A very, very tough one to take. From the outset with the injuries we had, it was always going to be a tough game against arguably the best team in the league. However, North End held their own and were heading for a deserved point until West Brom earned a controversial penalty which Charlie Austin scored to ensure the Baggies travelled back home with the three points.
A third defeat in a row for Alex Neil’s side and amidst another injury crisis, we are on a slippery slope. Here are 5 things we learned from Tuesday night’s game:
The Penalty Decision Was Wrong
Let’s get this out of the way now, address the elephant in the room if you will. As Kyle Edwards was running through, Declan Rudd correctly came off his line to push him wide. Edwards was possibly running the ball out of play, he certainly wasn’t going to score from that angle. Rudd has tried his best to avoid all contact but Edwards has gone down and fooled the referee Oliver Langford into awarding West Brom a penalty.
It was a cruel end to the game for a makeshift defence who had put in a battling display. Not much seems to be going right for us at the moment, and a point, a clean sheet and the preservation of our home run would have been richly deserved. The referee has got it wrong, everyone can agree with that, but time and time again we see appalling decisions in this league.
It’s a shame for Rudd who gets a lot of stick from the fans as I think he did the right thing coming out and closing down the angle.
We’re in Another Injury Crisis
Not much if anything gets released by the club these days on our injury problems. Despite a few rumours before the game on Monday night, we only really found out that practically the whole defence was missing when the team was announced.
We coped well without Andrew Hughes, Darnell Fisher, Patrick Bauer and Ben Davies but we have been in this position before. It’s ruined our season in the past and it is a worry again. It led to Jack Armer being called back from his loan spell at Lancaster City in the 7th tier. The 18-year old was on the bench and Neil said Browne nearly didn’t make the starting eleven which would have meant Armer would have been his replacement.
Bauer and Davies have been so instrumental in our good start to the season and whilst we didn’t necessarily miss them in the defeat to The Baggies, we can’t afford to miss them for too long. Neil has said all injuries are short term but you can never read too much into that these days.
Credit to Alan Browne as well who had one of his finer games at right-back. He kept two very fine players in Grady Diangana and Matt Phillips quiet throughout the game.
Paul Huntington Will Always do a Job
The Cumbrian Cannavaro made his first league appearance of the season and had a very good game alongside Jordan Storey in defence.
The club stalwart in his 8th season with the club will have been annoyed with his limited playing time this season but he has remained patient. He’s not one to throw his toys out of the pram, he loves this club and came into the side and gave a very assured display.
t’s heartbreaking to lose the game in the way we did, it would have been a huge achievement to get a clean sheet given the circumstances and opposition and we were so close to doing that.
Huntington was strong and commanding at the back, and to come in for his first game in the league this campaign and put in that display, it shows what an important player he has been and still can be.
We Can’t Let a 3rd Defeat in a Row Turn into More
Remember when we were top of the table after that away win against Charlton Athletic? That seems so long ago. Now we are clinging onto the final play-off place.
The league table was always tight and no one got carried away (I hope) but it shows how quickly things can turn. Confidence was high heading into the international break and now three straight defeats have left us downbeat.
Two tough games follow; first away to QPR who have Jordan Hugill in form and then at home to Scott Parker’s Fulham side and we all know how much Aleksandar Mitrovic loves playing against us.
Those games could easily be defeats and then we find ourselves way off the pace heading into a busy Christmas period. Arguably it could be said we needed 3 points tonight but a draw would have done. Now we desperately need to snap out of this form and not let the season represent a similar pattern to many that have gone before it.
Although we were up against a strong West Brom side the players didn’t seem to have much confidence and in the first half, it felt as if we had 10 men. We didn’t feel like the home team, and I’m not sure the players felt as if they could win until a good spell around the 60-minute mark.
0 Goals in The Last 3 Games is a Concern
A lack of goals isn’t something we have needed to talk about this season. However, no goal in those three recent defeats is a worry. We haven’t had the clinical edge that has been present up until this run. Perhaps the amount of penalties we’ve had has glossed over an underlying problem.
Jayden Stockley is never going to be prolific for us so then we look elsewhere. Sean Maguire seems off the pace and often struggled against Slaven Bilic’s West Brom side. He also wasted a huge chance from a tight angle in the first half when he should have pulled it back.
Our best chance tonight came from a superb curling effort from DJ that forced a world-class save from former North End loanee Sam Johnstone.
We did look devoid of ideas when going forward though and I feel Josh Harrop should have been introduced much earlier.
There’s still plenty of options for Neil in those attacking positions but he needs to get it right for the. QPR game.