West Bromwich Albion 2 Blackburn Rovers 2
West Bromwich Albion failed to hold on to a second-half lead against 10-man Blackburn Rovers at The Hawthorns and in doing so sank further towards relegation.
This was a game the Baggies should have won, fairly easily, especially after Benni McCarthy had been sent off for two questionable bookings after only 34 minutes.
The referee, Michael Jones, officiating in only his third Premier League game, provided the elusive consistency that Premier League managers crave by being consistently terrible from start to finish.
He set the tone on nine minutes by awarding a penalty against Baggies defender Ryan Donk for shirt pulling.
The Dutchman did have a tug at Jason Roberts’ shirt, undoubtedly, but when the whistle went both players’ faces were a picture of bewilderment.
It was the sort of nondescript misdemeanour which goes overlooked many times in each game; in every penalty box from a set-piece and for every jostle for the ball.
McCarthy smashed home the penalty to gift Blackburn the lead.
While Jones proved a pedant in applying the game’s increasingly arcane laws, he was less able to spot the sort of error which separates the adequate officials from the bad.
Rovers skipper Ryan Nelsen can count himself very lucky not to have conceded a penalty on 15 minutes when he palmed the ball to safety from a corner.
The same man handled just after the break, again in the box, only for the Baggies’ appeals to be waved away.
Jones seemingly redressed the balance when he sent off McCarthy.
The South African had been harshly booked for a mistimed tackle on Jonathan Greening before he raised his arm to try and control a clearance.
It was a handball that even the hapless Jones could spot.
Albion will undoubtedly rue their misfortune - as will Blackburn, considering the McCarthy debacle - but they have only themselves to blame for not putting the game beyond doubt.
Paul Robinson made some fine saves in the Rovers goal and a series of last-ditch headers from Nelsen and the giant Christopher Samba were timely, but Albion had many chances to play the killer pass and failed.
When a fine final ball did come, usually via the deft feet of James Morrison, the opportunities were wasted.
He put through Bednar five minutes after the break but the striker’s touch was so bad he couldn’t even muster a shot.
Miller did slightly better when he was gifted his first one-on-one of the day but his chip hit the post.
Nelsen’s charmed life continued when his miscued clearance bounced off the underside of the bar and the inside of the post before bouncing away to safety.
Albion manager Tony Mowbray has spoken before of his team’s naivety to defend at crucial times and Saturday was no different, although the naivety kicked in well before the end.
At 2-1 up, and playing at a tempo Blackburn could not live with, the Baggies eased off, an odd decision considering Albion had looked vulnerable enough without inviting pressure.
They also had a patched up back four. Donk had been replaced at half-time by Carl Hoefkens after a second torrid game in succession.
This will probably be the Dutch under-21 man’s last involvement for a while because on this evidence Adboulaye Meite cannot recover soon enough from his calf injury.
Gianni Zuiverloon, the usually impressive right-back, was also below par and Jonas Olsson’s easily avoidable mistake laid on the late equaliser.
Olsson swung and missed like a Sunday hacker before falling and elbowing - yes, elbowing - the ball into the path of Keith Andrews, whose low shot from 25 yards skimmed past Carson into the bottom corner.
Going forward the Baggies were much more convincing. Roman Bednar and man of the match Ishmael Miller were a handful and for the first time this season both scored in the same game.
Bednar capitalised on some good fortune to side-foot home shortly after the break, while Miller’s goal was more spectacular.
A sharp turn on the edge of the box created some space before a rasping left-foot drive from just outside the box nestled itself in the bottom corner of the Blackburn goal.
Scorers: McCarthy pen 9 (0-1); Bednar 56 (1-1); Miller 62 (1-2); Andrews 89 (2-2).
WEST BROMWICH ALBION (4-4-2): Carson; Robinson, Olsson, Donk (Hoefkens 45), Zuiverloon; Greening, Valero, Morrison (Brunt 65), Koren; Bednar, Miller (Moore 80). Subs not used: Kiely, Cech, Pele.
BLACKBURN ROVERS (4-4-2): Robinson; Olsson, Samba, Nelsen, Grella; Emerton (Khizanishvili 77), Andrews, Simpson (Tugay 45), Grella; McCarthy, Roberts. Subs not used. Villanueva, Fowler, Derbyshire, Brown Bookings: Albion - Zuiverloon, Valero, Donk (fouls)
Referee: Mike Jones (Cheshire).
Bookings: Albion - Zuiverloon, Valero, Donk (fouls); Blackburn: Khizanishvili (foul)
Sending-off: Blackburn - McCarthy (two bookable offences),