Stoke 2 Albion 1
By Oliver Bhurrut
ALBION'S three-game unbeaten run came to an end in their first pre-
season clash on English soil at the Britannia Stadium.
Jonathan Greening made his first appearance in Baggies colours as
Gary Megson's men ran out for the first time in their new 2004/05
Premiership home kits.
And the Baggies boss also handed a starting berth to Polish
triallist Marcin Zajac on the right of midfield before he made way
for Bernt Haas in the 65th minute.
Albion conceded their first goals in four pre-season clashes as
Stoke established a two-goal lead thanks to Dave Brammer's 35-yard
exocet and Ade Akinbiyi's 34th-minute tap-in.
The visitors only had Scott Dobie's third strike in as many games
and his third in three encounters against Tony Pulis' men for
consolation, after he rounded off a swift Baggies attack four
minutes before the break.
Thomas Gaardsoe was the first player to try his luck but Ed de Goey
dealt comfortably with his 30-yard drive.
Three minutes later it was Stoke who threatened when Gifton Noel-
Williams played Clive Clarke through on the left egde of the penalty.
But the ever-alert Paul Robinson was on hand to cut out his return
pull-back to the City striker.
Robinson was in the action at the other end when he found Jonathan
Greening inside the penalty area.
The Ł1.25 million signing showed good control and did well to force
de Goey into a save from a tight angle.
Gary Megson's men paid the price for not closing down in the 17th
minute when Dave Brammer was allowed to stroll forward and rocketed
a 35-yard stunner towards the top left-hand corner and in off the
post as Russell Hoult stood helpless.
Robinson made an important block from Darel Russell as Stoke pushed
forward once more.
The Baggies almost fell two behind in the 27th minute as they failed
to deal with Lewis Neal's back-post corner.
Brammer headed it back and only a combination of Hoult and Robinson
on the goalline kept out Gerry Taggart's close range volley.
Russell's 20-yard angled drive was only just closed down by Greening
and City gained yet another corner.
The visitors also failed to deal with Neal's flag-kick and Marcus
Hall headed itforward only for Taggart to scuff his shot.
Former Wolves hitman Ade Akinbiyi was on hand however to swivel
neatly inside the six-yard box and blast home, with Hoult only able
to parry his effort into the roof of the net in the 34th minute.
Albion pulled themselves back into the game four minutes before the
break as they put together their best move of the game.
Jason Koumas chipped a pin-point pass through to Robinson on he left
and his centre left Scott Dobie with the easiest of tap-ins for his
third goal in as many games.
Hoult had to be at his best in the 53rd minute as he dived low to
his left after Neal cut in from the right and drilled a powerful
effort which was creeping just inside the upright.
The referee switched the Premiership ball for a Championship ball at
the break but it made no different to Koumas as the Welsh wizard
split the host's defence apart with a raking pass to put Marcin
Zajac clean throughfive minutes later.
But the Polish international could only drag his ten-yard effort
wide of the left-hand post as half-time substitute narrowed the
That was the end of the former Groclin Dyskoboua player's afternoon
as he made way for Bernt Haas.
And just moments later Greening almost opened his Albion account as
his cross-cum-shot rattled the crossbar and was cleared to safety.
The Baggies broke swiftly on the break in the 75th minute when Haas
spread the ball out to the right where Greening and Robinson
exchanged passes before the former Watford full-back strode on and
blazed a 25-yard shot just past the far post.
Substitute Carl Asaba could have made it three for City in the 83rd
minute as he turned on Clarke's pull-back and fired low just past
the left-hand post.
e Goey (Simonsen HT); Halls, Thomas (Hill 65),
Taggart, Hall; Russell, Brammer, Clarke, Neal (Alan Johnson 65);
Noel-Williams (Greenacre 77), Akinbiyi (Asaba 65). Subs: Dickinson,
ALBION (4-4-2): Hoult; Gaardsoe (Albrechtsen HT), Scimeca, Purse,
Robinson; Zajac (Haas 65), Johnson, Koumas, Greening; Horsfield,
Subs: Miotto (gk), Clement, O'Connor, Moore, Sakiri, Dyer, Gregan.
GOALS: STOKE - Brammer (17), Akinbiyi (34). ALBION - Koumas (41).
REFEREE: M Warren (West Midlands).
ALBION STARMAN: Jason Koumas.