West Bromwich Albion manager Tony Mowbray has told his beleaguered Baggies to get mentally tougher to escape relegation to the Championship.
Albion suffered a heavy 4-0 defeat at fellow strugglers Sunderland on Saturday despite again starting in promising fashion. However, once the Black Cats took the lead with their first opportunity, Albion crumbled.
It wasn’t the first time this season Albion have let slip goals in quick succession and Mowbray believes that may be down to an inability to score goals.
Albion have not won for ten games and have scored just 12 goals in 17.
“I thought the game epitomised our season,” Mowbray said. “For 20 minutes they couldn’t get out of their half and we dominated possession but the first time they put the ball into the box they score. Then they scored again within a couple of minutes, which has happened once or twice this season. That shows the fragility, mentally, of a team that can dominate but then lose a goal and it becomes frustrating.
“Goals change games and we are struggling at both ends. We need 90 minutes of concentration to stop them going in and ultimately to score a goal because it was another blank weekend for the strikers. When you lose a goal, mentally I
think the players realise it is going to be tough to get back and win because we have to score two to win.
“I have been a player and been in a team that isn’t scoring. You have to keep it tight and then when you lose one it is a huge psychological blow.
“How do you overcome that? You have to keep grinding away. You have to start scoring goals. It was not great conceding four but when you are in a team that is scoring goals, like last season, you always felt you could get back into it.
“I remember on more than a few occasions last season being in the dressing room at half time when we were a goal down saying ‘don’t panic, don’t worry because we always score’.
“I wouldn’t be saying that this year because we don’t. I think there are psychological things around it but we have to overcome them, talk about it and try and put them behind us.
“When we do lose a goal we have to get back to what we are good at very quickly and keep going.
“The first 20 minutes the other day gave us a lot of belief that we can compete in this league and yet you can’t concede the type of soft goals we did, goals they didn’t really have to work hard for.
“They were aimless balls into our box that were headed in, and that was very frustrating because we had worked hard on our defending all week.”
Striker Ishmael Miller is set to undergo surgery to correct a torn cruciate ligament just before Christmas. The 21-year-old has had to wait for his right knee to settle down before going under the knife after he damaged the ligament in a collision with Portsmouth goalkeeper David James just over a week ago.
“When you have injuries like this you have to give it a couple of weeks to let the swelling go down and let the whole knee settle down,” Mowbray explained.
“Then the surgeon will go in and do the repair. In another week to ten days I think he will be having the operation done and then he will start the long journey back.”