• Albion 1 - 0 Wolverhampton Wanderers, 27.10.2018

    A ridiculously busy spell at work, has meant I’ve neglected this responsibility for a good while. In home games since I last found the time to pen anything (United), the Albion have drawn with Fulham (game turned on a missed penalty, great comeback, but ultimately two points dropped), lost to Spurs (showed a good side too much respect, but could have nicked an unlikely point), and beaten West Ham (solid defensive display, Murray clinical).

    Coupled with a huge away win at Newcastle last time out, a pretty healthy return so far, coming into a meeting with the most impressive of this season’s new boys, Wolverhampton Wanderers. Wolves are unlike any Premier League ‘new boys’ to date – bank-rolled to a Championship title, won at a canter – they’ve continued to invest heavily – and almost exclusively on Portuguese internationals, from the stable of ‘super-agent’ Jorge Mendes. They have a defined style of play, and boast some terrific technicians, so their fans are understandably delighted – but there must surely be some unease, in the back of their minds?

    The super-rich Chinese owners are not here for a love of the West Midlands. Mendes cares only for the careers and profile of his clients (who include the manager Nuno), and of course his cut of their considerable earnings. It suits him right now, for them to be at Wolves, en masse. It will suit him another day to move the best of them onwards and upwards. It’s all a long way from the days of Sir Jack Hayward and Steve Bull, that’s for sure.

    I watched a fair bit of their procession through the Championship, so I’m keen to see them in the flesh – in particular the impressive Ruben Neves, alongside Portugal star João Moutinho, plus Conor Coady at the back – Wolves’ fanbase were disbelieving that he failed to get the England nod over Lewis Dunk, after half a dozen top flight games, so expecting great things.

    2pm, and a huge boost for the good guys – team news in, and a very pleasant surprise to see the name of Glenn Murray listed, just a week after his horrible moment at St James’ Park. A ride on a stretcher, a lie down in a Newcastle hospital bed, a night at his Mam’s in Cumbria, then a few days away from training walking Mabel the whippet, wouldn’t seem the ideal preparation for leading the line in a Premier League match, but super Glenn is no ordinary footballer. Ninety nine and counting. Let today be the day.

    The Albion unchanged – the back five unsurprisingly, off the back of two hard-fought clean sheets. Stephens and the resurgent Beram Kayal a given, in the continued absence of Davy Pröpper. Izquierdo, Alireza and Solly March retaining their shirts, as Chris Hughton strikes the balance between threat and solidity. Tough on Knockaert perhaps, but Hughton will invariably go with the players he trusts to follow his prescribed plan. My opinion is worth no more than any other, and I know plenty disagree, but March is doing a decent job behind Murray. He suffers in comparison to Pascal Groß, but within Albion-levels of reality, who wouldn’t?

    In front of, what was bizarrely, a record Amex crowd (minimal segregation? More effective use of the ticket exchange?) the game settled into an early pattern. Lots of possession for the visitors – mostly in ‘safe’ areas of the field. The three centre backs, plus Neves and Moutinho looked tidy enough, stroking the ball about, in pretty triangles. Adama Traoré – Kazenga Lualua on steroids (with shit hair) ran very quickly in straight lines, to zero effect. The main threat came from right-back Doherty, pushed up alongside Hélder Costa to overload Gäeten Bong.

    As the Albion sat back and allowed the visitors the ball, content to play on the break, the game took on the feel of an away match. The Albion crowd strangely subdued too, as if waiting for the game to catch alight. A mountain of first half Wolves possession ultimately produced just two scares – Doherty smashing the ball at Izquierdo’s raised arm (a penalty would have been harsh, but not out of the question) then the same player dancing into the box, before side-footing very carefully and calmly, two yards wide of the goal.

    In response, one big chance for the Albion – March’s perfect deep corner, swung onto the head of big Shane Duffy, to rise unmarked, and power it just the wrong side of the post. The visitors’ half, on the whole – most in blue relieved to reach the interval all square, and hoping for better to come.

    They didn’t have long to wait! Just three minutes after the restart – super Glenn’s big moment. March's clever flick lifts the ball into Murray, who hooks over his shoulder across the box. Bruno lashes at it, screwing it back across the face of goal, where the man of the hour is waiting, to caress home, like it is the easiest thing in the world.

    Ton up. Crowd on their feet to acclaim, the quiet unassuming Northern lad, who is surely now the Albion’s greatest ever goal scorer? The scene of his hundredth Albion strike a world away from the chilly Withdean ten years hence, that witnessed his first, along with daft ring-a-ring-a-roses celebration.

    Comments 5 Comments
    1. Rogero's Avatar
      Rogero -
    1. HAILSHAM SEAGULL's Avatar
      Superb as usual
    1. FatSuperman's Avatar
      FatSuperman -
      Amazing, every single time.
    1. PaoloAlbioni's Avatar
      PaoloAlbioni -
      Great to re-live the match. Thanks for an accurate and entertaining read - better than watching the highlights!
    1. Vankleek Hill Seagull's Avatar
      Vankleek Hill Seagull -
      Never mind. I really should learn not to skim-read.
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