AARON Birch’s 36th-minute goal served only as a consolation as Albion exited the FA Youth Cup at the third-round stage following a 3-1 defeat by Birmingham City at Damson Park, Solihull, this evening.
James Shan’s Under-18s fought back from a goal behind to ensure the sides went into the break with the scores level.
But two goals in two second-half minutes earned the hosts a place in the fourth round with Albion now readying themselves for Barclays U18 Premier League tier one fixtures after the festive period.
Shan’s side took to the field wearing black armbands as a mark of respect to club masseur Derrick Jones who passed away earlier today.
Blues were ahead after only four minutes when Deqwon Ebanks slotted home from six yards to put the hosts ahead.
The striker’s right-foot effort whistled through a handful of approaching Albion defenders after Reece Brown hit the post from Liam Truslove’s corner.
City could have doubled their lead in the 16th minute but Alex Palmer tipped Demarai Gray’s 25-yard strike over the crossbar.
Ebanks fired just over the bar from Hales’ pull back on 19 and the Albion goal was continually threatened during the opening 20 minutes.
Rees Wedderburn’s 24th-minute free-kick was Albion’s first shot on target but Nicholas Townsend comfortably gathered the winger’s left-foot strike from just outside the area.
The Baggies’ confidence continued to grow and their football became more expansive as the half drew on.
Captain Birch levelled the scores in the 36thminute after a clever free-kick bamboozled the Blues backline.
Ryan Pace played in Wedderburn down the left before his cross was struck goalwards by Samir Nabi.
Townsend could only parry the midfielder’s shot and Birch was on hand to gently roll a left-foot effort into the bottom right-hand corner.
Albion could have gone in ahead at the break but Townsend turned Alex Jones’ right-foot strike wide of his left –hand post from Ryan Pace’s throughball.
City full-back Dacres-Cogley’s meandering run found him in behind the Baggies’ defence two minutes after the restart but Kieran McCalla cleared Albion’s lines after intercepting.
Alex Jones’ glancing six-yard effort from Samir Nabi’s cross was well saved by Townsend on 49 as the teams exchanged attacks.
Blues regained their one goal advantage on 56 with Adams netting from Demarai Gray’s inch-perfect cross.
City extended their lead less than two minutes later with Reece Brown’s impressive left-foot strike passing a helpless Palmer and into the bottom right-hand corner of the net.
City dominated possession throughout an uneventful second half and their lead was not truly tested by a Baggies side struggling to create clear-cut chances.
BLUES (4-4-2): Townsend; Dacres-Cogley (Solomon –Otabor 90+2), Kalenda (Thomson 85), Fry, Moseley; Adams, Truslove, Brown, Gray; Hales, Ebanks (McGee 82). Subs not used: Solomon-Otabor, Preston, McFarlane.
ALBION (4-2-3-1): Palmer; Francis (Barrow 78), C Jones, McCalla (Greenidge 60), Smart; Atkinson, Birch (C); Pace (Oldnall 60), S Nabi, Wedderburn; A Jones. Subs not used: Buchanan, Ambalu.
GOALS: BLUES – Ebanks (4), Adams (56), Brown (58); ALBION: BIRCH (36).
BOOKINGS: BLUES – Adams (foul 29) – ALBION – Ged Oldnall (foul 90).
ALBION STARMAN: AARON BIRCH