Aston Villa boss Dean Smith insisted West Brom’s stoppage-time equaliser should have been chalked off after Jay Rodriguez bundled in with his hand during Friday night’s 2-2 draw at the Hawthorns.
Anwar El Ghazi’s brace looked set to see the visitors join their rivals in the Sky Bet Championship play-off places, but Rodriguez forced the ball home and referee Darren England decided it was with his head, rather than hand, after a lengthy consultation with his assistant.
Rodriguez admitted to Sky Sports after the game that the ball had gone in off his hand.
Dwight Gayle had cancelled out El Ghazi’s opener with his 10th goal of the season for the home side during a pulsating first half.
Smith’s side dominated after the break and might have been out of sight had 11-goal striker Tammy Abraham taken one of several chances that fell to him.
Smith said: “Unfortunately the people who matter didn’t see it and we end up sitting here with one point when we should have three and be in the top six.
“I thought we’d done enough to win the game.
“I think you could see it from the manner when it went into the net that he’d admitted it. I can’t do too much about it – I don’t think the linesman will be sleeping too well tonight.
“I cant do nothing about it. I can only mark them appropriately on my referee report. Everybody saw it.
“People will say you can kill it off, we’ve missed chances, but all you can do is control your performance.”
A high-octane start was short of chances until El Ghazi gave Villa a 12th-minute lead.
Yannick Bolasie’s cross was only half-cleared and nobody closed down Dutch winger El Ghazi, whose 20-yard effort deflected off Jake Livermore and Ahmed Hegazi to wrongfoot Sam Johnstone.
Johnstone got down well to keep out a low effort from Abraham before Gayle levelled in the 28th minute after excellent work by Harvey Barnes.
The winger was found on halfway by a long ball and – having got the wrong side of Alan Hutton – produced a telling cross which the Newcastle loanee dispatched with a sliding finish.
Abraham should have restored Villa’s lead when he was played in by Jack Grealish, but the England forward snatched at his effort, before John McGinn thundered a 30-yard effort against the post.
If there was a touch of fortune about El Ghazi’s opener, there was no luck required with his second after 59 minutes – the Lille loanee hammering a 20-yard effort into the top corner with the outside of his right foot.
El Ghazi could have completed his hat-trick less than 60 seconds later, but dragged a low effort wide of the far post.
Bolasie headed wide after more trickery from El Ghazi down the right as Villa turned the screw, and Abraham missed a sitter as he tripped over the ball when Bolasie’s low cross found him unmarked six yards out.
The on-loan Chelsea striker then headed over following a one-two with El Ghazi, before Rodriguez punished Villa’s profligacy.
Darren Moore praised his side for keeping going but refused to be drawn on whether the equaliser should have stood.
“I was really pleased with the team, delighted with the guys for the way they kept going,” said Moore.
“I spoke to Jay at then end – he said he threw himself at it and didn’t know too much about it, it hit his arm and ended up going in the net.
“I didn’t think we deserved to lose the game with the commitment we put into the game.”