Clarke says Albion must stop giving teams two-goal head start
STEVE Clarke says Albion will have to stop giving themselves a mountain to climb if they hope to end their five-game winless run.
The Baggies found themselves 2-0 down at half-time for the second match running at Everton as a Leighton Baines double put the Toffees in control at Goodison Park.
However, unlike against Villa 11 days before, the Baggies could not produce the two goals they needed to grab a point, with sub Shane Long’s 64th-minute header proving just a consolation.
Clarke’s side are still searching for their first win of 2013 and he claims that wait will continue if they don’t improve their defensive record.
“We gave ourselves too much to do tonight,” said the head coach, whose side remain in ninth position.
“It’s always difficult to get a result when you go two goals down in the Premier League.
“If you keep leaking two goals, you’re not going to get results.
“It’s been that way for a few weeks now.
“But it’s a collective responsibility.
“I’m the guy who picks the team, who has to get the tactics right and get the players right on the pitch.
“It starts with me and then it works through the players.
“Our team shape earlier in the season was good but for some reason now we’re leaking goals.
“It’s down to me and my coaching staff to find the reasons why and address the situation – and we’ll do that.”
Baines produced a terrific 29th-minute finish from the edge of the box to break the deadlock but Clarke reckoned it was a goal that could’ve been prevented, saying Albion had worked on nullifying the threat the England left-back would pose.
He also claimed the game’s decisive moment was Baines’ second from the spot in stoppage time, which was awarded when Claudio Yacob, who had replaced the injured George Thorne just four minutes earlier, upended Victor Anichebe.
“I didn’t think there was a lot in the game first half,” added Clarke.
“It was a sort of nothing game.
“We conceded territorial advantage but they didn’t create too much. I don’t recall Ben Foster making too many saves.
“The first goal was a bad goal defensively, although it can be argued it was a good goal from their point of view.
“If we had got to half-time just one behind, we’d have been in decent shape.
“But the penalty we conceded just before half-time was a big blow. That was the key moment in the game.
“The injury to George disrupted us. Claudio had just come on and hadn’t picked up the pace of the game. He conceded the penalty, which was unfortunate.”
Albion rallied after the break and Graham Dorrans almost levelled four minutes after Long’s goal when he thundered a 25-yard free-kick against the Toffees bar.
Clarke claimed that was proof positive there is plenty of fighting spirit within the camp.
“We had a go second half and got it back to 2-1,” he reflected.
“Graham hitting the bar are the small margins that can decide games.
“The character of the team to try and get back into it at a tough place like Goodison was good.
“But we can’t keep giving the opposition two goal starts.
“It was unfortunate Graham’s free-kick hit the bar but we shouldn’t be relying on that.
“We should be in the game longer and better than we were.”