It was not so much the boing-boing Baggies today — more of a boing-boing splat if anything. Tremendous fans, certainly the loudest to appear at the Bridge for a while, but the only place that this team will be bouncing to will be from whence they came. They did manage to frustrate though, and some.
The first half could best be described as: the referee blew his whistle to start the game, then he blew his whistle after 45 minutes. It was as poor a half since, er, the last poor 45 minutes we had to endure. There was a goal though, and for the second time in open play this season it went to Jimmy. Manu Petit, who really did boss the midfield today, sent a lovely ball through that the Baggies all stood and watched. Jimmy, when one-on-one with a ’keeper, is always likely to be favourite, and this time proved to be no different. In fairness, Russell Hoult did stick out a foot that deflected the shot onto the post, but where it might have gone the other way a few games ago, this time it nestled nicely into the back of the net.
Trust me when I say that really was the first half, although we did switch to three at the back after about thirty minutes, with Soxy pushing on into midfield. This gave Gallas the opportunity to make runs from the back, and it was a chance he did not miss out on. The second half was a massive improvement, though having said that, being whacked around the head with a piece of two-by-four would have been an improvement. There were efforts and chances a plenty before some good individual work from Jimmy led to his shot being stopped well by Hoult, only to come out to the feet of Le Saux who flashed it into the net.
Soxy was as pleased as punch and, in truth, so were we. At 1-0 it was always going to be the sort of game that we would concede late on in, as is our style. Then came a crazy two or three minutes when the Baggies could have scored not one, not two, but three goals. First the impressive Clement (should never have let him go) rattled the bar with a shot. They then hit the post and then Carlo produced one of his normal world-class saves to deny Lee Hughes. Had any (or all) of those efforts gone in, we might well have seen a very different result. They did not though, and we picked up the three points that we certainly deserved.
John Terry came on as a sub for the Gronk with ten minutes left, at which point we switched once more to a back four with JT playing left-back. It might seem an odd thing to do, but Claudio got the tactics spot on as the Baggies had just put on another striker.
What we lacked today, against a team that clearly set their stall out early on to defend in numbers and hopefully hit on the break, was someone in the midfield with that extra bit of creativity. In my view, we were crying out for someone in the Robbie or Super Dan mode who could have given us that little bit extra.
When all is said and done, however, we are now up to the dizzy heights of third — can you believe it? There are some good games (on paper) to come and certain players are starting to look the part. Jimmy Floyd looks to have got his confidence back and Manu Petit had as good a game for us in the middle (which was very congested at times) as he has for quite some time. He did go off with twenty minutes left, which I hope was for some fresh legs rather than yet another injury.
Next up, Three Point Lane, and a chance to shatter the dreams of those poor, crazy souls who actually think that Glenda is going to give them the team that they think they deserve. Denial is more than just a river in Egypt.
Chelsea line-up: Cudicini — Le Saux, Desailly, Gallas, Melchiot — De Lucas, Petit (Morris, 72), Lampard, Gronkjaer (Terry, 80) — Hasselbaink, Zola (Oliveira, 89)
Unused subs: Pidgely, Gudjohnsen, Oliveira