Nine-game unbeaten run ended by Boro
SENIOR trio Sebastien Pocognoli, Cristian Gamboa and Jason Davidson all played 90 minutes as Albion Under-21s were beaten 3-1 by Middlesbrough.
The first-team members were powerless to prevent Baggies slipping to their first league loss since they were defeated 2-0 by the same opponents in September.
Forward Bradley Fewster gave Boro the lead before the break but Adil Nabi’s goal direct from a corner levelled the scores, however the visitors claimed three points thanks to goals from Junior Mondal and a late Fewster penalty.
The hosts started brightly, Samir Nabi fizzed an attempt at goal from all of 30-yards but Boro ‘keeper Joe Fryer made a comfortable stop.
Jason Davidson then met Adil Nabi’s 12th minute corner, but the Australia international saw his header loop over the crossbar.
The visitor’s first chance came in the 26th minute when Harry Chapman found Thomas McAloon with a delicate pass, but the forward shot straight at Jack Rose from inside the penalty area.
Middlesbrough came close again ten minutes later, Lewis Maloney’s half-volley landing inches wide of Rose’s right post.
But the league leaders’ persistence paid off four minutes before the break as Bradley Fewster smashed home from inside the six-yard-box after Jack Rose could only parry a Maloney free-kick.
The Baggies responded well to going behind and could have levelled the scores twice before the break through Adil Nabi and Kyle Howkins, but Fryer was equal to both of their efforts.
James Shan’s men started the second-half on the front foot, Adil Nabi’s dipping volley from 25-yards-out was a fraction too high and landed in the Brummie Road End.
The same Nabi brother then went close with a powerful effort from 30-yards, Fryer pulling off a fine save diving to his right.
But Baggies and Nabi weren’t to be denied an equaliser, as the 21-year-old’s right-footed corner curled over Fryer’s head and into the net after 55 minutes.
However Albion’s joy was short-lived, Boro’s Junior Mondal restored his side’s lead just seven minutes later by firing home into the bottom corner from the edge of the penalty area.
The away side increased their lead in the 77th minute when Mondal was brought down inside the area by Danny Barrow, and Fewster stepped up to fire home from the spot.
Adil Nabi had the home side's final chance of the encounter, but his 30-yard free-kick was easily saved by Fryer.
It was a result and performance that disappointed Baggies Under-21 boss James Shan.
“I am really disappointed, we spoke a lot before the game about how they would play and set up and we were right,” said Shan.
“The work we put in during training wasn’t executed during the match and we have missed an opportunity to go top of the league.
“I think the boys lacked that desire and intelligence to break down a very good Middlesbrough side tonight.
“We didn’t play with any real energy or intensity and that frustrated me because that isn’t like us.
“The way in which we conceded the three goals is totally unacceptable.
He added: “We have had an unbeaten run of nine games which has been achieved through our togetherness and desire, but sadly that was missing today.
“A run like that is always going to come to an end, but the manner of our defeat was disappointing.
“We were beaten by a team with good players who were up for it tonight.”
Albion: Rose, Gamboa, Pocognoli, Howkins, Davidson, Atkinson, S.Nabi, A.Nabi, Leko (O’Sullivan 72’), Barrow (Wedderburn 77’), Roberts (Cleet 80’).
Unused subs: Palmer, Wedderburn.