New boy Evans impresses in stalemate
ALBION and Southampton could find no breakthrough between them as they ground out a goalless stalemate at The Hawthorns today.
Both sides struggled to come up with a goal threat although Albion initially felt they were wrongly denied a penalty early on when Callum McManaman was sent crashing in the penalty area.
Replays later suggested Stuart Attwell had made the correct call.
Chances were few and far between although Baggies head coach Tony Pulis will be pleased with his team’s resilience and organisation.
Key to that was new man Jonny Evans, given a debut alongside his Northern Ireland international partner Gareth McAuley where he produced a peerless start to his Albion career.
Evans limped off with five minutes remaining - thankfully, only with cramp - after playing a leading role in marshalling a Baggies defence given a rigorous examination by the visitors’ possession but which protected Boaz Myhill effectively.
And although Albion’s attacking play was sporadic there were moments which could have brought the decisive breakthrough.
Nothing was more threatening than the 16th minute move which had The Hawthorns screaming for a penalty. Rickie Lambert’s weighted pass sent McManaman sprinting into the box where he went over under Matt Targett’s challenge – but referee Attwell waved away all claims for a spot-kick.
Craig Dawson then couldn’t quite get over a header from a Chris Brunt corner before the visitors had their most dangerous moment with Jay Rodriguez heading wide from a good position after Dusan Tadic’s cross.
But after Salomon Rondon turned well to fire a powerful drive over in the 54th minute, the Baggies goal threat began to diminish although they retained an iron-like vice at the back.
Their greatest anxiety was of their own making in the 74th minute when Myhill mis-directed a clearance and substitute Sadio Mane pounced but – superbly marshalled by Evans – was forced into driving his shot wide.
Albion did at least get the chance to bring Saido Berahino back into the fray with the striker making a 55th minute appearance as Lambert’s replacement.
After a troubled month, Berahino was given an encouraging reception from Albion fans with far more support than criticism after his recent difficulties.
Albion: Myhill, Dawson, McAuley, Evans (Olsson 85), Brunt, Gardner, Fletcher, Yacob, McManaman (McClean 60), Lambert (Berahino 55), Rondon.
Subs: Lindegaard, Chester, Morrison, Gnabry.
Bookings: Brunt (78, foul);
Saints: Stekelenburg, Cédric (Yoshida 75), Fonte, van Dijk, Targett, Wanyama, Ward-Prowse, S. Davis, Rodriguez (Mane 67), Tadić, Pellè.
Subs: K. Davis (GK), Long, Romeu, Juanmi, Caulker.
Referee: Stuart Attwell (Nuneaton).
Albion Man of the Match: Jonny Evans.