STEVE Clarke insisted the penalty decision that led to the opener in today’s 2-0 defeat at Arsenal changed the shape of the game.
Referee Mike Jones pointed to the spot in the 26th minute when Santi Cazorla went down in the box after Steven Reid’s challenge.
There appeared to be no contact made by the Baggies defender, which TV replays confirmed, before Mikel Arteta stepped up to convert.
The former Everton midfielder also scored the Gunners’ second of the game from a penalty on 64 after Chris Brunt brought down Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
But Clarke was quick to question why a foul by the England winger in the immediate build-up went unpunished by Chester official Jones.
“There was zero contact on the first penalty decision,” said the Hawthorns boss.
“I’m not sure what the referee saw.
“I think there is a culture in the game now that if there is contact players will go down easier than they did a number of years ago - and they go down to draw the referee's attention to the fact there was a slight contact.
“In that one there was no contact.
“Cazorla might have felt there was contact coming – but Steven pulled out.
“There was no contact and from where the referee was he should be able to see.
“It was a bad decision for us and it changed the shape of the afternoon.
“It could have been a nervous afternoon for Arsenal.
“At 0-0 they hadn’t created too much.
“I was comfortable with the way the team was defending and playing at that time.
“We had to do more with the ball, we hadn’t done enough with the ball up until then.
“We knew the longer the game went, the more pressure would come on Arsenal and then we would have a chance to play.
“I think that decision changed it.”
Clarke added: “Goran Popov was good when he came on.
“He was involved in a key incident in the game.
“The second penalty was a clear penalty that I have no complaints about because Chris Brunt fouled Oxlade-Chamberlain in the box.
“But before that Popov was fouled in the lead up to it and for some reason the referee, who had given soft free-kicks all afternoon, decided not to give that one.
“It was another poor decision for us.”
The Albion chief was also miffed his own side were not awarded a spot-kick when Per Mertesacker handled the ball from Chris Brunt’s free-kick four minutes before the break.
“You can add the Mertesacker handball to the poor decisions in the first half,” he said.
“It was a ball from deep, a normal free-kick into the box, and for some reason the officials decided it was a free-kick.
“They gave it for a foul on somebody and, having watched it back, for the life of me I can’t see a foul on anyone.”