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Irvine hails step forward

6 December 2014

Irvine on stalemate, McAuley, Berahino and substitutions

ALAN Irvine hailed Albion's battling performance which put an end to their four-match losing sequence.

The Baggies shared a goalless stalemate with Hull at the KC Stadium but could have come away with all three points were it not for home goalkeeper Allan McGregor's interventions.

The Scotland international saved a tenth-minute penalty from Graham Dorrans and was Hull's hero again in the second half with an even better effort to keep out Craig Gardner's goalbound free-kick.

But in a game of few chances it was Albion's gritty determination to concede no more ground in the battle to get clear of the Barclays Premier League danger zone which caught the eye and sends them into next week's derby against Villa with their spirits on the rise.

"The boys certainly feel that was a step forward," Irvine said.

"In the dressing room after the game they felt positive about their performance and rightly so.

"I'm frustrated because if the penalty goes in - and we expect to score from penalties - then it would have been an even harder struggle for Hull to get something from the game.

"But it's one point than we didn't have before kick-off and nobody could possibly question the players' commitment.

"They gave it everything in a very difficult game and showed everyone is pulling together."

Irvine made four changes for the key contest and was rewarded especially by a triumphant return to the team by Gareth McAuley, just one day after celebrating his 35th birthday. 

"Gareth was outstanding but then I didn't really expect anything other than that from him," Irvine added.

"He is a top, top pro who has accepted his situation, recognised that Craig Dawson had deserved his opportunity and not complained about it at all.

"Equally, Craig was very supportive when I told him about the change and that's indicative of the kind of spirit we've got running through the camp."

The match also saw more game time for summer recruits Silvestre Varela and Brown Ideye as second-half substitutes, while Irvine also took Saido Berahino out of his starting line-up for the first time this season in the Premier League.

The head coach explained: "We have asked an awful lot of Saido this season and everyone has seen it has got tougher and tougher for him of late.

"I wanted to be as positive as possible with my changes but at half-time we had Stephane Sessegnon struggling with a tight calf and Victor Anichebe still troubled by his groin problem."

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