STEVE Clarke felt his players’ stirring second-half display deserved at least a point at Old Trafford as they eventually went down 2-0 – a scoreline he says flattered table-toppers Manchester United.
The Baggies fell behind to an unfortunate ninth-minute own goal from Gareth McAuley and found it difficult to get their football going on a rain-sodden pitch in the first half.
But they found a new lease of life after the break and they put the Red Devils defence under severe pressure before Dutch master Robin van Persie came off the bench to curl home a second goal in stoppage time.
The result left Albion in sixth place before today’s tea-time fixture between Arsenal and Newcastle.
“I think the 2-0 scoreline puts a gloss on it that probably Manchester United don’t deserve,” said Clarke, who fought off illness to take his place in the dugout.
“I’m not going to say we deserved to win the game but I think if we’d come away from here with a draw nobody could have complained.
“I think they were agitated because they knew the Albion had control of the game.
“There was a period in the second half where if any team was going to score it was us.
“In the first half we were maybe a little bit too timid in the game.
“But we defended okay and restricted them to few chances.
“The second half was much better.
“We got forward into their half of the pitch and showed what a good team we are.
“We just spoke at half-time about being too respectful and said to get it forward.
“It was difficult to play because the pitch was dreadful, so trying to play through the middle was something we were getting caught out by in the first half.
“We went a little bit more direct in the second half and once we got it into their half we got it down and we tried to create chances that would have got us the goal that would have got us a deserved point.”
Ben Foster was forced to make two top-class saves from van Persie and Danny Welbeck in the closing stages of the game as the Baggies went chasing the equaliser.
“I think the fact they had to bring some of their big guns on showed how well we were doing in the second half,” Clarke added.
“I think the second goal is just a consequence of the fact we were 1-0 down and were chasing the equaliser.
“The few chances they got away at the end of the game were the consequence of us being a little bit too open.”
The Albion chief has now already turned his attentions to the New Year’s Day home clash with Fulham (ko 12.45pm).
And he will take a head count tomorrow with Jonas Olsson (groin), Youssouf Mulumbu, Claudio Yacob, Goran Popov (all hamstring) and Steven Reid (shin) all missing the United trip due to injury.
“In football it’s difficult to look too far ahead, especially a club like us,” said Clarke.
“I was going to say we know what we are – that’s what our fans sing every week!
“We know what we’re trying to be and how we’re trying to build as a team.
“I think for us to look too far ahead and speculate would be wrong.
“All our thoughts are on the next game.
“We’ve got Fulham at home in two days' time.
“We’ll get them into the training ground tomorrow and see who’s fit and who’s not.
“We’ll prepare another team and hopefully get another good result against Fulham.
“We’ll stay focused on reaching our 40-point target.
“When we get there we’ll reassess and give ourselves another target.”