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Albion U21 2 Forest U21 1 - AET

Roofe snatches victory in U21 BPL Cup

KEMAR Roofe’s extra-time winner against Nottingham Forest sent Albion through to the fourth-round of the Under-21 Barclays Premier League Cup.

The Baggies looked to be heading out of the competition at the first hurdle to Joshua Rees’ 25th-minute strike.

But super-sub Aaron Birch rescued the hosts with a 90th-minute equaliser to extend the Hawthorns tie.

And Roofe completed the comeback eight minutes later with a sweet finish worthy of winning an otherwise scrappy encounter before Jack Rose pulled off a fine last-gasp save from Rees in the dying seconds.

Forest were first to threaten in the 16th minute when Derrick Otim pipped Rose to Dan Pritchard’s left-wing cross and saw his header cannon back of the crossbar.

Albion replied four minutes later when Cameron Gayle slid an inch-perfect pass in behind the visitors’ defence for Roofe, who was unfortunate to see his low drive hit the foot of the near post.

Roofe then combined well with Alex Jones on 23 but saw Forest goalkeeper Dimitar Evtimov block bravely at his feet before he could get a shot away.

The Baggies shot themselves in the foot two minutes later when Atkinson was caught in possession by Rees on the edge of his own box – and the Nottingham midfielder coolly slotted the ball home low to Rose’s left.

Mani O’Sullivan showed good skill to beat Jake Wholey on the right by-line on 33 and pick out Alex Jones in the centre – but the Albion striker’s first touch was too heavy and he allowed Rees to clear the danger.

Two minutes before the break Alex Jones spun his marker and was unlucky to see his 20-yard shot deflect off Pritchard and just wide of goal.

From the two resultant Roofe corners Gayle and Donervorn Daniels both missed good chances.

Albion started the second half brightly and should have levelled on 52 when Alex Jones raced onto O’Sullivan’s flick-on and nut-megged Ben Osborn – but fired well over from 15 yards.

Otim teed up Jordan Davies on the hour-mark and Rose did well to dive low to his right and turn his deflected 20-yard strike around the post.

Alex Jones was in the action again in the 69th minute when Roofe nodded down O’Sullivan’s cross in the box and he swivelled 12 yards out, only to see his shot fly just over.

The Baggies left it late but in the 90th minute Bradley Garmston did well to make room on the left and drill in a low cross that substitute Birch converted.

Moments later Alex Jones played Garmston in behind the Forest backline – but he lost his cool and sliced a horrible effort wide of goal from 15 yards, with Roofe crying for the ball in the centre.

The chance to snatch a last-gasp winner was gone and the tie entered extra-time.

Rose had to be alert two minutes after the restart as he swooped low to his right to beat out substitute Wilfried Gnahore’s 20-yard drive.

Birch was in the action again on 98 as he played a neat one-two on the edge of the box with Roofe, who struck a sweet left-foot shot low across Evtimov and just inside the far post to grab the lead.

Josh Thomas could have wrapped up the tie on 111 but saw Evtimov pull off a superb point-blank save after Alex Jones had set up the Baggies sub.

Two minutes from time Roofe burst clean through and should have bagged his second of the night.

With just Emtimov to beat, he dinked his effort wide of goal.

Fortunately his solitary strike of the game was enough to send the Baggies through to the last 16.

But not before David Oldfield’s men survived a late scare in stoppage time when Rose just managed to tip Rees’ header from Gnahore’s cross onto the crossbar.

ALBION (4-2-3-1): Rose; Gayle, D Daniels, C Jones, Garmston; O’Neil (Birch 79), Atkinson; Francis (Sweeney 79), O’Sullivan (Thomas 86), Roofe; A Jones. Subs not used: Palmer (gk), Hallahan.

FOREST (4-4-2): Evtimov; Pritchard (Gorman 102), Worrall, Karo, Wholey; Grant, Rees, Wallace, Osborn; Otim (Gnahore 86), J Davies (M Davies 75). Subs not used: Smith (gk), Kamaneno.

GOALS: ALBION – Birch (90), Roofe (98); FOREST – Rees (25).

BOOKINGS: FOREST – Wallace (foul 34), Gnahore (simulation 112).

REFEREE: N Radford.