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19:32 8th August 2009

ROBERTO Di Matteo was denied a deserved winning start to his Hawthorns reign by sub Newcastle keeper Tim Krul.

Shelton Martis' first-ever goal for the club in the 39th minute was cancelled out by Damien Duff's precise 55th-minute finish.

But although the contest remained even throughout, it was Krul - a half-time replacement for the injured Steve Harper - who was by far the busier of the two keepers.

The Dutch keeper pulled off FOUR stunning saves to deny Robert Koren, twice, Luke Moore and, right at the death, Graham Dorrans.

New head coach Di Matteo handed Chris Wood his full Albion debut, partnering Moore in attack.

The 17-year-old New Zealand striker started ahead of new £1.9million signing Simon Cox, who was on the bench.

Albion were boosted by last season's top scorer, Chris Brunt, passing a late fitness test on a thigh problem.

Toon caretaker boss Chris Hughton fielded a team packed with familiar faces from last season's meetings between the two clubs in the Barclays Premier League.

The Baggies finished two points below United in the drop-zone and both kicked off the new campaign as bookies' favourites to bounce straight back up.

The pre-match build-up was, fittingly, all about former Albion captain and Newcastle manager Sir Bobby Robson.

Both sets of fans raised the roof as the club's tributes culminated in an emotional minute's applause in memory of the former England boss.

The game started at a ferocious pace and Martis, of all people, had a glorious chance to open the scoring after just five minutes.

The centre-half ghosted into the box unmarked but directed an awkward volley well wide from Jonathan Greening's free-kick.

Brunt was the next Baggie to try his luck, seeing a 25-yard grass-cutter easily held by Harper.

The action swung straight to the other end and Andy Carroll teed up a decent shooting chance for Duff, who fired just wide from the edge of the box.

On 18, a Duff cross looped off Marek Cech and fell invitingly for Jonas Gutierrez, who could only plant a weak header straight at Scott Carson.

It was proving an intriguing encounter, with both teams having a go but creating little in the way of clear-cut chances.

The lively Moore was the next to test Harper, who had little trouble holding onto his acute volley from Jonas Olsson's ball over the top.

Harper was a little more concerned by Koren's 25-yard rocket, although he again showed a safe pair of hands to clutch the ball underneath his crossbar.

On 28, Carson was relieved to see Ryan Taylor's bending free-kick from 30 yards arc over his right-hand angle of post and bar.

Newcastle began to get on top as the clock passed the half-hour mark and only a terrific last-ditch block by Olsson prevented Shola Amoebi seriously testing Carson from 15 yards.

Albion earned some respite when Moore collected Brunt's lay-off and blasted two yards wide from fully 30 yards.

And it was the Baggies who drew first blood in the 39th minute.

Under pressure from Olsson, Harper failed to connect properly with an attempted punch from Greening's hanging free-kick.

Moore blasted goalwards and the ball crashed into Olsson's back in the six-yard box before Martis forced it over the line.

Harper needed lengthy treatment in the aftermath after inadvertently being kicked in the head by Amoebi during the goalmouth melee.

Albion now had the bit between their teeth and a short spell of pressure on the stroke of half-time resulted in Gianni Zuiverloon volleying well wide from 20 yards.

The dazed Harper was unable to continue after the break and was replaced during the interval by Krul.

Just three minutes later, Krul had to pull off a wonderful one-handed save to keep out Koren's 20-yard drive after being teed up by Wood.

After Newcastle only half-cleared Brunt's ensuing corner, Greening headed the ball back into the danger-zone and Wood flicked goalwards, only for Ameobi to beat Koren to the loose ball.

Back came United and Alan Smith saw a 15-yard snapshot deflect off Olsson and creep wide.

But the North East outfit were level on 55.

Ameobi and Kevin Nolan combined neatly to tee up Duff and the Ireland winger gave Carson no chance with a precision finish from 15 yards.

Albion should have been back in front two minutes later.

Koren looked certain to score as he exchanged a clever one-two with Wood and charged through, only to fire straight at Krul.

The sub keeper saved one-handed and Wood had an even better chance from the rebound, only to blast over from 15 yards.

The game was now on a knife's edge and a woeful pass form the otherwise impressive Youssouf Mulumbu enabled Smith to set up Carroll inside the box.

The Toon striker made enough room for a shot but failed to trouble Carson from 15 yards.

But it was Albion who almost snatched a 73rd-minute lead.

Moore did well to trick his way past Coloccini in the box after racing onto Brunt's precise diagonal but Krul was at it again, denying the ex-England Under-21 striker with his legs.

Albion had a real let off of their own on 78 when Nolan directed a free six-yard header over from sub Joey Barton's free-kick.

But the Baggies finished strongly and were desperately unlucky not to nick it at the death.

Two minutes from time, Krul could only palm Greening's corner to sub Graham Dorrans but the keeper somehow got back into position to tip the Scotland Under-21 international's fierce volley over.

Albion thought they HAD won it three minutes into stoppage time when Olsson rose above everyone in the box to head Greening's free-kick home - only for his 'goal' joy to be nipped in the bud by an offside flag.

TV replays showed it was the right decision - just!

There was still time for one more Albion scare when Duff was allowed room 20 yards to fire at goal, but Carson was equal to it, diving low to his left to hold onto the ball.

ALBION (4-4-2): Carson; Zuiverloon, Martis, Olsson, Cech; Brunt, Mulumbu, Greening, Koren (Dorrans 73); Moore, Wood (Cox 81). Subs not used: Kiely (gk), Beattie, Teixeira, Reid, Barnett.
NEWCASTLE (4-4-2): Harper (Krul HT); R Taylor, Coloccini, S Taylor, Jose Enrique; Gutierrez, Nolan, Smith, Duff; Carroll (Barton 75), Ameobi (Ranger 90+1). Subs not used: Xisco, Geremi, Lualua, Kadar.
GOALS: ALBION - Martis (39). NEWCASTLE - Duff (55).
BOOKINGS: NEWCASTLE - Coloccini (foul 45+1), Nolan (foul 85).
REFEREE: M Dean (Wirral).
ALBION STARMAN: Youssouf Mulumbu.

    Data provided by Press Association


    For the first 50 years of their existence, England played their home matches all around the country.