ALBION were dramatically defeated 3-2 by Leicester in front of a sold-out Hawthorns on the day the club paid a memorable tribute to legendary former striker Jeff Astle.
The Throstles donned a special replica 1968 kit for the historic occasion – the same strip worn for the club’s famous FA Cup triumph at Wembley, where number nine Astle celebrated his finest hour by scoring the only goal of the game.
The 26,768 inside The Hawthorns today, including wife Laraine Astle and daughters Dawn and Claire, watched Albion get off to a perfect start as captain Darren Fletcher headed home his first goal for the club in the eighth minute.
It was perfectly timed by the Baggies skipper as the Birmingham Road End duly rose in the ninth minute to hold up cards displaying the message ASTLE KING, with the rest of The Hawthorns standing to applaud.
David Nugent briefly pulled Leicester level in the 20th minute but Craig Gardner’s swivelled volley soon after ensured it was Albion who led at the interval.
And that was how it appeared to remain until ten minutes from time when Robert Huth headed an equaliser for the Foxes, before Jamie Vardy fired home a last-gasp winner for the visitors in the first minute of injury time to consign Albion to defeat.
Saido Berahino was handed the prestigious number nine on the iconic plain white ’68 shirt, which contained no sponsors or names, with white shorts and red socks.
Tony Pulis made two changes from last weekend’s defeat against QPR with Craig Dawson and Claudio Yacob returning to start.
Albion made a high-tempo start to the encounter and could have taken the lead after just six minutes, Joleon Lescott heading over from Gardner’s free-kick.
But The Hawthorns rose in pure ecstasy just two minutes later as Fletcher glanced home Brunt’s inswinging corner, with referee Martin Atkinson awarding the goal despite the best efforts of Leicester clearing the ball from behind the line.
No sooner had Baggies fans finished celebrating than they were back on their feet to pay tribute in the ninth minute, with all eyes on the Brummie Road End.
But Leicester threatened to spoil the party in the 20th minute as Nugent levelled, converting home having latched on to Leonardo Ulloa's flick-on from a quickly-taken long free-kick.
Yet, just six minutes later Albion were back in front. Brunt’s cross from the left was headed back by Brown Ideye and Gardner was on hand to swivel and volley into the back of the net from ten yards.
Ulloa wasted a golden opportunity to level for the Foxes just before half-time, blasting over from close range.
Albion emerged for the second half to the sound of The Liquidator blasting around the stadium.
Victor Anichebe came on to replace Ideye on the hour mark, with chances few and far between following the restart.
And Albion appeared to be heading for three points until ten minutes from time.
Nugent hooked the ball back into the danger zone, substitute Marcin Wasilewski headed back across goal and Huth was there to head into the net despite the efforts of Dawson as he attempted to clear off the line.
And disaster was to follow for Albion as Vardy broke clear in injury time and fired across Boaz Myhill and into the far corner.
Albion: Myhill, 2 Dawson, 3 Brunt, 4 Yacob, 5 McAuley, 6 Lescott, 7 Morrison (18 Sessegnon 85’), 8 Gardner (14 Olsson 73’), 9 Berahino, 10 Ideye (17 Anichebe 60), 11 Fletcher.
Subs: Rose, 12 Wisdom, 15 Baird, 16 McManaman.
GOALS: Fletcher 8’, Gardner 26’
BOOKED: Gardner (foul 49’), Fletcher (foul 61’)
Leicester: Schmeichel, De Laet (Wasilewski 45’), Morgan, Huth, Schlupp, Cambiasso, James (King 60’), Albrighton, Nugent, Vardy, Ulloa (Mahrez 64’).
Subs: Schwarzer, Konchesky, Drinkwater, Kramarić
GOALS: Nugent 20’, Huth 80’, Vardy 90+1’
BOOKED: Albrighton (foul 54’), Huth (foul 75’)
Referee: Martin Atkinson (West Riding)
Albion star man: James Morrison