Albion’s young pros suffered their first defeat of the season against Chelsea’s academy hopefuls on Friday night.
Jimmy Morgan, Leo Castledine and Donnell McNeilly scored the goals which decided the contest, as the Black Country boys were left frustrated with their efforts at Kingsmeadow.
Richard Beale’s men couldn’t have asked for a better way to take charge of proceedings when Harry Whitwell’s shot from the edge of the box struck the arm of a Chelsea defender, prompting the referee to point to the spot.
Layton Love, who replaced the injured Ruben Shakpoke moments before kick-off, stepped up to the responsibility and despite a powerful low drive towards the bottom corner, home stopper Eddie Beach produced a fine save to tip the striker’s penalty away.
Skipper Reece Hall - whose confident driving bursts forward caused the Blues’ young defence problems throughout the first 45 - couldn’t divert his strike on target after breaching the hosts’ last line, and it would be those missed chances the visitors would go on to rue at the break.
Neglected space in the middle of the park allowed Morgan the time he needed to curl an effort past Ronnie Hollingshead in the Baggies net, and Castledine’s deflected free-kick from the edge of the area was enough to wrong-foot the keeper to double Chelsea’s lead.
Punished for their lack of edge in front of goal, things didn’t improve after the restart.
Love and Heard both saw efforts fly past the post or collected by Beach and Beale's team did control the ball for large parts of the second half, but those opportunities were as good as it got for the Baggies’ young pros, who had their fate sealed in the closing stages when substitute McNeilly slammed in a third for the west London outfit.
A positive from the night came when, after just over five months out of action with a hamstring problem, left-back Josh Shaw made his return to competitive action for the last 20 minutes.
Albion’s U21s are next in action on Monday night when they begin their Premier League Cup campaign against Sheffield United at Keys Park (ko 7pm).
Albion: Hollingshead; Hall ©️, Mohammed, Harper-Bailey, Williams; Richards (Phillips 84), Mfuamba (Shaw 66), Whitwell; Heard, Love, Higgins.
Substitutes not used: Brady.