Belfast Telegraph

Alan Irvine's job on a knife edge as Pearson gets slice of luck

By Jon Culley

Alan Irvine's position as West Bromwich Albion head coach appeared to be in the balance last night after his side's slide towards the Premier League relegation zone continued with a seventh defeat in nine matches - a 2-0 loss to Stoke City.

The 56-year-old Scot admitted before the trip to Stoke that he feared for his job and he now waits to see if chairman Jeremy Peace is prepared to give him one more chance with the trip to West Ham on New Year's Day.

The second Stoke goal yesterday came through a substantial slice of luck - Mame Biram Diouf scored both - but Albion fans made no allowance for that as they made their feelings clear at the final whistle.

Booing and abuse accompanied Irvine as he walked past the visiting supporters towards the tunnel, although he showed no reaction and handled difficult questions with characteristic dignity as he was asked about his position.

"The reaction of the crowd is difficult to take but I can understand their frustrations," he said. "I am frustrated, as are the players. But it's not really about me. I'm more concerned about the players because it was a difficult result for them to take. Against Manchester City on Boxing Day there were individual errors but here they made no such mistakes.

"I hope I'm still in the job for the New Year but I'm not in control of that so I don't know.

"I still feel I am capable of turning things round and I think the players believe that too. I want to do this job and see things through but it is for other people to make those decisions."

Meanwhile, Leicester City have not been enjoying too much good fortune of late, but luck turned their way in spectacular style in beating Hull City 1-0 yesterday.

Having gone ahead with a first-half goal from Riyad Mahrez, Nigel Pearson's side spent almost the entire second half defending but they saw Hull twice hit the post, have one shot cleared extraordinarily off the line and squander numerous other opportunities.

And what a relief, acknowledged Pearson. Leicester had taken just two points from their previous 13 games, and lost their last seven on the road, making this match as important as any since winning promotion.

"I know how Hull must be feeling, they'll win more matches than they lose if they put teams under that sort of pressure, but you need a bit of luck and we've certainly not had that on this long run of ours," said Pearson.

"I'd be the first to admit we didn't play as well as we can, but let's not underplay the art of defending, and our desire to keep the ball. Defeat would have meant we were in danger of losing touch."

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