Three first-half goals ensured Richard Beale’s Baggies missed out on the Premier League 2 Division Two Play-Off final following defeat to Nottingham Forest on Monday night.
Ateef Konate, Ollie Hammond and Detlef Esapa Osong all scored within the first 40 minutes to stun Albion’s U21s and keep them in the same league next season despite an impressive end to 2022/23 campaign.
Tricky conditions made for a tentative start to proceedings at Alfreton Town’s Impact Arena, as both teams struggled to find their feet during the early exchanges.
Still, the East Midlands outfit made sure they were the ones who adapted to the conditions first - Konate squeezing the ball beyond Brad Foster, who was frustrated not to have done better at his near post.
Another scrappy opening allowed Forest skipper Hammond to double the home side’s advantage, and while Fenton Heard sent the visitors’ best chance of the half straight at Aaron Butt between the sticks, Albion were made to pay for not seizing their moment in front of goal.
Again, the Baggies failed to clear their lines which allowed Osong to force the ball in, giving Beale’s team a mountain to climb heading in at the break.
Eseosa Sule’s introduction off the bench added a different dynamic to the away team’s attacking play, and the 18s striker saw two good opportunities fall his way.
Firstly, finding shot-stopper Butt in the way of his goal-bound header, before hitting the side netting following good play down the right wing.
Forest comfortably managed the closing stages to progress to the Play-Off final and end Albion’s PL2 season on a somber note, as Beale and his coaching team head into the break with time to rest and reset before helping the new group of young hopefuls next term.
Albion: Foster; Hall, Ingram, Harper-Bailey, Humphries (Nguepissi 74); Andrews (M.Richards 83), Mfuamba (Higgins 62), Whitwell; R.Richards, Love (Sule 46), Heard.