Club News

Clarke left shell-shocked

Boss at a loss to explain how his side snatched defeat from jaws of victory

STEVE Clarke was left shell-shocked as his seventh-placed side snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by throwing away a two-goal lead in the last nine minutes to lose 3-2 at struggling Reading.

The Baggies boss admitted he was at a loss to explain how his team shipped three goals at the death in a game they dominated from the start.

Romelu Lukaku’s 19th-minute and 69th-minute strikes, to move within one goal of double figures for the season, should have been enough to secure all three points for the visitors.

But the Baggies allowed Jimmy Kebe to pull a goal back in the 81st minute before substitute Adam Le Fondre equalised from the spot on 88 and Pavel Pogrebnyak completed the ultimate smash-and-grab raid with an 89th-minute winner.

Clarke refused to put the defeat down to complacency but insisted he will be analysing the defensive collapse in depth.

“At the moment, I’m disappointed more than angry,” he said.

“I’m disappointed for my players because for 81 minutes their performance was really good and we should be talking about how good their performance was.

“Unfortunately, the game lasts a little bit longer than 81 minutes!

“At the moment, we’re just analysing and surveying the wreckage of what was a really good performance that turned into a bit of a nightmare for us.

“We never think the points are in the bag in the Premier League.

“I thought we had a good control of the game though and I certainly couldn’t see the finish to the game that actually happened.

“I’m not sure what went wrong – I can’t be any more honest than that.

“We had good control of the game. We could have had three, four or five and been out of sight.

“We lost a goal on 81 minutes and for some reason we lost our shape, our composure and conceded the two late goals that cost us the game.

“It’s something we’ll have to sit down and analyse a little bit more in depth at the training ground tomorrow.”

The Madejski Stadium reverse followed hot on the heels of QPR’s last-gasp leveller in last weekend’s 1-1 FA Cup third-round draw.

And Clarke says the concession of late goals is something he will be looking to nip in the bud.

“Until today I’d have said I wasn’t worried about that,” he added.

“When you have such good control of the game and you contrive to pull a defeat from what should be a victory, then it’s something we have to look at.

“Sometimes football is a strange game - and today is one of those days.”

Having seen replays of Jonas Olsson’s challenge on Kebe that led to the penalty for the Royals’ equaliser, Clarke was not 100 per cent convinced it should have been a spot-kick.

But he did admit the challenge by the Sweden international was 'clumsy'.

“I’ve watched it three or four times,” he said.

“Yes, it’s clumsy but I can’t look at it hand on heart and say that’s definitely a penalty.

“So, if I’ve got a little doubt after watching it three or four times...?

“The referee chose to give it and we have to live with that decision.

“But I’m not one to criticise referees.”