Friday 20 October 2017

Albion's fragility puts heat on Hodgson

WEST BROM 3
WEST HAM 3

Phil Shaw

Michael Appleton began the week hoping to become West Bromwich Albion's new head coach. He ended it feeling he had endured a "microwaved lesson" in management after a canter turned into a collapse against West Ham. Now the heat is on for Roy Hodgson.

Hodgson's frazzled tenure as Liverpool manager was effectively ended when Wolves won at Anfield. A repeat victory for the Premier League's bottom side in next Sunday's Black Country derby, his first match as Roberto Di Matteo's successor, could drag Albion into the relegation zone for the first time this season. No pressure there, then.

The admirable Appleton, who is expected to revert to his role as first-team coach, met Hodgson after Saturday's match to discuss how a 3-0 lead almost became a disastrous defeat. It is safe to assume that the need to ally ruthlessness up front, ruggedness at the back and leadership to the creativity epitomised by Graham Dorrans was high on the agenda.

Momentum, argued the caretaker, is crucial in all sports. Albion had it when Dorrans, Jerome Thomas and an own goal punished sleepy defending. Yet it swung West Ham's way once Demba Ba scored and belonged to Avram Grant's team after further goals by Carlton Cole and Ba, whose finishing could be to this relegation struggle what Carlos Tevez's was in 2006-'07.

Appleton was left with the slim consolation that it could have been worse. "When you concede a goal, it's about getting into the players' heads that 'it's okay, we knew this could happen, we need to do this or that'," he said. "It's all right saying it but you need personalities on the pitch; people to take responsibility. We're fantastic between both boxes. We just need to be more clinical when attacking, and when defending we need to put our foot through things and be prepared to be a bit ugly.

"I'm hoping the experience Roy brings will help them make better decisions under pressure. He has a lot to work on with myself and the other coaches. But we've got some good games coming up."

Appleton's claim that "3-0 can be a dangerous score" would have seemed risible at any other club, but Albion's physical and psychological fragility made it all too plausible. West Ham, inspired by Scott Parker's half-time rallying cry, sensed and exploited it. (© Independent News Service)

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