And Baggies boss praises team but is left ruing missed chances
STEVE Clarke insisted his team were denied a ‘stonewall’ penalty - and the chance to claim all three points - in today’s hard-fought goalless draw at Stoke.
The Baggies could have taken the initiative within the first 25 minutes of the Britannia Stadium clash – but Potters goalkeeper Asmir Begovic saved from both Stephane Sessgnon and Morgan Amalfitano.
Youssouf Mulumbu was then rightly up in arms on 57 when Charlie Adam clearly chopped him down in the box – but World Cup final referee Howard Webb and his assistants were unmoved to the bemusement of the Albion boss.
“I think the word for it is stonewall,” said Clarke.
“How the officials have missed it is beyond belief!
“But sometimes you get decisions and sometimes you don’t.
“Today it’s a decision that didn’t come our way.
“If Youssouf had wanted to con the referee he would have gone down on the first contact.
“But he managed to wriggle free of that.
“It’s clear – whatever angle you look at it - it’s a penalty.
“I don’t think Charlie meant to do it but he ran down the back of his foot and took his boot off – it was a clear penalty.”
And asked if he spoke to Webb about the incident after the game, Clarke added: “I don’t speak to the referees.
“They have a tough job.
“I’ll speak to the referee’s assessor, who’s here, and we’ll have a good conversation.
“I’ll give him my opinion and those thoughts will get fed back into the referees.
“Hopefully they’ll keep doing what they’re doing, working honestly to try and improve from week to week.
“I don’t criticise referees.
“But I’m talking about one decision here that I find hard to believe they didn’t see between them.”
Aside from the early chances and the spot-kick that should have been, Sessegnon almost took all the spoils with a last-gasp goal-of-the-season contender – only to again be denied by Stoke’s man-of-the-match Begovic.
“We had some terrific chances,” said Clarke.
“Off the top of my head I can remember three clear-cut chances, two for Stephane and one for Morgan.
“You know when you come here it’s going to be a difficult game.
“There are not going to be too many clear-cut chances.
“But we managed to create at least three.
“With better finishing and maybe a lesser goalkeeper – you have to give credit to their goalkeeper who gets man-of-the-match and tells you a little bit about the balance of play and to whom the better chances fell - we should be talking about a good victory.
“Instead of that it’s a hard-earned point.”
He added: “I thought we started well and more brightly than Stoke
“But you have to remember it’s the Premier League and it’s difficult.
“I thought Stoke kept at us and managed to get themselves back into the game.
“Stoke finished the first half better than we did.
“But apart from that 15 minutes at the end of the first half I felt we had a really good control of the game.
“Certainly the second half was our game, with good control.
“I was pleased with the team.
“We’re growing as a team, as a group.
“You can see the strength in depth is good for us, we can make good changes off the bench.
“We tried a number of things to try and chase the game and we certainly finished the stronger.”