• Albion 3 - 0 Rotherham United, 16.08.2016

    33 years into my Albion supporting experience, and I’m encountering a whole new sensation. This is a little bit different, isn’t it? Where’s the tension and the gut-wrenching stress? What happened to the unshakeable feeling that even when things are good, some form of calamity is lurking round the corner?

    Last night we enjoyed one of the most comfortable league wins we have seen in an age - a thoroughly professional Albion performance, brushing aside a Rotherham side intent on disproving the ‘no easy games’ cliché. All credit to the 247 travelling Millers – a mighty long way on a Tuesday night, in support of your club, when your only creative force is Danny Ward.

    In contrast, Chris Hughton’s attacking cup runneth over. Options aplenty in the midfield and forward areas – and the chance was taken here to make a couple of changes. The centre of midfield saw a complete rotation – Dale Stephens and Oliver Norwood replacing Steve Sidwell and Beram Kayal. A rest too, for Jiri Skalak – a chance for Jamie Murphy instead. The final change in goal – after a wait of a year, a first league appearance for Niki Maenpaa, with David Stockdale nursing a bruised shin.
    Some murmurs of disquiet about King Beram being rested. We all know what happened last year, whenever he sat one out. Hughton gets paid to make the calls though, and we needn’t have worried. Kayal will no doubt be back, fresh and hungry, for sterner tests ahead. The two that started, combined for the first chance of the night – Norwood’s low corner, teeing up Stephens to fire wastefully over.

    One half chance for the visitors too, in an uneventful first quarter of the game – Stephen Kelly blazing narrowly over, when the ball broke to him in the box. A scare of another kind for the Albion faithful – Anthony Knockaert down writhing about, seemingly caught from behind. Much as I love this guy though, I’ve learned to shelve any dismay until it is clear whether he’s in serious pain or just being a bit, well, French.

    Then suddenly, from the gentlest of starts, in the blink of an eye, the Albion shifted up a gear, and within five minutes the contest was over. As is so often the case, the mercurial Knockaert the spark – a nice touch from Gaeten Bong helped a loose ball on to the number 11, who cushioned with his chest, before firing low, on the half turn, from the edge of the box. The ball arrowed into the far corner – via Lee Camp’s fingertips.

    Here’s a tweet of him celebrating his goal, from a Japanese seagulls account, included in this report purely because it tickles me that such a thing exists…