Club News

Clarke wants Saints backlash

Boss urges players to channel frustrations into next match

STEVE Clarke will allow his players to dwell on their last-gasp heartbreak at Newcastle for a couple of days – before urging them to take out their frustrations on Southampton.

The Baggies boss has no doubts his players possess the mental toughness to put back-to-back stoppage time defeats against Manchester City eight days ago and today at St James’ Park behind them and bounce back.

Albion remain in eighth spot and have an eight-day wait until their next match against second-bottom Saints, who lost 2-1 at home to Tottenham today.

“We’ve now got to dust ourselves down, look forward to the next game and try to take our frustrations out on Southampton,” said Clarke.

“With a bit more luck, we could have more points than we have. In fact, we should have even more points. To be stuck on 14 points after these last two games is cruel. It’s not fair.

“But we have to move on.

“In football, you’ve always got the next game.

“I think it will be difficult to get the players’ heads up at first.

“We’ll let them sulk a little bit for a couple of days. They deserve to do that.

“But by the time the next game comes round, on Monday week, we’ll be ready.

“I’ve got a good dressing room. I’ve got men in there.

“They understand that sometimes you don’t get what you deserve from a game.

“We’ve just got to take all the frustrations of the last two weeks and channel it into the next game.

“We have to try to make sure we get a positive result there.”

Clarke admitted his decision to leave out Shane Long in favour of Romelu Lukaku was as tough as they come.

Lukaku endured a game of two halves, missing two good chances in the first half before grabbing his third of the season, to restore parity, on 55.

The on-loan Chelsea man is now Albion’s joint-top league scorer with Long and Clarke is delighted to have the ongoing dilemma of who to play.

“Romelu was a handful,” said the head coach.

“I’ve got really good forwards at the club.

“Sometimes, it’s really difficult for me to make the rotation because Shane’s been in great form.

“I just felt today Romelu could cause them some problems from the start.

“His movement was good. He got in some great positions in the first half and missed the finish.

“But he’s a striker. He kept getting in there and eventually got his reward with the goal.

“On another day, he maybe could’ve had a hat-trick. But you can’t criticise him. Strikers get into positions where they can score.

“Sometimes, they don’t score. And you’ve also got to credit their goalkeeper today. At least one of them was a really good save. The first one was a terrific save.”

Clarke also explained his decision to replace Lukaku with Long on 65.

“Shane came on and was just as busy,” he reflected.

“Rom hasn’t played from the start for a number of weeks and I’ve got a fantastic replacement for him in Shane, who’s been great for us.

“He didn’t really deserve to be on the bench but sometimes when you’ve got so many great strikers, you have to make decisions.

“I made that decision today and at that time in the second half I felt it was right to make the change.

“I don’t think it changed the momentum of the game when Shane came on.

“We were still the team going forward and playing the best football and we lost to a cruel deflection in injury time.

“We certainly didn’t deserve that.

“When you’ve got a good squad of players, you can’t keep disappointing them all the time.

“Rom has been a good sub for us in recent weeks.

“He’s been patient and every now and again I have to give him a chance to play. Today was his chance.

“Playing one striker on his own can be a difficult shift.

“Shane normally gets that and then after 60 or 70 minutes, he’s the one coming off.

“I just felt today was the time to reverse it.

“Unfortunately, because of the result, it may be looked on as a negative.

“But in terms of the performance and the way the team played, I’ll view it as a positive.”