First apologies for the lack of a Brentford report. I could (honestly) point to some crazy work pressures as the sole reason, but in truth, you can add me to the long list of those of a blue and white persuasion, who failed to put the effort in. Horrible performance, completely lacking in intensity or desire. Take nothing away from the Bees though, who thoroughly deserved their victory - and especially Scott Hogan, who looked mightily impressive - if not surely, the Sergio Aguero equal that we made him look.
So to last night - a big reaction required, against David Wagner's unbeaten league leaders. I have to admit to real fears - the Terriers under their young German boss famed for their pressing game, looked to be a very specific test for an out-of-sorts Albion. Incidentally, given their current style, does any side in the league have a more apt nickname?
Changes from Chris Hughton - Dale Stephens (praise the Lord) and Jiri Skalak, in for Murray and Norwood. Not just in personnel, but in shape too - Hemed up top alone, with Anthony Knockaert tasked with buzzing about behind him. In the centre of midfield, a frustratingly delayed season's bow, for the partnership of Stephens and King Beram. We all understand the reasons, but good grief we've missed this pairing.
Unsurprisingly no changes for a Huddersfield side, enjoying their best season's start in a hundred years. The BBC Yorkshire expert on the wireless offered up Australian midfielder Aaron Mooy, attacker Jack Payne and Bundesliga capture Kachunga, as ones to watch. He was also rather quaintly proud of the fact that they'd secured the services of "Wales' number two keeper". "At Huddersfield. Imagine that".
As the game unfolded, it became clear that Wagner has refined the pressing style. Last year, when he was new in the role, and the players were the previous manager's choices, it fell down, because it was uncontrolled - they charged about as though pre-match meal had been laced with speed. Then wilted after 30 minutes and allowed the Albion to pick them off. This season, after a big squad turnover and an apparently grueling fitness regime, it is different. They press as a team, but not all the time. When they go, they go as one. Sometimes they all sit, have a breather, and allow the opposition to have the ball.
It was the home side though, ho should have taken an early lead. Superb strength and control from Tomer Hemed, evaded two, then laid the ball into the path of Jamie Murphy's perfectly timed run. The Scot ran free over the half way line - no defenders for company, and bore down on the goal. The Amex rose to its feet, held its collective breath, waited for Murphy to round the onrushing Danny Ward / curl it in the top corner / dink it calmly over him. Or as it turns out, embrace the spirit of Craig Mackail-Smith - put his head down and smash it straight at the keeper. Huge let off for the visitors.
Beram Kayal was next to go close - his rasping drive from 25 yards, agonisingly wide of the top corner, with Ward well beaten. The Albion on top - more pressure from a series of corners, and free kicks into the box. The lively Payne - a summer signing from Southend - came closest for the Terriers - a low drive, comfortable for David Stockdale. Rajiv Van la Parra impressed - to a point. Certainly he looked more effective than on his loan spell here - when he mostly favoured embellishing his youtube show-reel, over making meaningful contributions.
With Skalak down in pain at the far end, Van la Parra ignored the boos to run at the Albion box and fire a low shot at goal. No fault on his part, in fairness - up to the (generic bald) referee to stop play.
One real scare for the Albion before the break - Gaeten Bong allowing his man to turn and cross far too easily - an unconvincing moment from Stockdale under it, almost allowing Van la Parra a gift. Fortunately he bottled it under Stockdale's approach, and the ball went harmlessly behind. This was the single shaky moment for the Albion keeper in a hugely impressive display. He's come in for a lot of criticism in recent days, but was all but flawless tonight - his handling exemplary throughout.
One more shot to deal with before the break - a speculative long-ranger from Mooy, safely gathered. The shaven-headed, 24 year old Aussie was one I was interested to watch. Signed by Manchester City from the A-League then immediately loaned out, he's been getting good reviews. On this showing though, he looks an utterly pointless acquisition for City. Tidy enough at Championship level, but one-paced, utterly one-footed and massively outshone here by Kayal. He'll never play a game for his parent club.
At the interval the crowd pretty content with the Albion's display, though hard not to ponder the importance of Murphy's big early chance.
The Seagulls started the second period brightly - three decent chances in succession created. 1. Hemed turned his man and shot a foot wide of the near post. 2. Skalak's clever back-heel in the box, teed up Bruno, whose low strike was well blocked by a desperate defender. 3. Knockaert's inswinging corner was then headed against the foot of the post, from a tight angle, by Lewis Dunk.
I must digress here for a moment. How on earth is Lewis Dunk still an Albion player? Absolutely imperious again tonight, winning everything in the air, timing tackles to perfection, Lawrensonesque ball-carrying, pinging long 'diags' like Scholes at his peak. Seriously - what a player. Enjoy him while he's here folks.
He is still prone to do something foolish though, bless him, and almost undid the good work thanks to some pathetic antics from Kachunga - the man with a name like an outdated Lenny Henry catchphrase. As the two tangled in the box, Dunk toed the ball out for a corner - then seemingly enraged by Kachunga's theatrical fall to the ground, barged into him whilst the players prepared for the set piece.
The Terriers' man collapsed to the floor again, and pleaded for Dunk to be jailed for assault. Fortunately the generic bald official used common sense and settled on a yellow card. After the corner had been safely gathered by Stockdale, and the players were filtering out of the box, Shane Duffy gave Kachunga a little 'stop being a cock, mate' pat on the back of the head. Sadly, the poor lad has a massively low pain threshold, and once again was left prone on the turf by this further vicious attack. Cock.
A bit on Duffy here, too. After Saturday a lot of Albion fans were wondering what the actual **** we'd just spunked £3m+ on. He was excellent here, in a game far more suited to his skills. Pump balls into the box and he'll head them away all night.
With 25 minutes left both managers freshened up their forward lines - perennial NSC transfer target Nahki Wells on for the visitors, and Glenn Murray replacing Tomer Hemed. Knockaert, scarcely involved in the centre pushed back to the right, with Skalak taking central duties. Murray improved the Albion noticeably - winning headers, holding the ball, allowing the side to get further up the field.
For long periods this had looked a game to be decided by one moment of magic, or an individual mistake - and so it unfolded, on 80 minutes. The fall guy tonight, Danny Ward, the Liverpool loanee in the Terriers' goal. He'd wound the crowd up all night with some pretty blatant timewasting - so sympathy was in short supply when his big moment came to pass.
Murphy carried the ball into the box and fed Murray, back to goal. When the latter was half tackled trying to turn, Murphy knocked it wide to Knockaert, whose first time left footed shot rolled tamely toward the keeper. Ward was down behind it, looking for all the world to have everything covered, but somehow let it slip softly under him, before panicking, flapping at it and helping it, ever so gently, over the line. As the crowd celebrated their good fortune, the big screens showed not one, not two, but FOUR replays of the goal - each angle making Ward's howler look bigger. Each time the ball rolled towards him the crowd gathered their breath - each time it squirmed under him they cheered and jeered, before serenading him with a chorus of "It's all your fault..."
Had to feel for him. A BIT, anyway. Oh look, another angle...
Hughton introduced Sidwell, whose work-rate, and Elvis Manu, whose pace on the break, helped the Albion see out the final few minutes, including just four added by the officials, to the relief of the home fans.
Back on track, then. Much better in all areas than Saturday, and nicely set up for a trip to Burton - faring really well in this league. Bring it on.