STEVE Clarke insisted his side’s disappointing first-half display against Fulham fell well below the high standards they have set at The Hawthorns this season - and ultimately cost them as they lost 2-1.
But the Baggies boss felt his team’s second-half improvement warranted at least a point against the Cottagers, which would have taken them to seven from a possible 12 in a testing four-game festive programme over ten days.
Dimitar Berbatov finished off a counter-attack five minutes before the break to give the visitors a half-time lead.
But Albion came flying out of the blocks in the second half and levelled within four minutes through Romelu Lukaku’s seventh goal of the season.
The hosts then hit the post twice in the space of five minutes through Lukaku and Zoltan Gera - but gifted Alexander Kacaniklic what proved to be a 58th-minute winner for the Lilywhites.
“It was a poor first half and a much better second half,” said Clarke.
“What we did in the second half meant we deserved at least a point out of the game.
“But the first half was disappointing because we’ve set really high standards here at The Hawthorns and we didn’t reach them in the first half.
“There were no raised voices at half-time, we just asked them to dig deep and to find something, which is difficult when you have four games in ten days.
“It’s a physical and mental tiredness as well and I just asked the players to dig deep within themselves and find a way to get back into the game.
“Credit to them for doing that.
“But having got back into the game we switched off and we allowed Fulham to steal a goal on the counter-attack, which makes things doubly difficult because you have to go and raise yourself again.
“Even after that I thought we showed good character in the second half.
“We created a number of opportunities in and around the box and couldn’t get the second equaliser which I think the second-half performance certainly merited.”
The Baggies remain seventh and possess the joint-second best defensive record in the top-flight.
But Clarke was not happy with the two goals they conceded against Martin Jol’s men.
“Both goals were disappointing and certainly avoidable,” he added.
“The first one was a counter-attack and we didn’t occupy the pitch at all well.
“With the one in the second half we just switched off.
“We were so far on top in the game and were going to go 2-1 in front but switched off and got caught cold.
“It can be a little bit of mental fatigue as well as physical fatigue.”