STEVE Clarke admitted there was a huge sense of derby disappointment in the Albion dressing room after tonight's 2-2 draw with Villa – but insisted defensive errors not missed chances cost his team all three points.
The Baggies raced into a 2-0 lead inside 11 minutes thanks to Shane Long’s world-class double to take his tally to three goals in two games.
But a triple substitution by Paul Lambert just before the hour-mark gave Villa extra impetus and caught the hosts on the hop as Karim El Ahmadi pulled one back on 67 and Ashley Westwood levelled nine minutes later.
“We started the game really positively and sharply,” said Clarke.
“Shane scored two terrific goals and we had a big chance to make it three.
“Morgan [Amalfitano] put a great ball in for Stephane [Sessegnon] and on another night normally he would score.
“I felt we had a decent control of the game for the first hour.
“But there was a period in the second half where we lost control.
“Villa made a few changes and brought on a couple of forward players who livened it up for them.
“We seemed to lose our momentum, our concentration.
“We made two bad mistakes defensively and if you do that you get punished in this league.”
Sessegnon also saw another chance go begging after the break to make it 3-0 but, in the end, the Baggies boss was happy his men recovered to pick up another point.
The Baggies remain 11th and have now lost just one of their last nine games ahead of Saturday’s trip to Newcastle (ko 5.30pm).
“I think the one in the second half was a little bit more difficult – he was under a lot more pressure,” insisted Clarke.
“I think the one in the first half – you can’t say it was a turning point.
“But if the game goes 3-0 effectively it could be over.
“But you can’t say that was the turning point in the game, the turning point was when we defended poorly and gave them a chance.
“We allowed one of their midfield players to drift into the box unopposed and he made the game 2-1.
“When the game goes 2-1 the team that’s chasing normally has the momentum.
“You could see Villa had the momentum at the end of the game.
“At 2-2 we showed a decent level of composure to get a grip of the game again.
“Because at 2-2 you would think there was only going to be one team to win it – but that wasn’t the case.
“We managed to get some sort of control over the game and played out the 2-2 quite comfortably in the end.
“But from 2-0 up at home you should win the game.”
He added: “The players are disappointed.
“They feel it is a missed opportunity to get three points.
“We’ve drawn too many games this season.
“You have to turn those draws into wins.
“If you do that you quickly get up the table.
“But on the positive side it is one defeat in nine games, which in this league is not the easiest thing to do.
“It’s not all doom and gloom; it’s another point, we move onto 15 and we look forward to another tough battle at Newcastle.”