ALAN Irvine was disappointed his men made such hard work of their Capital One Cup tie with Oxford – but is relieved they did not join the list of second-round upsets.
Barclays Premier League outfits Manchester United, West Ham, Leicester and Burnley all suffered shock defeats against lower league opposition at the first hurdle, losing to MK Dons, Sheffield United, Shrewsbury and Sheffield Wednesday respectively.
The Baggies looked to be heading for a comfortable passage into the third round following Johnny Mullins’ 29th-minute own goal.
But the hosts let control of the Hawthorns encounter slip through their grasp and the U’s eventually scored a deserved 86th-minute equaliser through David Hylton to force extra-time and penalties.
In the end the Baggies kept their nerve in the shoot-out to book their place in Wednesday’s third-round draw.
“We made it hard work,” said Irvine.
“I felt we started well and had four or five shots in the early part of the game.
“We looked a real threat, moved the ball well, then we got a bit careless about the 20-minute mark.
“We recovered prior to half-time and finished the half quite well.
“In the second half I felt we were comfortable then we lost our shape and discipline, and started making some really poor decisions.
“We turned what was looking like a comfortable game into something extremely uncomfortable.
“Oxford deserve loads of credit – they played extremely well. They capitalised when we got ragged and lost our discipline, and they got their reward with the equaliser.
“I’m disappointed how we played but must bear in mind how many of the players were playing for the first time this season – never mind for the first time in a competitive game - like Claudio Yacob and Chris Baird.
“There were a lot of players getting their boots on for real for the first time, like Gareth McAuley, Jason Davidson, Boaz Myhill, James Morrison, Stephane Sessegnon and Brown Ideye.
“Later when I’m feeling a bit less raw I’ll give them a little bit of leeway.
“You can lose discipline and make bad decisions as you start to get tired and that is something I’ll need to take into consideration.”
The Albion chief was also quick to complement Michael Appleton’s League Two basement boys Oxford on pushing his men to the limit.
“I went to watch Oxford lose 1-0 at Morecambe last week – they shouldn’t have done,” he added.
“Morecambe are at the top and Oxford at the bottom - but it won’t remain that way as far as Oxford are concerned, I’m quite sure.
“They play some good football and Michael is doing a much better job than results show.
“I also spoke to our players and said there would be shocks tonight – make sure we’re not one of them.
“We came far too close to being one of them for my liking!”
Irvine is now determined to eradicate the late goals hangover from last season after seeing his troops concede last-gasp levellers in his first two Hawthorns encounters.
“I’m disappointed with the performance overall, having not been disappointed with the previous two games where I’ve been pleased with what I’ve seen,” he said.
“I must consider how many players needed the game.
“The over-riding emotion is relief.
“I’m pleased to get through but disappointed too about some things we did as the game went on, particularly late in the second half.
“I’ve told the players I’m pleased we’re through - but we made very hard work of it, having been in a good position.
“We have to make sure we stop conceding late goals.
“It happened last year - and it has to stop.”