Albion’s PL2 side romped to an impressive win over Derby County on Monday night.
Reyes Cleary marked his return to the side following his maiden call-up to England’s U19s with a hat-trick, and Mo Faal’s double either side of half-time ensured the points headed back to the Black Country.
Club captain Jake Livermore and first-team defender Kyle Bartley both started the young Baggies' Premier League 2 clash to gain important match fitness.
Richard Beale’s men asserted their dominance from the off when Faal converted after just two minutes, peeling away from his man to control a through ball before rounding the keeper and squeezing home.
Things should’ve improved and the Gambian could’ve had a hat-trick within the opening five minutes, but his second netted effort was ruled out for offside, and Derby keeper Luke McGee was reactive to stop another strike from Albion’s towering forward.
Derby did create chances of their own as the young Baggies conceded possession cheaply in the middle of the park, but former Rams shot-stopper Brad Foster was equal to their attempts - parrying them to safety to preserve his side’s slender lead.
A second goal looked like it would elude Albion as half-time drew closer. Still, there was no stopping a rampant Cleary from bagging his 17th goal of the campaign across PL youth competitions, as he controlled Jovan Malcolm’s centre pass and lashed it into the top corner to give the visitors breathing space.
Akeel Higgins’ introduction during the second 45 helped the away side edge further ahead.
The dangerous forward latched onto Livermore’s lofted through ball and had the presence of mind to look up and see Faal, who found the net for his second and the Baggies’ third of the night.
Although Osazee Aghatise reduced Albion’s advantage back to a two-goal one when he pounced on some indecision at the back, Beale’s boys would boost their goals tally further on the night.
Cleary’s best of the evening came in the shape of his team's fourth goal - a powerful half-volley which flew into the top corner past McGee - and the striker struck his second hat-trick of the campaign minutes later.
As Albion’s youngsters pressed County’s backline back further, Reyes found space to fire on target. Despite his initial shot coming back off the post, the striker was on his toes to tap in the rebound, rounding off a good night’s work in Loughborough and strengthening Albion’s promotion chase in PL2 Division 2.
Albion: Foster; Ingram (Harper-Bailey 46), Bartley (Nguepissi 46), Hall, Humphries; Livermore (Wangusi 75), Andrews ©️ (M.Richards 46), R.Richards; Malcolm (Higgins 46), Cleary, Faal.