• Albion 3 - 0 Nottingham Forest, 12.08.2016

    After a creditable point at Derby, and a straightforward cup win, back at the Amex for what felt like the real start. New season, same Sky - Friday is the new Saturday. More travel bullshit to overcome, meant the sofa alternative was attractive to some - noticeable gaps at kick off leading to the least effective flag-show to date, as the club took the occasion to celebrate the magnificent stadium's fifth birthday.

    An unchanged side from the first league game. Dale Stephens, free from injury, then suspension, on the bench somewhat allaying fears of any impending departure. Star man Britt Assombalonga missing for visitors Forest, amongst transfer rumours of their own. Pleased to see the name of Henderson on their sheet - not flaky former Albion keeper Wayne, but his equally average nephew, Stephen. Lots of crosses please.

    A strong looking midfield though. Teenage Premier League target Oliver Burke out wide - excellent new signing Kasami partnering perennial irritant Henri Lansbury in the centre. One set piece apart - Dunk stabbing wide from Skalak's whipped corner - it was the visitors who made the early running. Kasami pulling strings, and Burke looking a great prospect - tall, strong, pacy and direct. Less effective on the other flank, former Albion target Jamie Ward, somewhat below his usual busy, angry self.

    Forest set about the Albion with huge intent - last ditch blocks from captain Bruno, and Lewis Dunk saving the day. Liam Rosenior recovering to clip a dangerous cross behind. Burke then had the moment, the chance, to make the bright start count. A well timed run saw him in behind Gaeten Bong, his pace took him past Dunk, and one on one with David Stockdale. The Albion keeper got his angles right, and Burke slid the ball past him and a foot wide of the far post. The travelling Tricky Trees (best / worst nickname in world football) fans, utterly silent until now, piped up without a hint of irony, that they’re Nottnum Forest, they’ll sing on their own.

    They certainly weren’t singing alone five minutes later. Jiri Skalak ran to the corner, drew in two defenders, then turned and laid the ball back for Bong, to whip in a low cross. Henderson could have dealt with it but stood on his line. Ben Osborn stood and watched, as Anthony Knockaert drifted past him, to half volley calmly as you like, under the keeper. The brilliant Frenchman broke down in tears, as his team-mates mobbed him. He explained after the game, that it was the birthday of his older brother, tragically lost to his family some years ago. An emotional moment for a very special player.

    These five Amex years have seen some very fine players turn out in the stripes, from Jedi master Vicente, to the brilliant Leo Ulloa, the agelessly magnificent Bruno and the all-round hero that is Inigo Calderon. I love all of them, making this a huge call, but I wouldn’t swap Anthony Knockaert for any of them. What an absolutely mesmerising footballer he is. The old cliché about being ‘worth the entrance money alone’? That’s Knockaert.

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