Work, work, work.
Too much work, unfortunately = no match report on the excellent win over Barnsley, nor of the ultimately frustrating draw against Preston. The frankly unprofessional finale to that game, left this subsequent home game, feeling like a 'must win' - much as I hate that term - if the Albion were to hold their place in the emerging breakaway pack.
Difficult to know what to expect from the visitors - a side who followed a 0-4 defeat at home to Barnsley, with a 2-0 win away at Newcastle - but a decent game in prospect, no doubt. A decent crowd there to see it, though significantly lower (especially at kick off) than the 'tickets sold' pretendence, thanks largely to the latest round of never-ending railways industrial bullshit. That and the knock-on effect on the roads, made for a challenging journey for many, some of whom understandably just couldn't face it. My drive weighed in at 2.5 hours - a one hour 'bonus' - arriving breathless at my seat, to the serenade of "You can tell them all, that we stand or fall..."
A reasonable mid-week turn-out of 900 or so made the trip from the Black Country, including the BBC's Jacqui Oatley, whose views of the Albion very closely match my own...
Chris Hughton largely kept faith with the same side - Jiri Skalak for Jamie Murphy on the left, the only change, from Tuesday night. Skalak repaid that decision in spades over the evening - for me, his best performance in an Albion shirt - positive with the ball - industrious without it - and delivering a stream of excellent set-pieces.
It was the Czech who produced the chance that should have led to the opener -running down the left, cutting back to his right, and swinging an inch-perfect ball onto the head of Anthony Knockaert, unmarked, in the centre of the six-yard box. The little Frenchman got it horribly wrong, and mistimed his header, gently over the bar. The fellow is an artist. An absolute genius, frankly. But he's shit at headers.
Better with his feet though - his curling 35 yard wide free kick - looked a cross - then dipped towards the top corner, forcing Wolves' keeper Ikeme to scramble into action.
14 minutes in, and the Albion had concrete reward for a busy start. A third in successive games for Sam Baldock, and a decent goal too. Skalak and Bong combined down the left. Skalak cut inside, and with the crowd urging him to shoot, pulled the ball back out wide, for the left back to swing into the box. Baldock, surrounded by giants, got himself ahead of his marker, to glance a powerful header past Ikeme, and in, via the underside of the bar. Scenes.
The lead well deserved, though it took a fine last-ditch Sidwell block to prevent it being immediately surrendered. But then back to the other end - Knockaert crudely stopped by Batth, after a fine move. The number 11 and Skalak stood over the ball - Ikeme positioned himself for the former - the latter went agonizingly close - no more than a foot over the top corner.
The same two players delivered a succession of decent, but unconverted, corners - time for Murray and the two giant centre backs to start cashing in on these. On the stroke of half time the visitors could have snatched parity - Porto loanee Helder Costa driving from distance - David Stockdale acrobatically tipping over for a corner. Costa was on the corner duties too - and to extremely dangerous effect - mostly vicious in-swingers, causing plenty of concern for Stockdale and colleagues - and the home crowd.
Early in the second period - close to two - excellent swinging corner from Knockaert. Perfectly timed run and jump from Murray, less than perfect direction on his header. And then some magic. Knockaert again, of course - embarrassing England prospect Hawse out wide, then leaving three of his colleagues searching in vain for the ball. Breath-taking. (Another) standing ovation from three sides of the Amex. Le petit magicien's show-reel is growing into a full-length movie.
Enjoy him while you can folks - he's far too good for this league. Every rendition of "We've got Knockaert..." leaves me worrying about tempting fate. I think I'll cry, when someone else is singing that song.
This was a bit rash, mind...
With 10 minutes left of an entertaining game, Hughton took the decision to try to close it down - the lively Baldock off, for extra midfield steel in Stephens. Don't sit back lads. Please don't sit back. To be fair, they didn't initially - a few more breaks, some good possession play, a deft ball from Dunk to the (harshly?) offside Knockeart, in on goal.
Into four minutes of added time, and the inevitable retreat was sounded. Ball after ball into the Albion box. Corner after corner. After corner. Backs to the wall - nerve endings shredded in the stands. We all know what comes next. One corner headed over. Another broke to Batth 18 yards out - his volleyed effort well saved by Stockdale. The next saw Dunk booked for handbags (and out of Saturday's trip to Wigan). Another long shot - Stockdale seeing it late through a crowd, turning it behind for another corner. With six of the 'four' minutes played, the ball went behind again and surely Mr Stroud will blow? Yes! - No - he's signalled yet another corner. Sake.
Please don't concede. Please, please, please. ****. Yes. YES. Over.
Under control. Nothing to worry about. Routine home win.
The Albion up to third, and fans buzzing in the queues. Excellent night - players seemed to really feel this one, too.