Referee's error stalls West Brom

West Bromwich Albion 1 Rotherham United 1
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The Independent Football

Albion moved into the second automatic promotion place behind the First Division champions Manchester City but were adamant they had been robbed of a goal at The Hawthorns yesterday that would have made them hot favourites to join Kevin Keegan's side in the Premiership next season.

Rotherham, battling to stay clear of trouble at the other end of the table, argued with conviction that they deserved some reward from a match in which the home side were too tense to impose themselves. The visitors claimed a point through Darren Byfield's debut goal after the veteran Bob Taylor had given Albion a half-time lead.

But Albion would – and should – have taken all three points had a goal been awarded nine minutes from time when an overhead flick by Jordão appeared to cross the line, only for Chris Sedgwick's clearance to be ruled to have kept the ball in play.

Television replays showed the ball had gone at least a foot over the line after Jordão had diverted Darren Moore's header past the goalkeeper Mike Pollitt following Neil Clement's corner. But neither the referee, Mike Pike, nor his assistant saw enough to award a goal.

Had the goal stood and Albion won they would have held a three-point advantage over Wolverhampton Wanderers, who now slip to third place, with just two games remaining.

"I've watched it on the television and there is no doubt it was a momentous mistake by the assistant referee," said Gary Megson, the Albion manager. "It was closer to the back of the net than the goalline when their lad kicked it out. But it wasn't given and there is nothing we can do about it."

But Megson was honest enough to concede that his players had "made some mistakes as well". A nervy first-half performance was redeemed when Taylor, who had played on despite suffering a suspected broken hand in an early fall, cut in from the left to drill a fine angled shot past Pollitt.

But Rotherham kept their discipline and equalised through Byfield, who stabbed in a loose ball as Albion's defence dithered, distracted in part by Rotherham's appeal that John Mullin had been fouled and in part by an injury suffered moments earlier by the defender Phil Gilchrist, who was subsequently substituted with a damaged shoulder.

Ronnie Moore, the Rotherham manager, said: "I'm sure Gary Megson is gutted as I would be in his position because they were clearly denied a legitimate goal but we deserved something from the game."

West Bromwich Albion (3-5-2): Hoult; Varga, Moore, Gilchrist (Sigurdsson, 52); Balis, Jordão, McInnes, Johnson (Dobie, 58), Clement; Taylor (Chambers, 72), Dichio. Substitutes not used: Petterson (gk), Fox.

Rotherham United (3-5-2): Pollitt; Scott, McIntosh, Branston; Sedgwick, Daws, Mullin, Talbot, Hurst; Byfield, Lee. Substitutes not used: Sessons (gk), Robins, Beech, Barker, Monkhouse.

Referee: M Pike (Barrow in Furness).