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Hot-shot Lee cracks hat-trick as Albion fire on all cylinders; Albion 3 Huddersfield 1.

LEE Hughes became the first Albion player to hit three hat-tricks in one season as Denis Smith's team recovered sensationally from another defensive calamity.

A penalty in either half and a cracking 30-yard drive in the 84th minute took the flame-haired striker's tally for the season to 21 goals - the former Harriers marksman is red-hot and unstoppable. Albion were a goal down to Huddersfield's David Beresford in only the sixth minute, the defence standing like statues as they crossed from Marcus Stewart came in.

Beresford's left-foot finish left Alan Miller floundering but Huddersfield lost their cool and their discipline to concede the first of two penalties before they were reduced to 10 men with goalkeeper Nico Vaesen's dismissal.

Dazzling Italian Mario Bortolazzi had hit the bar with a curling 25-yard drive in the 14th minute and Albion were constantly frustrated before Kevin Gray chopped James Quinn to the floor with a reckless tackle in the 28th minute.

Hughes smashed the inevitable penalty high into the roof of Vaesen's net and from that point Albion were majestically in control.

Hughes was deprived by a great save by Vaeson after Matt Carbon's long ball had set him clear on the left and the chances kept coming thick and fast.

Hughes put the rebound wide after Bortolazzi's shot had been blocked in the 39th minute and almost on halime, Bortolazzi and Quinn combined for Fabian De Freitas to stab the ball inches the wrong side of the post.

Hughes saw another attempt spin off the side of his boot after a mistake by Rob Edwards from Kevin Kilbane's cross in the 65th minute but it was only a matter of time before Huddersfield cracked. A slide-rule pass by Jason Van Blerk released De Freitas, only for the striker to be taken off at the knees by Vaesen's desperate intervention.

As the crowd gave vent to their rage, Vaeson lay prostrate on the floor but referee Barry Knight correctly brandished the red car and that left winger David Phillips facing Hughe's second penalty.

The striker drilled it unerringly to the makeshiftkeeper's right to make it 2-1 in the 75 minute and Huddersfield were in total disarray.

Nine minutes later Kilbane's searching crossfield pass picked out Hughes and in a flash the striker had slipped inside Edwards and rattled the ball home from long range.

Albion were supremely in control and content to knock the ball round, but even then, substitute Richard Sneekes had time to smack the post with his first touch on arriving from the bench to replace De Freitas in the 86th minute.

This was Albion's second League win in three games and the perfect response to last Saturdays 3-1 defeat at home to Birmingham City. And at this rate, Hughes will have 50 goals to his name before the campaign is out.

The big question is, can Albion make it to the Premiership before a big club takes him to the promised land?

ALBION (4-4-2): Miller,

Holemes, Murphy, Carbon, Van Blerk;

Quinn, Flynn, Bortolazzi, Kilbane,

De Freitas, Hughes.

HUDDERSFIELD (4-4-2): Vaesen

Jenkins, Jackson, Gray, Edwards;

Phillips, Johnson, Horne, Beresford;

Stewart, Allison.

SUBSTITUTIONS: Albion - Angel (Quinn, 71), Sneekes (De Freitas, 86). Huddersfield - Facey (Stewart, 77), Richardson (Breresford, 77).

STAR MAN: Lee Hughes.

REFEREE: Mr B Knight (Orpington).

BOOKINGS: Albion - Carbon: Huddersfield - Edwards, Johnson.

SENT OFF: Huddersfield - Vaesen.
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Copyright 1998 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Nov 15, 1998
Words:555
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