LONDON // If and when the inquest begins, if and when West Bromwich Albion are surveying their solitary season in the Premier League from an unwanted vantage point in the Championship, there are games they will regret. And, in a perverse way, Monday's 0-0 draw at West Ham will be one of them. Ostensibly among their best results of the season, it may equate to two points dropped.Albion, six from safety, can ill afford that. "We are disappointed not to score," said the defender Shelton Martis, who hit the bar. "Playing well and not winning; you have got to be disappointed." The vice-captain Paul Robinson concurred: "We probably could have got the three points." Yet Albion were insufficiently bold. When Matthew Upson departed in the first half-hour with a calf injury that threatens to rule him out of England's game in Slovakia, West Ham were without both first-choice central defenders. Albion, however, waited 80 minutes to introduce a second striker, and the consequence was a shortage of players in the penalty area. A prison break without ambition seems doomed to failure. Often as Albion invoke mention of their Great Escape of 2005, when the players were serenaded with the soundtrack of the war film, there appears little chance of, to borrow a title from another Steve McQueen picture, a Getaway from their current predicament.
That change was required was admitted by Tony Mowbray. The West Brom manager said: "For 27 games, we have been going back to the same players. There comes a time to make a decision that you can't keep going back down that road." Hence Martis, recently loaned out to Doncaster, was given a Premier League bow and helped Albion keep just a fourth clean sheet of the season. The newcomer's task was eased. Without Carlton Cole and Dean Ashton, West Ham lacked a physical force to complement their neat passers. Although the club record signing Savio Nsereko made his first start, the second-half debut of 19-year-old Junior Stanislaus may be as significant. After agreeing to pay Sheffield United a rumoured £20 million (Dh103m) to belatedly settle the Carlos Tevez affair and with legal action threatened by the Blades' former manager Neil Warnock, such homegrown players can facilitate the club's continued existence in the Premier League. Such controversy as the stalemate provided came when Albion's Jonas Olsson elbowed Robert Green, an incident unpunished by referee Mark Halsey. "He's caught me with a good one," the goalkeeper said. "Luckily it was on a sturdy part of my face rather than an eye socket or my nose. That could have done me some proper damage but I'll live to fight another day." So, as a top-flight team, do Albion. But, at this rate, not many more.