGMOL later insisted that the Var, Kevin Friend, could not get an angle that conclusively showed whether Diagne’s upper body was onside or offside, so they stuck with the on-field decision. It was another bewildering moment for the Premier League.
“Var has failed us massively,” said Allardyce. “They came to the wrong decision and they got it wrong, because of human error. I’m afraid it’s a laughing stock. All stakeholders should have an influential input into how Var goes forward. We need to come together on this and get a better balance. I’m glad to say it didn’t have a detrimental effect.”
Albion’s first goal, in the 32nd minute, came from Matheus Pereira’s penalty, after he was brought down in the area by Fraser Forster.
The hosts extended their lead 179 seconds later after another outstanding move, with Matt Phillips converting Diagne’s cross. Albion added a third goal 21 minutes from time, with Callum Robinson beating Forster with a clinical finish.
Southampton were slightly better in the second half, but their miserable evening was summed up when the usually reliable James Ward-prowse had a penalty saved by Sam Johnstone in added time, after substitute Moussa Djenepo was fouled by Conor Townsend.
Hasenhuttl must now pick up his players for their Wembley semifinal.
“It was a non-performance,” he said. “We are all responsible for performances like this and we have shown that we can do much better.
“We have to be very critical with this game as it was far away from what we can normally offer. We have to show a different face at
Wembley on Sunday – if we play like this we’ll have no chance.”
West Brom (4-2-3-1) Johnstone 7; Furlong 6, Bartley 7 (Ajayi 85), O’shea 6, Townsend 6; Yokuslu 7, Maitland-niles 8; Phillips 7, Robinson 7 (Gallagher 73), Pereira 8; Diagne 7 (Robson-kanu 76). Subs Button (g), Gibbs, Livermore, Diangana, Peltier, Grant.
Southampton (4-4-2) Forster 5; Walker-peters 5 (Djenepo 87), Bednarek 4, Vestergaard 4, Bertrand 4; Armstrong 4, Ward-prowse 4, Diallo 4, Walcott 4 (Adams 76); Redmond 4, Ings 5 (Tella 87). Subs Mccarthy (g), Stephens, Minamino, Salisu, Ferry, Jankewitz.
Referee Simon Hooper (Wiltshire).