Baggies suffer harsh defeat in closely-fought contest
ALBION suffered a harsh 1-0 defeat by Middlesbrough in the Barclays Under-21 Premier League.
The Baggies were undone by Cameron Park’s 54th-minute strike despite bossing long spells of the behind-closed-doors encounter at the club’s training ground.
A lacklustre first-half yielded few chances with Boro goalkeeper Connor Ripley making a double save from Alex Jones and Kemar Roofe.
Both sides came out with attacking intent after the break and Roofe twice came close to breaking the deadlock within four minutes of the second half.
But it was not to be Albion’s day with Liam O’Neil having a last-gasp equaliser ruled out for off-side.
David Oldfield’s men started brightly and Ripley did well to hold Roofe’s low 20-yard shot after he cut inside from the left.
Two minutes later the Baggies winger volleyed wide of the right-hand post after Mani O’Sullivan’s corner was only cleared to the edge of the box.
Jack Rose had to dive high to his left on 16 to stop Park’s curling shot – and managed to grab the ball at the second attempt, with Wilson Kneeshaw lurking dangerously.
Park was at it again in the 23rd minute as he this time he had Rose scrambling to his right to turn the Boro midfielder’s low 18-yard shot around the post.
At the other end O’Sullivan teed up Alex Jones on the edge of the area and he forced a good save from Ripley low to his right before the visiting stopper jumped to his feet to block Roofe’s follow-up effort.
Four minutes after the interval Roofe saw his goalbound header from O’Sullivan’s right-wing cross blocked by Bradley Halliday.
And moments later he came even closer to opening the scoring when he stretched to get a foot on Alex Jones’ centre – but saw the ball cannon back off the crossbar and the visitors scramble it clear.
Two minutes later Kneeshaw broke free down the left.
Donervorn Daniels did well to block his first effort with a well-timed sliding challenge in the box and Rose then saved his follow-up with his right leg.
But on 54 Park was allowed to run from just inside the Baggies half and found the right-hand bottom corner of the net with a well-struck shot from 20 yards to make it 1-0.
Park should have doubled the lead three minutes later but got his header all wrong from Ryan Brobbel’s left-wing cross and allowed Rose to gather comfortably.
Park then turned creator as he teed up Halliday on the overlap, only for the Boro full-back to fire into the side-netting.
Another chance came Roofe’s way on 63 but he could not stretch high enough from Samir Nabi’s right-wing cross to direct his header on target.
Rose kept the hosts in the game in the 74th minute with a superb point-blank save from Brobbel after Callum Jones – who looked to be fouled - sliced his attempted clearance across his own six-yard box.
With ten minutes remaining O’Sullivan spun on the edge of the area and saw his shot sail just past the right-hand angle of post and bar.
And five minutes later O’Neil looked to have levelled, only for his effort to be ruled out for off-side after substitute Andre Wright had flicked on O’Sullivan’s free-kick.
The Baggies were to have one more chance to rescue a point.
Good pressure from the hosts saw Ripley spoon his kick high into the air, substitute Joe Ward controlled the ball and found Wright, who saw Ripley make amends by blocking at the Albion striker’s feet.
ALBION (4-4-1-1): Rose; W Atkinson, D Daniels, C Jones, Francis; S Nabi (Ward 75), O’Neil, Birch, Roofe (Ward 77); O’Sullivan; A Jones (Wright 75). Subs not used: Palmer (gk), Howkins.
MIDDLESBROUGH (4-4-1-1): Ripley; Halliday, Weledji, D Atkinson, Meling; Park, Kitching, Bennett, Brobbel; Tomlin (Morris 82); Kneeshaw (J Jones 70). Subs not used: Coddington (gk), Burn, Fewster.
GOALS: MIDDLESBROUGH – Park (54).
REFEREE: M Amphlett (Worcestershire).
ALBION STARMAN: Kemar Roofe.