Jones leveller secures Baggies point
BILLY Jones’ first-ever Albion goal bagged Steve Clarke’s side a hard-earned point in a real game of two halves.
The Baggies never got going in the first half and fell behind to Yoan Gouffran’s eighth-minute header.
However, they should have been handed a spot-kick lifeline in stoppage time when referee Mike Jones blew up for a foul by James Perch on Jones inside the United box – but awarded the hosts a free-kick OUTSIDE the penalty area.
Albion were a transformed side after the break and after a long spell of pressure, Jones tucked home a well-worked 64th-minute leveller, breaking his Baggies duck on his 47th appearance for the club.
Goran Popov, Romelu Lukaku and Marc-Antoine Fortune all earned recalls as former Newcastle assistant manager Clarke made three changes to his Albion team.
The men to make way were benched trio Liam Ridgewell, Shane Long and Jerome Thomas while Academy product Kemar Roofe was named on the bench for the first time this season.
Alan Pardew also made three changes to the side that was beaten 3-0 in last Sunday’s Tyne-Wear derby, as Rob Elliot, Massadio Haidara and Perch replaced Tim Krul, Sylvain Marveaux and Cheick Tiote.
Eighth entertained 13th at a sun-drenched Hawthorns which rose as one to hold a minute’s applause just before kick-off in memory of long-serving former kitman Dave Matthews, who passed away last weekend.
Albion kicked off towards the Brummie Road End – but it was the away contingent at the opposite end of the ground which had early cause to celebrate.
In the sixth minute, Gareth McAuley had to produce a vital last-ditch tackle to prevent Moussa Sissoko getting on the end of Papiss Cisse’s flick-on and having a clear run at goal.
But it was a momentary reprieve. Two minutes later, Cisse got in behind the Albion defence and whipped a diagonal ball into the box which Gouffran flick-headed over the advancing Ben Foster and into the empty net.
United looked lively and Yohan Cabaye wasn’t too far away with a ferocious 30-yard shot which fizzed just over.
Albion slowly began to get a foothold in the game and pushed the Toon back inside their own half. But even after a sustained spell of pressure in Newcastle territory, the hosts found it hard to carve open United’s well-organised rearguard.
On 22, Graham Dorrans let fly from 25 yards but his ferocious effort was blocked by Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa.
Newcastle finally got out of their half again on 24 – and almost doubled their lead. From a hanging free-kick, Gouffran nudged the ball into Steven Taylor’s path and the centre-half was denied at point-blank range by Foster.
Just a minute later, Foster was called into action again when he pushed away Cabaye’s awkward 20-yard volley in front of his left-hand post.
The next goalmouth action came on 32 when Jonas Olsson rose highest at the back post to meet a Chris Brunt corner, but failed to keep his header on target.
United immediately surged upfield and Cisse lashed an impressive long-range volley goalwards – but his effort flew straight at Foster.
Albion had a huge let off on 34 when Olsson misplaced a pass across his own box to Cisse. The United striker chipped the ball over the onrushing Foster and mercifully onto the roof of the net.
In the dying embers of a forgettable half for the Baggies, who simply never got going, Elliot dropped a Dorrans free-kick under pressure from Olsson, but the Toon got the loose ball clear.
But there was real controversy in the final minute of stoppage time. Referee Jones blew up for Perch’s full-blooded challenge on Jones. The offence happened inside the penalty area – but the Chester official awarded Albion a free-kick on the edge of the box.
The home hordes were incensed – and their frustration intensified when Brunt’s short free-kick to Popov came to naught.
Clarke rang a change at half-time as he brought on Long for Claudio Yacob – and the substitution almost paid dividends inside a minute.
Fortune directed an ambitious 25-yard volley straight at Elliot which the United keeper inexplicably spilled and he had to scramble back onto his feet to deny Long at point-blank range.
From Dorrans’ ensuing corner, McAuley rose highest in a crowded penalty area but headed over.
Albion were much-improved and went even closer on 50 when Lukaku planted a six-yard header from Brunt’s corner against the crossbar. In the ensuing six-yard box melee, McAuley stabbed just wide.
The Baggies pummelled the United box with a succession of corners – but the visitors somehow held on.
But Albion finally got the goal their pressure had warranted on 64. Fortune fed Morrison whose prod into the box was controlled by Lukaku and Jones took the ball off the striker’s feet to tuck home his first-ever Albion goal from 12 yards.
Albion were now gunning for a second goal and Elliot had to produce a fine one-handed save to keep out the unmarked Morrison’s 12-yard header from Popov’s pinpoint left-wing centre.
The Baggies went close again when McAuley saw a downward back-post header from Brunt’s corner flash just wide of the near post.
If there was one team going to win this, the smart money was on Albion, but try as they might, they could not fashion a clinching goal.
ALBION (4-4-2): Foster; Jones, McAuley, Olsson, Popov; Dorrans, Yacob (Long HT), Morrison, Brunt; Fortune (Rosenberg 90), Lukaku (Thomas 90). Subs not used: Myhill (gk), Roofe, Reid, Ridgewell.
NEWCASTLE (4-2-3-1): Elliot; Debuchy, S Taylor, Yanga-Mbiwa, Haidara (Ben Arfa 77); Perch, Cabaye (Gosling 90+2); Gouffran (Shola Ameobi 69), Sissoko, Gutierrez; Cisse. Subs not used: Harper (gk), Williamson, Anita, Campbell.
GOALS: ALBION – Jones (64). NEWCASTLE – Gouffran (8).
BOOKINGS: NEWCASTLE - Cabaye (ungentlemanly conduct 86), Sissoko (kicking ball away 90+1).
REFEREE: M Jones (Chester).
ALBION STARMAN: Billy Jones.