Youngsters beaten at the iPro Stadium
ALBION’s play-off hopes suffered a damaging blow as they were beaten 2-0 by league leaders Derby County at the iPro Stadium.
Early goals in the second-half from Offrande Zanzala and Ivan Calero were enough to inflict just a fourth league defeat of the season on the youngsters.
The disappointing result leaves James Shan’s side without a victory since December, with three games left to secure a spot in the Barclays U21 Premier League Division Two play-offs.
Both sides had chances to break the deadlock inside the opening twenty minutes.
Tyler Roberts forced County ‘keeper Henrich Ravas into a smart save with a strike from a tight angle inside the penalty area, while at the other end, both Timi Elsnik and Abdoul Camara saw their long-range efforts fail to hit the target.
The hosts should have taken the lead in the 22nd minute but right-back Kyron Stabana slotted wide from six yards with the goal gaping.
Callum Guy and Calero had further chances for Derby before the break but they were both unable to open the scoring.
The Rams’ pressure told though just three minutes into the second-half – Zanzala the lucky man after seeing the ball hit him inside the six-yard box and find its way into the far corner of the net.
The home side then heaped more misery on the youngsters by doubling their advantage in the 56th minute.
Zanzala turned creator this time, laying the ball square to Calero before he fired past Jack Rose and into the bottom corner from 18-yards.
The Baggies responded admirably to the second goal and Jonathan Leko should’ve pulled one back after he raced clear just a minute later, however the England under-17 international failed to beat Ravas.
As the half progressed, Samir Nabi and Chay Scrivens saw shots rise over the Derby crossbar, while Kwame Thomas wasted a glorious chance to add a third goal for County, heading wide from eight yards.
Albion forward Roberts cut a frustrated figure towards the end of the encounter as Ravas twice denied him, firstly from a 20-yard strike and then from a close-range header.
The Baggies have three league matches left to secure a play-off spot, with a home clash against Villa next up before trips to Blackburn and Arsenal.
ALBION: Rose, Ezewele, Howkins, Cleet, McCourt (Wilson 54), Ward, S.Nabi, Edwards (Barbir 73), Scrivens, Leko, Roberts.
Unused subs: Ross, Sweeney, Elbouzedi.