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Football: Horrified Roberts works on change of luck.

Jason Roberts was already contemplating a celebration when his shot struck the inside of the post and denied West Bromwich Albion what would have been a 2-1 lead against Arsenal at The Hawthorns yesterday.

Instead, a late goal by Thierry Henry gave Arsenal victory and left the Albion striker reflecting on more perceived bad luck.

Roberts turned Martin Keown inside the penalty area and beat David Seaman with a low shot in the 77th minute. However, with the scoreline at 1-1, the Albion striker was horrified to see his effort bounce back into play.

'I thought my shot was in,' Roberts said. 'It was just my - and our - luck that it should hit the inside of the post, come out and then bounce two yards away from Andy Johnson who was following up.'

Roberts scored for Albion in their 5-2 defeat against Arsenal at Highbury in August but has registered only two goals since then. He is among the most marked men in the Premiership but remains unhappy with his form in recent weeks.

He said: 'I have been a bit disappointed with my form over the past couple of months but I have just tried to stay positive. I know I have not scored for a while but I have tried not to think about it too much.

'I believe in my own ability and I thought I played OK against Arsenal. Some people might not have faith in me but I have. It is easy when things are going well.'

Roberts believes that there is no shame in losing to the Premiership titleholders. A goal in the third minute by Daniele Dichio had given Albion the lead before Francis Jeffers equalised at the beginning of the second half. However, Albion did enough to earn a draw.

'We played a good game against a quality side,' Roberts said. 'Arsenal are a brilliant team. Although we do not want to take anything away from them, we're absolutely gutted not to have taken something from that game.

'Thierry Henry was the last person we wanted the ball to bounce to in a one-on-one for their second goal.

'We were only a whisker away from earning a draw against the champions but we need to stop learning lessons and start picking up points.

'We will have to fight and scrap away to Charlton Athletic on Saturday and make sure we get something in what will be another really hard game.'

Gary Megson, the Albion manager, was able to select from only 14 fit players and his squad literally picked itself.

He said: 'We will not be able to rest any people over this busy period and we just have to hope that we do not get any more injuries.

'That is a real problem especially when we are on the poor form that we are on at the moment.

'It is not an issue of picking up our players. We know we have got to play cup-tie football every time we play from now on.

'We have been found wanting at times and I am sure some of the players are disappointed. As a team and a club we are not getting results but it is not entirely down to the players doing badly.

'It is down to the simple fact that we have come up into a much higher standard of football. This is the highest level.'

Derek McInnes, the Albion captain, missed the game after suffering a minor dislocation of a shoulder during a training session. It is not as bad as a similar injury suffered by Jordo, his team-mate, and will keep him out for only two weeks.

McInnes said: 'We were doing a crossesand-finishing exercise and I landed on my shoulder after going for a diving header.

'I felt the shoulder slip out but, fortunately for me, it was not totally dislocated like Jordo's so I should be out for only two-three weeks. The doctor told me this injury is very common with rugby players.'
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Dec 27, 2002
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