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21:49 18th January 2010

ALBION earned a precious point at league leaders Newcastle - but it could have been much more as they were twice pegged back.

Jonas Olsson fired the visitors into the lead with his fourth goal of the season in the 14th minute but the lead lasted only 11 minutes as Danny Guthrie curled home an unstoppable free-kick to ensure the scores were level at the break.

The recalled Roman Bednar gave the Baggies a dream start to the second half as he scored his second in as many games to regain the lead within 35 seconds of the restart.

This time, Albion's advantage lasted less than eight minutes as Peter Lovenkrands restored parity with a 54th-minute header.

But the Baggies finished the St James' Park encounter strongly and would have been heading back down the A1 with all three points had substitute Ishmael Miller hit the net instead of the post when presented with a tap-in seven minutes from time.

However, Roberto Di Matteo would have taken great heart from the manner in which Albion bounced back from their disappointing defeat against Forest ten days ago with a slick - not to mention gutsy - display.

Di Matteo adopted a 4-5-1 formation and made four changes as Robert Koren, Youssouf Mulumbu, Marek Cech and Bednar came in.

The men to make way were full-backs Gianni Zuiverloon and Joe Mattock and strikers Luke Moore and Simon Cox, who all dropped to the bench.

The Baggies started brightly in a game which was to more than live up to its pre-match billing.

But it was their goal which was first to come under serious threat when Kevin Nolan slotted in Shola Ameobi and his cross-cum-shot just evaded the out-stretched boot of Lovenkrands.

Three minutes later, Albion looked equally dangerous when the impressive Gonzalo Jara slipped Koren in.

The Slovenia international raced to the right by-line before cutting the ball back for Graham Dorrans, who lifted his eight-yard shot over the last-gasp lunge of Steven Taylor - but also over the bar.

The visitors deservedly took the lead in the 14th minute when Dorrans ran out to the left wing to recover Chris Brunt's cleared corner from the opposite flank.

Faced with Danny Simpson, the Scot managed to engineer enough room to whip in a cross and Olsson nipped in front of Ameobi to tuck a deft left-footed volley into the far corner.

Guthrie slid the ball inside to Jose Enrique in the 23rd minute and the Spaniard unleashed a 15-yard drive that was blocked by Brunt.

Guthrie was in the action again two minutes later and this time it proved telling when he lifted a 25-yard free-kick over the Baggies' wall and just inside the left-hand post to level the scores, with Scott Carson rooted to the spot.

But Albion regrouped and, in this end-to-end encounter, Mulumbu won a free-kick 25-yards out in the 35th minute.

Brunt stepped up to curl a shot inches past the left-hand post, with Steve Harper beaten.

Four minutes before the break, Dorrans teed up Brunt and the Northern Ireland ace's right-foot strike was flicked goalwards by Bednar - but without the power to beat Toon No.1 Harper.

A swift Newcastle counter-attack then saw Lovenkrands pick out Ameobi in the middle with a right-wing cross but his strike partner headed into the ground and straight at Carson.

In the second minute of stoppage time, Albion themselves broke quickly when Dorrans dispossessed Enrique on the halfway line.

The former Livingston star sprang Jerome Thomas in on goal and the ex-Charlton winger checked and managed to get a right-foot shot away that deflected off Simpson and almost wrong-footed Harper, who recovered to push the ball around his right-hand post for a corner.

And there was still time before the break for new signing Gabriel Tamas to show his attacking prowess as he let fly with a ferocious 35-yard drive which Harper was forced to tip over.

The Baggies regained the lead within 35 seconds of the restart when Dorrans broke from Cech's ball down the left and crossed for Bednar, whose close-range header was tipped onto the bar by Harper before the Czech striker headed home the rebound.

Albion were now oozing confidence and, when Koren cleverly rolled a free-kick to Brunt in the 52nd minute, the former Sheffield Wednesday midfielder flashed a low drive a whisker past the right-hand post.

But Albion's lead lasted less than eight minutes as the unmarked Lovenkrands' header from Enrique's left-wing cross crept inside the near-post, despite the best efforts of Carson to keep it out.

Back came Albion and Cech's diagonal ball almost caught out United in the 62nd minute as Bednar just failed to make contact on the stretch, with only Harper to beat.

Di Matteo was the first to make a change two minutes later, as Bednar made way for Ishmael Miller.

The action was relentless and Enrique bustled his way past Jara in the 67th minute and cut the ball back for Nolan, whose shot was saved by Carson low to his left.

Two minutes later, Simpson's right-wing cross was headed back across goal and Olsson almost turned the ball into his own net, but Carson was on hand to smother on his goalline.

Albion then carved out two chances which really should have produced a winner.

Dorrans curled a dangerous shot just past the far post in the 81st minute and, from the resulting short corner, Brunt delivered a back-post cross which Olsson headed just over when he should at least have hit the target.

Worse was to follow two minutes later when Thomas turned Simpson inside out before sweeping the ball into the six-yard box to present sub Miller with the simplest of tap-ins - but he contrived to hit the right-hand post.

Koren's follow-up strike from the rebound was bravely blocked by Simpson.

The final action of a pulsating clash saw Toon sub Ryan Taylor almost pinch an undeserved victory at the death, but Carson did well to get a finger-tip to his free-kick and turn it past the far post.

NEWCASTLE (4-4-2): Harper; Simpson (R Taylor 86), S Taylor, Coloccini, Enrique; Guthrie, Smith, Nolan, Gutierrez; Lovenkrands, Ameobi (Carroll 78). Subs not used: Krul (gk), Pancrate, Butt, Kadar, Ranger.

ALBION (4-5-1): Carson; Jara, Tamas, Olsson, Cech; Brunt, Koren, Mulumbu, Dorrans, Thomas; Bednar (Miller 64). Subs not used: Kiely (gk), Moore, Cox, Teixeira, Zuiverloon, Mattock.

GOALS: UNITED - Guthrie (25), Lovenkrands (54). ALBION - Olsson (14), Bednar (46).

BOOKINGS: UNITED - Ameobi (foul 74), Nolan (foul 90+4). ALBION - Tamas (foul 19), Bednar (foul 54), Olsson (foul 60), Jara (foul 62), Dorrans (foul 75).

REFEREE: P Taylor (Hertfordshire).


ALBION STARMAN: Graham Dorrans.

    Data provided by Press Association


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