Club News

Clarke shows his derby pride

Boss delighted with fightback after admitting to letting fans down in first half

STEVE Clarke has spoken of his pride at his team’s comeback from two goals down at half-time to earn a dramatic derby-day draw with Villa.

The Baggies boss admitted his players let the fans down in the first-half as Christian Benteke’s 12th-minute opener and Gabriel Agbonlahor’s 31st-minute strike gave the visitors a 2-0 lead at the break.

But skipper Chris Brunt’s 49th-minute effort – his second in five top-flight games – gave Albion the platform to pile the pressure on Paul Lambert’s men and eventually grab an 83rd-minute equaliser through Peter Odemwingie’s fifth goal of the campaign.

“I’m not sure relief was the emotion,” said Clarke, as his eighth-placed outfit extended their unbeaten run against Villa to five games.

“In the first half the emotion was disappointment at the way we played.

“We let ourselves down and as a consequence let the supporters down.

“In the second half I felt a little bit of pride at the way we played.

“We were much better second half.

“We were much more like what I expect from my team.

“We created a number of chances and deserved to get something out of the game.”

He added: “We knew they were a dangerous team.

“They’ve got dangerous forwards – you look at Benteke, Agbonlahor and N’Zogbia and they have good pace and know they can cause a problem.

“The first goal from Benteke was fantastic, it was a great strike.

“I think that put us on the back foot a little bit if I’m honest.

“We didn’t show our qualities in the first half – that was the most disappointing thing for me.

“We didn’t pass the ball or play as we can play.

“It was nice to get them in at half-time and just regroup.

“And I think we much, much improved in the second half.

“It was important to get the third goal.
“We didn’t speak about getting it early, but it was important to make it 2-1.

“From there, you know Aston Villa are down the bottom of the league and fighting for their lives, and you know if the game goes 2-1 then it becomes much more nervous and anxious for them.”

Ben Foster made a crucial save from Eric Lichaj seconds before the interval and Clarke admits he has some defensive work to do with his team on the training ground before their next game at Everton on Wednesday week after shipping nine goals in their last four Barclays Premier League games.

“We’ve got ten days until our next Premier League game,” he said.

“We’ll get them out there and keep working.

“The small things we’re not doing that we were doing at the start of the season, we’ll look to address them.”