Monday, January 25, 2010

Bounced out of Cup

West Bromwich Albion 4 - 2 Newcastle Utd

It may be that going out of the Cup proves to be a blessing in disguise. However, the manner of our defeat to fellow promotion chasers West Brom still rankles with the officials proving decisive in a relatively tight encounter.

Whilst Newcastle were forced to make changes as a result of injuries sustained during last Monday's league encounter, the Baggies kept the same starting XI and it was Jonas Olsson who again opened the scoring in similar fashion to his league goal. This time it was Bigger Lad who was left on his heels as the big defender powered his header goalwards. The ball was cleared on the line by Jose Enrique, but the referee's assistant decided the ball had crossed the line, and despite some vigorous finger waving from Tim Krul, the goal stood.

With ITV only having one camera, it's proved a tricky decision to review, and having managed to pause the clip at the vital second, it looks to me as though Enrique is stood behind the line when he kicks the ball (of course, I can't be certain of the ball's position) - so it may be that the officials got that one right.

West Brom's second came despite some aggressive forward play by Roman Bednar (or persistent pulling and fouling) of Tamas Kadar which proved unsuccessful in knocking our young defender out of the way; however it did prompt the Hungarian to foul his man in the box and concede a penalty. Again, this is a decision which could certainly have gone another way on a different day - but ignoring the earlier fouls on Kadar, he does impede Bednar. For the home team, midfielder Graham Dorrans duly slammed home the penalty.

Two down at half time and Chris Hughton decided he'd seen enough of the ineffectual Pancrate, and he threw on Big Lad to support Bigger Lad up front. That decision looked to be paying dividends when Gutierrez burst down the left and whipped a decent ball back in for Bigger Lad to fire home.

Then came the pivotal moment of the match as Big Lad was clearly flattened by two defenders and left prone on the turf inside the area. With Scott Carson and Roberto Di Matteo both encouraging the home side to put the ball out (presumably relieved that the referee had ignored the clear penalty) their team kept the ball in play and drew a foul from Ryan Taylor inside our box which saw the home team awarded a second penalty, and saw Taylor dismissed after a ridiculously long wait. Dorrans again fired home from the spot.

With minutes to go, an interception by Jose Enrique fell kindly for Jerome Thomas to put the tie beyond doubt, and a late consolation goal by Bigger Lad was never going to get us back into the match.

Hopefully the sense of injustice arising from the denial of the clear penalty and generally one-sided officiating on display will galvanise the team to get our promotion chase back on track against Crystal Palace on Wednesday, and West Brom will now embark on a long, exhausting Cup run which diverts their attention from the league.

What remains clear is that the squad still needs strengthening, and with time running out Chris Hughton needs to convince Jabba to put his hand in his pockets quickly if our season isn't to start unravelling.

Other reports: BBC, Guardian

ITV highlights are here


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