Saints end Baggies’ six-game winning streak
ALBION suffered their first defeat since September as Southampton recorded a 3-1 Barclays U21 Premier League victory at the club’s training ground this afternoon.
The Baggies led through an early Aaron Birch wonder strike - but a Sam Gallagher brace, followed by a penalty from Scott Sinclair’s brother Jake, secured all three points for the visitors.
Scott was joined by his parents on the sidelines as birthday-boy Jake helped the Saints earn their first win in three matches.
19-year-old Sinclair had the first opportunity of the game – but saw his seventh-minute strike tipped over the bar by Jack Rose.
Birch put Albion ahead ten minutes later.
The 18-year-old midfielder carried the ball towards goal before powering a right-foot thunderbolt into the top corner from 25 yards.
The visitors were level on 27 courtesy of a tidy Gallagher finish.
The big centre-forward smashed the ball home from close range after Ryan Seager provided an inch-perfect low cross.
Mani O’Sullivan’s 25-yard free-kick was comfortably gathered by Cody Cropper on 33 and the two sides went into the interval on a level pegging.
David Oldfield’s team began the second-half brightly and could have gone ahead in the 54th minute.
Wes Atkinson’s powerful cross from the left wing struck Birch in the six-yard box and floated just over the bar.
Rose was on hand to keep it 1-1 two minutes later as he palmed a Sinclair drive wide of the left-hand post from just outside the D.
The young keeper was called into action again on 62.
But Andy Robinson’s weak long-range strike failed to cause Rose too many problems.
The Saints continued to press and Rose could only parry Harry Reed’s effort moments later.
Southampton took a 73rd-minute lead as Gallagher netted his second.
The striker outleaped Albion’s defence to head Sinclair’s corner inside the left-hand post.
Both sides continued to try their luck from distance in blustery conditions.
But Rose was up to the challenge and again parried when Robinson rifled another long-distance strike at goal on 78.
Sinclair rounded off a fine performance with a goal nine minutes from time.
The winger converted from the penalty spot after Shaun Donnellan was judged to have brought down Robinson.
ALBION: Rose; Francis, O’Neil, C Jones (Donnellan 59), Atkinson; Birch, O’Sullivan; Ward (Barrow 78), S Nabi (Oldnall 79), Hallahan; A Jones. Subs not used: Palmer (gk); Greenidge.
SOUTHAMPTON: Cropper; Young, Stephens, Turnbull, Targett; Reed (Flannigan 90); Sinclair, Seager (Johns 88), Robinson, Rowe; Gallagher. Subs not used: Moore, Colmer, McCarthy.
GOALS: ALBION – Birch (17); SOUTHAMPTON – Gallagher (27, 73), Sinclair pen (81).
BOOKINGS: ALBION – O'Neil (foul 90+2); SOUTHAMPTON - Rowe (foul 45).
REFEREE: Guy Stretton (Leicestershire).
ALBION STARMAN: Aaron Birch.