And boss gives his verdict on Odemwingie red cardSTEVE Clarke described Peter Odemwingie’s sending-off in today’s 3-0 defeat at Fulham as ‘unhelpful’ – but insisted it was the hosts’ second goal just before the break that gave his men a mountain to climb.
The Baggies were slow out of the blocks and Fulham finally made their pressure count in the 32nd minute thanks to Dimitar Berbatov’s strike on his home debut.
Odemwingie was given his marching orders six minutes later for kicking out in frustration at Sascha Riether.
And things went from bad to worse in first-half stoppage time when Billy Jones’ challenge on Alexander Kacaniklic presented Berbatov with the chance to double the lead from the spot.
The visitors re-organised and threw on Chris Brunt and Romelu Lukaku for Marc-Antoine Fortune and Shane Long at the break.
But they could not find a goal to jangle a few Cottagers nerves and Steve Sidwell added a third a minute from time.
“Peter’s sending-off certainly didn’t help the afternoon,” said Clarke, after the first defeat of his Hawthorns reign.
“But to be honest I was disappointed with the way we started the game.
“I thought we allowed Fulham to get too much control of the game and they passed the ball better than we did.
“We started slowly and we suffered for that.
“We lost the goal and losing Peter compounded the problems.”
“But we’re all human.
“Everyone has got emotions.
“He felt there should have been a free-kick against him.
“The red mist obviously came down – and he’ll take his punishment.
“It’s a three-game ban.
“I’m sure the club have got a disciplinary process that he’ll go through and we’ll move on.
“In football it happens – people get sent-off."
The Baggies boss added: “The biggest disappointment out of the first-half was that we lost a second goal right before half-time.
“I felt we needed to get to half-time at 1-0, and that was a message I was trying to get to the players.
“I feel sorry for Billy Jones because he made a fantastic run forwards and almost equalised for us.
“He made a 90-yard recovery run and, as he got back there, he was probably feeling a little bit tired, hung a leg out, and conceded a penalty.
“It made the second half more difficult.
“I was happy with the second half performance.
“We approached the game well in the second half.
“We tried to cause a few problems and I think we succeeded.
“Given the balance of possession we could have nicked a goal.
“We spoke at half-time that if we could make it 2-1 it would maybe become a nervous afternoon for Fulham.
“It didn’t quite work out that way and they got the third goal, which I felt was maybe an unfair reflection on the second half – but certainly not in the game because Fulham deserved to win.”
On a positive note, Clarke praised the performance of Ben Foster between the Baggies sticks, as he produced a series of second-half saves to keep the score down.
“Ben made some good saves but when you’re down to ten men the opposition will create chances against you,” said the Albion chief.
“We spent a lot of time in the summer chasing Ben Foster because we know he is capable of making those kind of saves.
“He’s a top goalkeeper, we paid good money for him and performances like that are what you’d expect from Ben Foster.”