West Brom kept a clean sheet for the first time under Sam Allardyce’s stewardship on Saturday afternoon and the veteran manager believes his side need at least eight more to retain their Premier League place.
The Baggies played for an hour with 10 men against Burnley at a blustery Turf Moor although it was the visitors who were disappointed with a goalless draw after Mbaye Diagne and Matheus Pereira spurned gilt-edged opportunities.
Allardyce rued the absence of a cutting edge from his attackers as the point earned does little for their survival prospects, but he suggested it is at the other end of the field that will determine whether they avoid the drop.
Allardyce, who is attempting to maintain a remarkable record of never being relegated in the top-flight, said: “I’m definitely optimistic that we’ll go forward and get more positive results than negative results.
“What we have to do is keep applying ourselves as well as we have done and be consistent in our performances and get a little bit better each game. Certainly we have to get more clinical in front of goal, that’s the ultimate.
“The defensive side is getting better and better, we need to keep that nice and tight. If we get eight or nine clean sheets from the next 13 games, we’ll have a chance.”
Allardyce, who succeeded Slaven Bilic two months ago, built a reputation for instilling defensive stability and organisation at his former clubs, but West Brom have by far the worst defensive record in the league this season.
While the 55 goals they have shipped cannot be solely attributed to Allardyce, the former England boss had to wait until his 13th match for his backline to not concede.
Allardyce put this down to a hectic schedule allowing for little preparation in-between games as well as the procedures in place around practice because of Covid-19.
He said: “We’ve had no time on the training ground because of the games and the protocols, which means we only spend as little time as possible on the training ground with as little interaction as we can.
“It’s about minimal time on the training ground and, of course, minimal time because of the game load.”
A draw at Burnley followed last weekend’s 1-1 stalemate against Manchester United so Allardyce, whose side have won just twice all season, knows the significance of the visit of Brighton to the Hawthorns next Saturday.
He added: “The sad thing is since I’ve been here we’ve only won one when we should have won at least four and the last two. Next week becomes an even bigger task to try to go out and win because it’s a need to win now basis.”
While Burnley avoided defeat, they were unable to take advantage of Semi Ajayi’s first-half red card and now sit just six points above the bottom three after Fulham’s win over Sheffield United on Saturday night.
Injuries at the club are mounting up and Jay Rodriguez became the latest worry after going off midway through the second half with a calf complaint while fellow striker Ashley Barnes’ thigh problem meant he missed out altogether.
With Chris Wood already sidelined, Joel Mumbongo was the only substitute striker available to Sean Dyche, who introduced the 22-year-old Swede off the bench for the ailing Rodriguez with less than 10 minutes to go.
However, the Clarets boss was reluctant to send Mumbongo on any earlier in a bid to shake things up against their 10-man opponents because of his inexperience.
Dyche said: “It’s fair to say we are stretched and Joel Mumbongo, don’t get me wrong, is doing great and has been part of the group. But he’s a young kid and it’s his first look at football at this level.
“These players have played hardly any football and we’re throwing them into Premier League football matches. Part of their development is not to be thrown in too early.”