ALBION will head into tomorrow week’s Barclays Premier League opener with Liverpool full of confidence as two early goals saw them coast to victory in their final pre-season game at Nottingham Forest.
Youssouf Mulumbu opened the scoring in the seventh minute with a 25-yard wonder strike as the Baggies overpowered their Championship hosts.
And Shane Long responded positively to the breaking news Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku had joined the club on a season-long loan by winning and converting a 17th-minute penalty.
Forest rarely threatened Ben Foster’s goal as he recorded a clean sheet – and the visitors finished their top-flight preparations by extending their unbeaten run to five games.
Steven Reid returned from a two-match absence through injury to be named in a strong starting XI by Steve Clarke.
Former Baggies promotion-winning captain Jonathan Greening was among the Forest substitutes.
Albion started brightly and took an early lead when James Morrison found Mulumbu in space in the seventh minute.
The DR Congo international took a touch and let fly with a 25-yard effort that Karl Darlow got a touch to but could not prevent from hitting the top left-hand corner of the net.
At the other end David McGoldrick tried his luck from distance and Foster gathered comfortably.
But a poor clearance from the Baggies keeper fell to McGoldrick for another go and this time Foster parried his effort away with his body as the ball skipped up.
Morrison was in the action again in the tenth minute when he did well to control the ball on his chest 25 yards out before sending a left-foot volley just wide of the left-hand post.
Five minutes later the Scotland international was in the thick of the action again as he ghosted into the box and pulled the ball back for Long.
The Ireland striker took a touch – but instead of shooting decided to try and find Zoltan Gera, only to see his pass cut out and cleared.
On 17 Darlow could only parry Gera’s 20-yard strike and as Long was about to pounce he was felled by Danny Harding for a penalty.
The former Reading hitman got to his feet to convert the spot-kick he won and double Albion’s lead.
Long, as always, looked busy and in the 38th minute did well to dispossess Guy Moussi before sending an instant 45-yard shot just inches over the bar, with Darlow back-pedaling.
Frank Moussa was presented with a chance to shoot in the final minute of the half – but wasted the opportunity from Greg Halford’s low right-wing cross by screwing his 18-yard shot well wide of the left-hand post.
Clarke made one change at the break as Billy Jones came on for Liam Ridgewell, who looked to be limping.
The hosts started the second half in positive fashion and Gareth McAuley did well in the 48th minute to stretch and put Lewis McGugan’s whipped-in cross out for a corner under severe pressure from Dexter Blackstock in front of goal.
McGugan tried his luck from distance in the 53rd minute – but Foster had his deflected shot covered all the way as he dived low to his right.
Sean O’Driscoll waited until the 55th minute to make any changes – and when he did there were SIX.
On 62 Clarke changed his two centre-halves as Craig Dawson and Gabriel Tamas came on for McAuley and Jonas Olsson respectively.
Little happened in the half before the mass of substitutions – and the game continued in the same vein afterward.
But the 65th minute saw a 30-yard strike by Peter Odemwingie fly just past the left-hand angle of post and bar.
Moments later Long and Morrison made way for Fortune and El Ghanassy.
Reid departed on 69 to be replaced by Gonzalo Jara Reyes and Chris Brunt saw his first pre-season action as he returned from a calf injury in place of Gera.
Dawson slid the ball into the net from sub Marc-Antoine Fortune’s cross in the 73rd minute – but the latter was adjudged off-side.
Six minutes before time El Ghanassy made room on the edge of the area and drilled in a low shot that Darlow was forced to beat out with his right hand.
That was the last real action of what proved to be a disjointed second half, with the aim for many players on both sides just to get vital game time under their belts.
FOREST (4-4-1-1): Darlow; Halford (Moloney 71), Ayala (Regan 80), Collins (Lacelles 69), Harding (Taylor 74); Moussa (Bader Al-Mutawa 55), McGugan (Guediora 55), Moussi (Greening 55), A Reid (Majewski 55); McGoldrick (Tudgay 55); Blackstock (Derbyshire 55). Subs not used: Camp (gk), Morgan.
ALBION (4-2-1-3): Foster; S Reid (Jara Reyes 69), McAuley (Dawson 62), Olsson (Tamas 62), Ridgewell (Jones HT); Yacob (Hurst 81), Mulumbu (Thorne 81); Morrison (El Ghanassy 66); Odemwingie, Long (Fortune 66), Gera (Brunt 69). Sub not used: Myhill (gk).
GOALS: ALBION – Mulumbu (7), Long (pen 17).
REFEREE: D Coote.
ATTENDANCE: 6,545 (489 Albion fans).
ALBION STARMAN: Youssouf Mulumbu.