Friday 24 March 2017

Hodgson off to lucky start

West Brom 1
Wolves 1

Sandy Macaskill

West Brom chairman Jeremy Peace turned to Roy Hodgson for salvation this month because of his coaching pedigree and, no doubt, his experience of saving Fulham from relegation three years ago.

Yet in his first game in charge of West Brom, Hodgson showed he has a quality that is even more valuable. Napoleon said he preferred neither courageous nor brilliant generals, but lucky ones, and, in his latest managerial reincarnation at least, Hodgson looks like being one of those.

He might claim his decision to send on Carlos Vela and James Morrison, who combined to cancel out Jamie O'Hara's goal and draw the first Black Country derby ever fought out at Premier League level, was a managerial masterstroke.

But Vela's strike two minutes into stoppage-time came from a rebound when Wayne Hennessey spilled Morrison's speculative shot. This was not planned or preordained, but really, really lucky for West Brom and their new manager, and the Hawthorns celebrated it as though they had just dealt Wolves a death blow.

"When you equalise late in the game you feel happy, but when I look back on this in a few days I won't feel so good," Hodgson surmised.

The reality is that both teams demonstrated the kind of limitations which are sure to see at least one of them sent back to the Championship at the end of the season -- a failure to convert the simplest of chances and the type of incompetent defending which creates them. West Brom have not kept a clean sheet since August.

Three training sessions are not enough to sort out such defensive shortcomings even for a coach of Hodgson's experience, and Wolves found a way through just before the break when Kevin Doyle was body-checked outside the area by Gabriel Tamas.

Nenad Milijas had the wherewithal to use the free-kick to square the ball to O'Hara, who struck first time with his left foot from the edge of the area into the top corner.

Marc-Antoine Fortune's attempt to equalise was pitiful. Peter Odemwingie found his team-mate just yards from goal and Fortune hit nothing but clean air.

Hodgson shook his head in disgust, and introduced Vela and Morrison. The latter sent a low shot at Hennessey, and the Welshman spilled the ball straight to Vela, who tapped in. Their new man has lady luck on his side. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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