Report: WBA Under-23s 3-2 Blues Under-23s

Blues Under-23s fell to a narrow defeat against WBA at the Hawthorns on Friday evening. 

Despite going ahead twice through Leo Dos Reis and Keke Simmonds, it was the Baggies who claimed the victory in the Premier League 2 courtesy of goals from Rico Richards, Mo Faal and Jovan Malcolm - leaving Blues wondering how they came away with nothing to show for their efforts.

The side that took to the field at the Hawthorns was much changed from the team that were beaten by Newcastle United on Monday night. First Team players; Neil Etheridge, Juan Castillo and Jordan Graham got valuable minutes under their belts, whilst Steve Spooner recalled Mitchell Roberts, Marcel Oakley and Alfie Chang to the starting line-up after their involvement in the Carabao Cup. 

Buoyed by the return of familiar faces, it was Blues’ youngsters who took the lead through a swift counter attack. Dos Reis the beneficiary of a superb delivery from Simmonds to slot home from inside the area just five minutes into the contest. 

Not disheartened by the early setback, it was the Baggies who fashioned the next two chances of the game. Richards and Jamie Andrews both trying their luck from long range but to no avail as they saw their efforts go wide of Etheridge’s goal. 

After a frantic start, it was no surprise to see the early tempo of the game settle down a touch as we headed past the midway point in the first-half.   

But Blues’ threat on the break was still clear to see, and it could have been two on the half hour mark as Kyle Hurst and Graham combined, but Graham was unable to make room for a shot and West Brom cleared the danger. 

It was that positive play that should have seen Blues double their advantage from the spot with 42 minutes on the clock. Dos Reis’ clever reverse ball saw Castillo bundled over in the box, but Graham’s penalty was saved by Mac Chisholm.

To add insult to injury, and much against the run of play, the hosts levelled with seconds of the opening period remaining. Richards beating the offside trap to chip over an advancing Etheridge and bring the Baggies level.

HT: WBA Under-23s 1-1 Blues Under-23s 

Blues started the second period with real attacking intent. Hurst going close as his left footed strike landed inches wide of Chisholm’s right-hand post after good play from Simmonds in the attacking third. 

Working the ball across the pitch with high intensity and high energy, Blues were firmly on the front foot and causing further problems to the hosts. Alfie Chang’s aggression in the tackle saw the youngster win the ball back and set Remi Walker free. The midfielder darting forward into the Baggies’ half before finding goalscorer Dos Reis, who in turn found Graham down the left. The winger attempting to find Simmonds in the box but his back-post delivery evading the Blues frontman as we reached the 60th minute. 

Blues didn’t have to wait long to be rewarded for that second-half pressure. Simmonds regaining the lead for Steve Spooner’s side as he turned home with little over twenty minutes to play. It was a case of third time lucky as the post was hit by both Graham and Simmonds before the latter slotted home on the rebound. 

The introduction of Yoane Zohore gave the side a lively outlet, and it was the attacker who began to pose a real threat to the Baggies’ backline, playing the ball to Graham who twisted and turned in the box before seeing his fierce low strike saved well by Chisholm. 

But just as Blues looked to be gaining momentum, the Baggies struck again to bring an entertaining encounter level. Substitute Faal heading home from Andrews’ free-kick.

That equaliser gave the Baggies some encouragement, and within minutes, they found themselves ahead for the first time in the match. Malcolm firing past Etheridge with 84 minutes played.

Stunned by that four minute sequence, Blues rallied to get something out of the game. Caolan Boyd-Munce firing over as we headed into the closing stages, but it wasn’t to be for the youngsters as the hosts held on for all three points.

It was a performance that deserved so much more. Blues will look to bounce back when they are next in action against Sunderland on Friday 10 September. 

FT: WBA Under-23s 3-2 Blues Under-23s 

WBA: Mac Chisholm, Aurio Teixeira, Zac Ashworth, Reece Hall (Josh Shaw 63), Kevin Joshua (Saul Shotton 74), Zak Delaney, Rico Richards, Jamie Andrews, Owen Windsor (Mo Faal 63), Toby King, Jovan Malcolm

Subs not used: Ben Cisse

Bookings: Owen Windsor 29, Reece Hall 60

Blues: Neil Etheridge, Mitchell Roberts, Alfie Chang, Marcel Oakley, Remi Walker (Jobe Bellingham 89), Caolan Boyd-Munce, Juan Castillo, Kyle Hurst (Tommy Fogarty 75), Jordan Graham, Keke Simmonds, Leo Dos Reis (Yoane Zohore 70)

Subs not used: Archie Matthews, Oriol Soldevila 

Bookings: Alfie Chang 55, Keke Simmonds 60, Tommy Fogarty 90

Referee: Scott Jackson