Clarke reckoned his players were full value for QPR win
STEVE Clarke insisted Albion showed all of their qualities at Loftus Road today – describing the gutsy 2-1 victory as an ‘almost perfect’ away display.
A Chris Brunt first-half stunner and a Robert Green own goal five minutes after the break put the Baggies firmly in control of their Boxing Day fixture.
However, Clarke’s men failed to get the third goal their pressure had warranted and struggling Rangers were handed a lifeline by Djbrill Cisse’s 68th-minute strike.
That sparked a late Hoops rally but Albion dug in for a second successive win – despite effectively playing the dying minutes with NINE men.
“We had two players [Jonas Olsson and Youssouf Mulumbu] limping around the pitch towards the end but they didn’t want to come off,” said Clarke.
“We showed great character.”
Clarke reckoned his troops were full value for their third away success of the season, which had propelled them up to fifth before sixth-placed Tottenham kicked off their teatime fixture at Villa.
“I thought it was a deserved win,” said the head coach.
“It was an almost perfect away performance.
“We were the better team in the first half and had good control of the game.
“To be honest, there weren’t too many chances for either side, but we just about deserved to be in front thanks to Brunty’s fantastic strike.
“In the second half, we were in complete control of the game.
“We got the second goal, should have got the third and maybe even a fourth. We created chances and played some fantastic football.
“Their goal was a good goal and it obviously changed the complexion of the game. It gave them life when they were dead and buried and we ended up hanging on a little bit.
“But we showed another side to our character.
“Yes, we can play good football, but we can also dig in to get results when we have to.
“The pressure came on a little bit towards the end, mainly because QPR had nothing to lose.
“They were just throwing everybody forward.
“We knew they would get some chances but we competed and showed great character and Ben made a fantastic save, which is why he’s in the team.”
QPR boss Harry Redknapp made his displeasure known about referee Chris Foy’s decisions to allow Albion’s second goal – claiming Green was fouled by Marc-Antoine Fortune – and not to award the hosts a late penalty for handball against Liam Ridgewell when he blocked a Stephane Mbia header.
But Clarke reckoned the Merseyside official got both incidents spot on.
“I didn’t think it was a foul for our second goal,” he said.
“I’ve seen a TV replay and I don’t think Marco’s done a lot wrong. He just stood his ground. Rob had a chance to punch it, couldn’t get a punch on it and the ball has ended up in the net.
“As for the penalty appeal, the ball did hit Liam on the arm but their guy headed it from a yard away.
“If it hadn’t hit Liam on the arm, it would have hit him in the face or on his body and the ball would not have gone across the box. I think it was the correct decision.”
Clarke is delighted with how his players have responded to a run of three successive defeats by putting together a three-match unbeaten run.
“Those three defeats in a row weren’t a good feeling,” he added.
“We spoke about it as a group and said it was too long without a win.
“We started putting it right with a home draw against West Ham and then got a fantastic result against Norwich.
“We asked the players to build on this and try to get another little run going. Seven points from the last three games is a really good return.”