Albion’s PL2 clash with West Ham will be a valuable indicator of the progress made by the young Throstles this season says Under-23’s manager Michael Appleton.
Since an opening-day defeat to Manchester United, the Baggies have beaten Fulham and Sunderland but fell to defeat against Reading last time out - with Appy anticipating a tough test against a strong Hammers side at the Chigwell Construction Stadium on Monday night (ko 7pm).
However, Appleton is looking forward to seeing his team go toe-to-toe with a top Premier League 2 Division Two side in order to measure their progress this term.
“It will give me a great indication of where this group is,” he said.
“I always say to them when we play a season, don’t get done twice by the same team. I said to the players after the United game, we will be a very different team when we play Manchester United in December. This is a great one for me to gauge how far they have come over a six week period and then we will sit down after the game and discuss where we are at.
“I’ve watched West Ham a few times this year. In their previous game they drew 2-2 with Man United and probably should have won the game which shows how talented their group is. I think they are right up there with Man United in the league. They have got a good mix and balance, a very athletic side, they score goals and don’t concede so you can understand we have a right game on our hands on Monday.
“I thought it was a mixed performance at Reading. There was certain things I was pleased with. Our shape and our structure was good. We let ourselves down in the final third on six, seven or even eight occasions where we had a three versus two overload or a four versus three to punish them, especially when we were a goal ahead. That was a little bit disappointing, that final pass.
“We could have well and truly killed the game off. The thing that disappointed me more than anything is, it is never easy and you never want to concede two goals in a short period of time like we did do, but I felt we showed disappointment when we conceded the first one.
“When players develop over a period of time, the likelihood is you could concede in a game - for me, it is how you react and deal with those disappointments that will make you a player or a good side. We didn’t do that well enough against Reading.
“Having said that we could have, and probably should have got something out of the game. We had a couple opportunities late on. It is a good lesson going forward because we have got a very, very tough fixture on Monday against a very good West Ham side.
“I’m enjoying the job. I mentioned when I first came in it is a bit full circle for me having started my career after playing in the coaching side of things here. It’s different to management in some ways but in some aspects it is very similar.
“I said at the start I have tried to take on the role and tried to create a first team environment for the players so that when they go out on loan or if they go in the first-team dressing room then it is not too different for them, so in that aspect I suppose it has run quite smoothly for me.”