And Clarke stresses importance of derby fightback to halt losing streak
STEVE Clarke is sweating on the fitness of Claudio Yacob – but is confident Shane Long will return for Albion’s next game at Everton on Wednesday week (ko 7.45pm).
Yacob’s long-awaited return to the Baggies’ starting XI in Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Villa ended an eight-game absence due to a hamstring problem.
But his evening came to a premature end when he was forced off with a shoulder problem in the 36th minute.
Long sat out his third successive game with a dead leg but is on course for a return to action at Goodison Park.
Clarke said: “Claudio’s damaged his shoulder.
“We’re not sure how serious it will be so it’s fingers crossed.
“We’ve got nine days until the next game and we’re hopeful we’ll get a few more players out of the treatment room.
“Shane has a really severe dead leg.
“And I have to be honest; he wasn’t even close for Saturday’s game.
“But there’s nine days to the next one and I expect him to be available.”
Before Saturday the Baggies had lost all six Barclays Premier League games they had been behind in at half-time this term.
Clarke was delighted his eighth-placed side managed to end that run and salvage a crucial point to ensure they did not suffer four successive top-flight defeats for the first time this season.
Albion's clash with the Toffees now kicks off a three-game spell against top-seven opposition, with a home encounter against Tottenham and a trip to Liverpool to follow.
“It was important for us to stop the run of defeats - three defeats in a row is the most we’ve had in the Premier League this season,” the Hawthorns boss added.
“And both times, we’ve managed to stop it with a draw.
“Now we have three really good games coming up and we have to start trying to win games again.
“We have to put right a few wrongs and get back to doing a few things we were doing earlier in the season.”