Patrick Gleeson reports on the Albion’s superb win over Huddersfield.
Leonardo Ulloa hit a hat-trick in a 4-1 victory over Huddersfield Town to maintain Albion’s play-off place and add hope to their promotion bid.
The Argentine forward opened the scoring with a header from an Andrea Orlandi corner, and scored a quick fire double towards the end of the game to hand the hosts all three points.
James Vaughan had levelled for Huddersfield with a speculative effort just before the break, but the game was dead and buried after Ulloa’s second half double and a late penalty from David Lopez.
Albion went into the game knowing that a win would keep them in the top six, and they picked up where they left off against last weekend’s victory over Burnley. Will Buckley, who had been fouled four times in the first 10 minutes, tested Alex Smithies in the Terriers’ goal with a low strike after Lopez picked the winger out with a perfect pass.
Albion were peppering Huddersfield with crosses and it was from a corner in which they took the lead. Ulloa’s sharp movement allowed him to lose his marker and latch onto Andrea Orlandi’s whipped delivery and nod past Smithies at the near post.
As the 25,000 home fans in attendance roared on their team, David Lopez saw his ambitious drive fly harmlessly wild and Will Buckley’s awkward lobbed pass forced Smithies to push over the bar, but the visitors then nicked a goal against the run of play.
In what was a scrappy phase of play, the ball was launched into the Albion box where both Theo Robinson and James Vaughan were lurking with intent. They both tried an acrobatic overhead kick, with the latter connecting and firing the ball past Tomasz Kuszczak on the stroke of half time.
The Seagulls came flying out of the blocks in the second stage and almost reclaimed their lead when Orlandi’s vicious effort fizzed just over the bar, and then Inigo Calderon scuffed his lines and spooned over from deep inside the Huddersfield box.
Theo Robinson and Neil Danns both tried their luck for the away side but neither could offer the accuracy needed to test Albion’s big Polish goalkeeper.
Lopez then thought he had pierced a resilient Town defence with a volley from 20-yards, but Peter Clarke threw himself in the way of the ball and cleared off the line. Minutes later, Lopez sprayed a ball over the top to an unmarked Orlandi, but the Spaniard could only send the ball over the bar.
Clarke was again the hero with another goal-line clearance from Lopez, but it wouldn’t take long for Albion to secure their third straight league victory. Ulloa smashed his header past Smithies with 10 minutes left on the clock, and within 60 seconds had claimed his hat-trick - the first ever at the Amex, with an powerful run and a clever finish.
Moments later, substitute Craig Mackail-Smith was brought down by Paul Dixon inside the penalty area and the club’s resident spot-kick taker David Lopez stepped up to coolly tuck the ball into the bottom corner, sending Smithies the wrong way.