Third successive clean sheet for the Baggies
RESOLUTE Albion secured a hard-earned Barclays Premier League point against Everton following a goalless encounter at Goodison Park.
The hosts largely dominated proceedings under the floodlights but the Baggies, epitomised by the battling Claudio Yacob, stood firm and claimed a share of the spoils.
Everton enjoyed the clearest chance to break the deadlock on the stroke of half-time but Kevin Mirallas could only watch as his penalty struck the outside of a post after Joleon Lescott had been penalised for handball upon his return to his former stomping ground.
The point – and third successive clean sheet - extends head coach Tony Pulis’ unbeaten run since taking charge of the Throstles, coming on the back of last weekend’s victory over Hull and FA Cup success against non-league Gateshead.
Tonight's encounter was played out 13 years to the day since the passing of Albion legend Jeff Astle, whose solitary goal against the Toffees clinched victory in the 1968 FA Cup final.
Victor Anichebe and Craig Gardner earned recalls to Albion’s starting XI, the former lining up against his previous employers on Merseyside.
Mirallas and Leighton Baines both forced Ben Foster into routine saves from distance early on.
Mirallas then tested Foster with a 25-yard free-kick but that was as close as either side came amid an opening half-hour which saw Albion stifle the hosts, much to the frustration of the home crowd.
Little first-half action of note followed until just minutes before half-time when Lescott handled the ball inside his own penalty area after it had bounced back up off the turf and referee Michael Oliver pointed to the spot.
But the centre-back was soon breathing a sigh of relief as Mirallas sent the subsequent spot-kick against the outside of Foster’s right-hand post.
The intensity of the encounter picked up in the second period and it remained Everton who dominated possession, with Albion continuing to soak up play and looking to hit on the counter.
Pulis freshened things up by turning to Stephane Sessegnon and Graham Dorrans off the bench.
Romelu Lukaku, who enjoyed a prolific season at The Hawthorns in 2012/13, blazed an effort over the crossbar before Sessegnon sent a chance off target for the Baggies.
And despite some late pressure from the Toffees, resilient Albion stood strong to claim a point and will now turn their attention to Saturday’s short FA Cup trip across the midlands to face Blues.
Albion: Foster, Wisdom, McAuley, Lescott, Baird, Gardner, Brunt, Yacob, Morrison (Sessegnon 65’), Anichebe (Ideye 79’), Berahino (Dorrans 70’).
Subs: Myhill, Pocognoli, Dawson, Samaras.
BOOKED: Morrison (foul 58’), Dorrans (foul 90’)
Everton: Joel, Baines, Jagielka, Stones, Coleman, Besic (Kone 79’), Barry, Barkley, Mirallas (Oviedo 45), Naismith, Lukaku.
Subs: Griffiths, Hibbert, Garbutt, Alcaraz, McAleny.
MISSED PENALTY: Mirallas (44’)
BOOKED: Barry (foul 49’), Oviedo (foul 52’), Besic (foul 77’)
Referee: Michael Oliver (Northumberland)
Albion star man: Claudio Yacob