Monday, October 3, 2022

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Steve Bruce admits his job is under pressure with West Brom just three points above the drop zone

Steve Bruce admitted his job is in jeopardy after Sam Byram’s lucky leveler gave Norwich an undeserved point.

Dara O’Shea’s early header had put Albion on course for just their second championship win of the season.

But luck ran out on Bruce and his players in the 68th minute when Teemu Pukki’s shot went wide of the unwitting Byram – and Albion’s appeals for handball failed to convince officials.

Results elsewhere left Albion firmly in the relegation equation ahead of an international break when underperforming sides often part ways with their managers.

Bruce was adamant, however referee Thomas Bramall and his officials had erred in Norwich’s goal and misconstrued an earlier penalty claim.

“I know it’s a tough job but big decisions have cost us – and if I don’t win games my head gets chopped off,” Bruce said.

“The big decisions they have to make and we had two against us – their goal and the penalty – and that’s really honest.”

Albion caught Norwich napping in the eighth minute after Marcelino Nunez fouled John Swift on the left of the Norwich box.

Swift took the free-kick himself – and the home defense just stood there and watched as O’Shea galloped unchallenged at the back post to plant a five-yard header down past keeper Tim Krul.

Luck favored Norwich a few minutes later when Kenny McLean’s erratic pass allowed Albion to send Swift into the box but referee Bramall didn’t point to the spot as Grant Hanley appeared to ambush him.

“It was an absolute stone wall penalty, it doesn’t matter that the ball went wide,” Bruce insisted. “Swifty got a touch, the boy Hanley burst into him – it’s a penalty.”

Norwich manager Dean Smith argued that, having allowed a similar attack on a Norwich player under construction to go unpunished, Bramall had to allow play to continue.

“It’s the consistency of the referee, done so well,” he said.

It took the home side ages to come up with an answer but Nunez hit a first try from a half-cleared corner just inches wide to rouse Carrow Road supporters.

The Chilean midfielder had another try a few minutes later in similar circumstances but this time cleared the bar easily.

Norwich fans were less than enthusiastic about Albion’s reluctance to take free-kicks or throw-ins quickly and disapproval of Bramall for not enforcing an acceleration process grew stronger as the second half progressed.

Josh Sargent had been kept quiet at the other end, as had Pukki, but the pair combined into a shot from the former that was deflected off a defender.

Fortune exited Albion from the corner when Byram’s lucky finish – his first for Norwich – was left standing despite claims the defender used an arm before the ball crossed the line.

Onel Hernandez put the ball back to Pukki for a shot from the edge of the box that wrong-footed David Button, massively distracting his team-mate, and although referee Bramall spoke at length with assistant referee Matthew Wilkes about Albion’s handball claims, it was allowed to stand.

With no VAR able to help or hinder, it remained a major talking point, but Smith again supported officials. “I think if it’s a t-shirt – if it hits the top of the arm – then it’s fine, so it looks like a good goal.”

The result ended a six-game winning streak for the Canaries in the league.

Although the draw leaves Bruce’s Baggies in an uncertain position – for both the team and the manager.

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