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Apr 13, 2014

A point, good or bad for West Brom?

For the 2nd consecutive home game, West Brom threw away what should have been an unassailable lead and what would have been a crucial three points. The fact that at 3-0 up there wasn't a West Brom fan inside the Hawthorns who felt confident of winning the game says it all about Albion's performances this season. It was a three points that in all likelihood would have near-enough secured West Brom's safety for another season.

When Christian Eriksen rifled home Spurs' equaliser, it was hard to look at the game with much perspective with Albion having let slip a three-goal load. But reflecting back on the game, is a point really that bad?

Obviously it is disappointing, some would say unforgivable, to give away a three-goal lead at any point but particularly at such a crucial stage of the season. It highlighted some huge problems in both the defensive set-up and the mindset of the players, especially in the second half when you could see the nerves take hold and all confidence desert them. The players didn't press high-up the pitch like Pepe Mel wants them to, instead dropping deep and just hoofing the ball clear instead of trying to keep possession.

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It does raise worries about whether West Brom's players have the strength of character to claw and grind their way to safety, or whether they won't be able to hold their nerve when they need to most. It is certainly worrying that at 3-0 up, the players still didn't seem very confident despite them playing some of their best football for a few seasons.

It also raised questions over Mel's tactics, not for the first time in his tenure either. The Spaniard is clearly very popular amongst the majority of West Brom fans, but there are still some nagging doubts over whether he is the right man for the job. There is no doubt that West Brom have become a much more potent attacking threat under Mel, they were a delight to watch in the opening half of the match. Matej Vydra and Chris Brunt scored from good team-moves before Stephane Sessengeon added a 3rd after out-pacing the Spurs backline.

However, it can't be denied that the defence has fared much worse under the former Real Betis man. This was initially blamed on Mel wanting to employ a high-line, Albion have now stopped playing such a high-line yet they are still struggling and leaking a lot of goals, perhaps because the defence are being left exposed by a more attacking midfield.

Mel got it totally wrong when bringing Saido Berahino on for Vydra. The Czech International, who put in one of his best performances in a West Brom shirt, certainly needed to be taken off. But with Albion resorting to long-ball football, it would have made much more sense to bring on Victor Anichebe who would have challenged Younes Kaboul physically, rather than bringing on Berahino who is of the same stature and a similar kind of player to Vydra. It was obvious to every West Brom fan in the ground, so why couldn't Mel or the coaching staff see it? If Anichebe wasn't fit to play, then he shouldn't have been on the bench.

However, reflecting back on the game, I don't believe a point is that bad. Prior to the game, West Brom fans certainly would have taken a point from a game against a side in the top 6. It is just the way the game turned out that angered the fans, including myself. It was a winnable game, especially at 3-0 up after half an hour, but it wasn't a game you'd have expected to win prior to the kick off.

Watching the highlights, you could also say that West Brom were lucky to get a point. When Tim Sherwood described it as one of the most one-sided games he'd ever seen, he was perhaps exaggerating -- Spurs were totally out-played in that opening salvo from The Baggies -- but in the second half he was right. West Brom hardly touched the ball as Spurs constantly bombarded Ben Foster's goal. It's rare in a game where you concede three that the goalkeeper would be Man of The Match, but Foster was undoubtedly that for Albion.

He saved a penalty from Adebayor, before making a tremendous double-save from Paulinho and Danny Rose and that was just the first half. In the second half he denied Lennon and Eriksen, and had no chance with any of the goals. Without the England international being in top form, Albion could have quite easily lost the game.

It is another point towards safety, three points would have been much better but a point a game from this point will keep West Brom up in my view so it wasn't totally catastrophic. What it does do is put increased pressure on the next home game against West Ham, which considering the lack of nerve shown by the players in the last two home games, doesn't exactly fill you with confidence that they will be able to put in a complete ninety minute performance to give Mel a first, crucial win at the Hawthorns.