STEVE Clarke admitted Albion fell asleep for Chelsea’s winner in today’s 1-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge - but he was delighted with the way his men battled until the death.
Ben Foster had to be at his imperious best to keep the Baggies, who drop to ninth but just two points off seventh spot, in the game with a string of fine saves.
He could do nothing about Demba Ba’s 28th-minute strike but his heroics at least gave Albion the chance to mount a late surge on the Blues’ goal.
“We thought we prepared well enough to get something from the game today but unfortunately we didn’t,” said Clarke.
“We went to sleep on a set play and that’s what cost us.
“But when you’re only one behind you’ve always got a chance.
“We speak quite a lot about when we play against the top teams – and make no mistake Chelsea are a top team and have some fantastic players - or when we play every week, that you just have to stay in the game.
“And you know if you stay in the game and get to the last 15/20 minutes the momentum can swing and the atmosphere becomes a little bit nervous.
“We were in the game.
“We didn’t create anything clear-cut but there were one or two scrambles at the end and you could feel the tension in the crowd.”
Clarke praised Foster, who earlier in the week announced he is making himself available for England duty again, for his performance between the sticks.
And the Baggies No.1 came close to grabbing a last-gasp equaliser with a spectacular overhead kick from a James Morrison corner.
“He’s like that all the time,” the Baggies boss added.
“He’s a top goalkeeper and makes great saves.
“He’s been really good for us this season.
“He had a spell out injured and took a bit of time to get over that.
“Now I think you can see he’s back in top form - and he plays like that week in, week out.
“I think he’s made Roy [Hodgson] happy because he’s made himself available for selection and it gives Roy a nice problem.”
Clarke also thanked the Chelsea fans for their warm welcome as he returned to Stamford Bridge for the first time as a head coach.
“Chelsea fans are always good to me,” he said.
“I’ve been back here on a number of occasions since I left.
“I think the fact I was here 12 years as a player and eight as a coach, and did okay for them, entitles me to a good reception.
“I’m always pleased when I come back and they remember me.”