Steve Clarke not hiding behind excuses for West Brom slump after Norwich City Premier League defeat
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Steve Clarke insisted West Brom only had themselves to blame after spurning a string of second-half chances against Norwich City at the Hawthorns.
Clarke felt the Baggies should have had an early second-half penalty when Stephane Sessegnon's point blank shot struck Martin Olsson on his right arm but the West Brom chief conceded Albion had wasted plenty of other opportunities. Sessegnon rolled wide with John Ruddy to beat five minutes later before the England keeper denied the Benin international again during a shift from the striker that encapsulated Albion's frustrating afternoon.
'On another day he'd have had a couple of goals,' said Clarke. 'The first chance he missed at the start of the second half was going in the net. It hit Martin Olsson on the arm, which stopped the ball going into the net. Whether the referee saw it or not doesn't help us and I'm not sitting here crying about a penalty decision because it's a tough one to call, but the ball was going into the net so it's hard to say that was a big miss. With the second chance he had, instead of rolling it six inches outside the post he should have rolled it six inches inside the post. These things happen. You have to keep faith in him and keep believing in him. That's the type of player Stephane is. He contributed a lot to the team performance.'
Gary Hooper's clinical early strike was a key moment for Clarke in a battle between two clubs striving for upward mobility.
'The game started as we felt it would. It was two teams who had not been in the best of form,' he said. 'You had two sides feeling each other out but Norwich got the first goal out of nowhere and that put us on the back foot and set us back. We created a lot of chances but we didn't get the goal.
'We made it a difficult afternoon conceding the first goal, which actually came from a throw-in at their end – and we gave away a soft first goal. That gave Norwich something to hang onto and put us on the back foot.
'We couldn't get the goal that would turn the game in our favour.'
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Clarke defended his decision to keep both Shane Long and England starlet Saido Berahino in reserve until a double change at the interval.
'It is always easy to sit back with hindsight and say you should have done this or that,' he said. 'The team that started was good enough. We had to risk a bit at half-time and that is what we did. I thought we had good control of the first half and created chances – if not as many as in the second half. It's been a difficult week for us. Three defeats in a week is sore, painful and hard to take.
'Now we have to go to Cardiff, we have to be resilient and we have to start getting points on the board. But there is no easy solution. We created a lot of chances but we didn't get the goal.'
Jonas Olsson's suspension forced Clarke into a defensive alteration that exposed Uruguayan international Diego Lugano to a testing full Premier League debut which saw the rugged defender heavily involved in the decisive moments of the match,
'I thought he did well. I was pleased,' said Clarke. 'It's difficult for him because he hasn't had too many starts for us. I thought he acquitted himself well in the second half when we risked a lot and he was exposed to the counter-attack. I thought all the defenders stood up to be counted.'