Harry Whitwell | Leeds clash chance to build confidence before Play-Offs

Harry Whitwell celebrates scoring a goal

Young Baggies midfielder Harry Whitwell believes the final game of the regular PL2 Division 2 season against Leeds United is an opportunity to build positive momentum ahead of their Play-Off clash with Nottingham Forest. 

Albion welcome the Whites to the club’s Walsall training ground on Friday afternoon (ko 2pm) in a behind-closed-door encounter knowing they’ve already secured a shot at promotion to the top tier. 

The fixture is the final Division 2 one of the campaign, with all the other sides already completing their 20 matches. 

Richard Beale’s boys will finish fourth and meet Nottingham Forest in the semi-final regardless of Friday’s result, with Leeds needing at least a draw to jump ahead of Southampton and win automatic promotion to Division 1. 

And Whitwell, who has enjoyed an impressive maiden campaign at PL2 level, is targeting a victorious finish in the league before their crucial clash with the Reds.

Whitwell in action against Norwich City's youngsters at The Hawthorns

Harry said: “It was one of our aims at the start of the season to make the Play-Offs and now we’ve got it, we’ve got to use this last game of the season and build on it.

“We’ve got to be ready when the Play-Offs come and make sure our best performance levels are there. 

“There’s been a few of us U18s who’ve been playing regularly in the U21s and it’s been really good being pushed at a higher level. It’s made us better players as the development has been sped up with new challenges every week.

“Sometimes you play teams who like to press, others you’ll have sides who sit off and it’s just different styles of football we’ve had to get used to. 

“I’ve felt fine technically all season, it’s just been the out of possession stuff I’ve been focusing on a bit more. Bealey and Deon have focused on that element and there’s still obviously a long way to go for me, but I think those physical aspects are heightened at PL2 level. 

“You’ve got to win your duels and if you don’t, you get found out. So I’ve had to adapt and I think it’s been really good for me. 

“If you look at the great Premier League midfielders, your Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrards, they add goals to their game and it’s always been at the back of my mind to do the same. 

Whitwell is just 17 but has played plenty of PL2 football

“Since Christmas, it’s been a focus of mine and it’s started to pay off. But I’ve got to keep building on it because if you’re a midfielder who can score goals, it’s another big tick next to your name. 

“The coaches always tell us we’re only as good as our last game, and there have been times this season where we haven’t played at our best. We’ve always bounced back, though, and it’s paid off by making the Play-Offs. 

“I’ll jump at every opportunity I get while I’m here. U21s is obviously a good level, but there’s nothing like first-team football. 

“Week in, week out when there’s three points on the line - that’s the pressure I want to play under and it’ll add another string to my bow so I can’t wait until I get the chance to experience those challenges in the future.

“There’s still a bit more to do and Leeds are one of the stronger teams in the division. 

“We know if they win, then they win the league. It’ll be good to test ourselves against that level of opposition and hopefully we can cause an upset and prove to other people in the Play-Offs that we’re a good team. 

“Hopefully Friday’s performance will stand us in good stead for a big game against Nottingham Forest after that.” 

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