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A Fan's View: Albion 2 Arsenal 2
MKBaggies gives his verdict on Albion's draw So, Arsenal at home and a chance for me to get bragging rights over local Gooners (who don't go). Just for a change, I head for The Sportsman where I saw a few of the regulars but not Northy, who has probably got a wedding, work or is washing his hair or something! Feels like summer is here as people walk along to the ground in bright sunshine and a good feeling is in the air. Could we really do the double over the mighty Arsenal? And, would the wounded animal, knocked out of three competitions in two weeks, bounce back or will we finish their season off for good? Hopefully, Arsene Wenger’s pledge to give up winning trophies for lent would continue. Chatting in the queue outside the ground and the bloke in front asks if we are in the right end? I said "Yes, why would we go in the Brummie Road End? Too quiet!" Not sure if that was what he meant but hey! Team Selection The team is more or less picking itself at the moment as the back four have remained the same under Roy and with Dorrans injured it meant that the midfield would be Scharner and Mulumbu holding with Morrison in the middle. Will we create enough chances? Odemwingie gets the nod up front in a 4-5-1. No Fabregas for Arsenal so hopefully we will be able to get hold of the ball First Half An early break down the left and JT wins an easy corner. Brunt takes an out swinger which is met by the head of Steven Reid who powers it past the hapless Almunia. Who would have thought that there would be an early goal, from a set piece, and we would be the scorers. What a start, three minutes on the clock and we are 1-0 up. Just 87 minutes to hang on then. A clash of heads in the middle of the park leaves Morrison with blood pouring from his head. Off he goes, for what feels like an eternity until he finally comes back on after having five stitches and getting the old John Wile bandage. This gives Arsenal the chance to take control of the game. Who am I kidding? Apart from our goal we have them pinned in our half for most of the half although they are playing pretty football without hurting us. A great move down our right hand side sees an excellent cross whipped in by the Gooners full back (or is that just a Clichy?) met by Van Persie and superbly left by Scott Carson as it bounced back off the bar. The ball fell to Ramsey four yards out but Carson reacts well to make an excellent point-blank save. The rest of the half sees the away team continue to dominate proceedings without getting in behind us as our back four work hard with the midfield to close down the spaces. Mulumbu is his normal busy self whilst Scharner, although positionally great, gave the ball away every time he got it and looked to be struggling. Four minutes of injury time and finally the referee blows for half time after making sure Arsenal have had their last chance of the half to score. I always get the feeling that added time is just how long refs need to give big teams every opportunity to score. It is amazing how the ball always has to be in a neutral area before he can blow the whistle. The Baggies leave the field to a standing ovation. Second Half Not sure what the problem with Scharner was but he is replaced at half time by Cech who goes to the left of midfield with Brunt moving back into the middle. We know this is going to be a long half so what we really need is an early goal to settle the nerves. Shorey gets the ball in the left back position and passes to Morrison who feeds Mulumbu who quickly passes it back to Shorey who gives it to Morrison then back to Mulumbu. Youssef, now on the half way line tries to thread a long ball through to Brunt on the far side but his pass is intercepted by Odemwingie who controls and releases Cech down the left wing. We are in behind them and Cech is running at pace and Brunt is on the move again at the far post. An inch perfect cross is met at the back by our Captain and I am celebrating our second goal.... Until I see Almunia taking the goal kick. Surely that was close enough for Atwood to give it? I thought anywhere close to the goal was good enough for him. Another Arsenal attack is broken down by Mulumbu and he hits a long ball over the top for Pete to chase. It seems like a lost cause as Squillaci runs back in control. For some reason Almunia runs out of his goal at the same time and out of his area. The ball lands and spins back a bit allowing Odemwingie to gain control and he squeezes a shot in. The ball trickles towards the goal with Koschelny chasing it and the whole of the Brummie Road sucking it in and the ball wins and we take a 2-0 lead. Finally, something to hold on to as Arsenal raise their game again and continue to get in behind us. Arshavin seems to be getting a load of space down our right and with the introduction of Chamakh they have decided to go for broke. Another neat move involving Nasri and Chamakh ends with Arshavin beating Morrison to the ball inside the area and hitting a sweet shot past a helpless Carson. Game on again with 20 minutes still to play. The tension suddenly builds again as we all start to fear the worst. Another change by Roy as he takes off Odemwingie and brings on Fortune. Let’s hope we don't need another goal. Bendtnar is now on for Arsenal and they have him, Van Persie, Chamakh, Arshavin all on the pitch as Wenger tries to save his season. And it is Arshavin causing all the problems. He gets a fantastic cross in deep to the far post headed back by Bendtnar. The ball gets stuck under Meite's feet and Van Persie gets a toe to it. The ball dribbles agonisingly towards the line and rolls into the empty net. All square at Desmond (tutu) and just about every Albion fan thinks we will now lose this one. It is now end to end stuff though as we get another chance. JT, quite for most of the second half feeds Fortune who beats two defenders in the box and gets his shot blocked by Squillaci, possibly by a trailing hand, but our muted appeal results in a corner. The roof would have come off if that had gone in. Back to the Arsenal pressure and a shot by Clichy is turned away for a corner to the Gooners. Time is up now but Atwood allows them time to take the corner. Into our pinball machine and we scramble it clear although Chris Brunt tries his best to give them a penalty with a silly push on Sagna. Back it comes again and a shot by the right back goes for another corner. Time was up ages ago but as Arsenal are attacking the ref plays on. The corner comes in and because they don't score he finally blows his whistle. On reflection One point gained or two lost? We probably won't know until the end of the season but we battled our hearts out and deserved the point. Arsenal’s season depended on beating us and we may have now finished them off. Wilshere, who annoyed the Baggies fans in the second half when he pushed Mulumbu into the hoardings, looks an exceptional player as he pulled all the strings in midfield compared to a fairly quiet Nasri. Mulumbu was outstanding again and Olsson and Meite had to be strong all match. As a team, we played well and the man of the match award went to Reid but you could have taken one of just about any player in a blue and white shirt. We look so much more like a team now and five games unbeaten under Hodgson proves we are heading in the right direction. The battle continues and we know it is still uphill but we have some momentum. The other results were okay. Wolves winning at the Vile was a bit of a shock and moves them nearer to us and keeps Villa well in the mire. Bet they can’t wait to come to our place. I feel those two games against Villa and Wolves will be crucial to our season. Blackburn and Blackpool share the spoils which was the right result for us and blues are starting to struggle as their cup exploits catch them up. Hold on tight everyone....this is going to be a bumpy ride!
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