Albion 3 Heerenveen 1
CRAIG Beattie has come a long way in a little over a fortnight.
It was July 18 in Murska Sobota, Slovenia, where everything which could go wrong, did go wrong for the Albion striker in their pre-season game against Red Star.
A fluffed effort here, a miscued shot there, the keeper doing his bit to deny him - at one point Beattie kicked the ground in frustration. And he almost missed that too.
The lad who was unveiled to the press before the start of pre-season was shy and of few words when answering questions.
How times have changed both on and off the field.
Vibrant, happy and talkative off the pitch and deadly on the pitch, Beattie is beginning to look every bit the confident, international striker Tony Mowbray intended to unleash on the Championship. A few games ago he jokingly promised the press a post-match interview every time he scored - at this rate he'll be sick of the sight of us.
Perhaps it's the new environment, perhaps it's Mowbray's influence or even the regular football - he's played a major part in most friendlies - which has done the trick.
His 19-minute hat-trick against Uefa Cup qualifiers Heerenveen on Saturday was textbook.
The ex-Celtic man underlined his ability to play off the defender's shoulder, using his physical power and his deceptive pace. His finishes were exquisite.
Beattie's opener, three minutes before the break, came as a result of neat exchanges between Phillips and Teixeira. The former played in the latter who seemed to get the ball tangled under his feet. A quick pass to the left-side of the penalty area found Beattie, who drove the ball into the top corner.
His second, on 56 minutes, came from unselfish play from the hard-working Nathan Ellington. The Duke sprang the offside trap to race onto Jonathan Greening's pass but instead of finishing off the ball off himself, he passed square for Beattie who ended the move by lifting the ball gently over sub keeper Vandenbussche.
He claimed the match ball just before the hour when Carter and Gera forced their way through the massed Heerenveen defenders on the edge of the area and played in Beattie.
Five minutes from time the Dutch side pulled one back when Hodgkiss handled as he slid in to tackle Nilsson. The same striker made no mistake from the spot.
Positives for Albion included Filipe Teixeira's creativity, Greening's energy in covering so much of the field and Chaplow's determination to fill the position made vacant following Robert Koren's eye injury.
Curtis Davies also deserved credit. Booed when his name was read out before the game and everytime he touched the ball early on, the wantaway Albion man was soon earning applause with a polished display.
But the day belonged to the Albion's new No.10.
(4-1-2-1-2): Kiely, Hodgkiss, Barnett(Albrechtsen HT), Davies, Tininho (Martis 71), Chaplow (Wallwork 77), Gera (MacDonald 77), Greening, Teixeira (Carter 59), Beattie (Nicholson 64), Phillips (Ellington HT).
Sub not used: Steele (gk).
(4-4-2): Van Dijk (Vandenbussche HT), Zuiverloon, Breuer, Dingsdag, Johansen, Poulsen, Nielsen (Roorda 77), Prager (Bradley HT), Beerens, Nilsson, Garcia-Garcia (Sibon 59).
Not used: J Drost, H Drost, Loohuis, Armenteros