Baggies claim impressive win at Madejski Stadium
ALBION Under-21s ended their Barclays U21 Premier League division two season with a hard-fought 1-0 win at Reading last night.
Adil Nabi grabbed the only goal of the game in the 14th minute with a cute finish from a tight angle – his 13th league strike of the season.
The triumph means Baggies sit fourth in the table, with Arsenal needing to beat Wolves by two clear goals on Monday to leapfrog the youngsters.
The hosts, who were assured of promotion to division one next season, started brightly with Aaron Kuhl firing a volley straight into Ethan Ross’ arms.
But it was Albion who took the lead through Nabi after 14 minutes at the Madejski Stadium, as the forward displayed superb close control and dribbling ability before slotting past Reading ‘keeper Lewis Ward.
The Royals responded well to going behind but Liam Kelly, Sean Long and Nana Owusu all wasted chances to draw their side level before the break.
The Baggies had opportunities to increase their lead after the interval, most notably through goalscorer Adil Nabi, but he was twice denied a second goal by Ward.
Conor Shaughnessy then thought he equalised for the Royals with a glancing header with just over ten minutes left on the clock, only for substitute Kyle Edwards to expertly clear the ball off the goal-line.
And in injury time, Albion ‘keeper Ethan Ross produced a world class save to thwart Craig Tanner from point-blank range to ensure his side finished the season with a narrow win and unbeaten in five league games.
Under-21 boss, James Shan, was delighted to end the season with three points and hailed the resilience shown by his young team.
He said: “I thought the boys were excellent.
“It was a really resilient display against a very good Reading side who like to play football, but also aren’t afraid to hit long diagonal balls and put you under pressure with a direct style.
“The character the players displayed tonight was excellent and it is really pleasing to see ahead of the new season.
“We created some good chances going forward, but we also defended really well when we had to.
“Kyle Edwards made a brilliant clearance off the line and Ethan’s save at the death is just simply world class.
“To finish the season with a five-game unbeaten run is testament to the work the boys have put in over the last couple of weeks, so I am really pleased.”
Albion: Ross, Ezewele (Edwards 31’), Garmston, Cleet, Fitzwater, Howkins, Leko, S.Nabi, Roberts (Wright 65’), A.Nabi, Campbell (Donnellan 60’).
Unused subs: Hall, Hallahan.