Young goalkeeper Ronnie Hollingshead is poised to make his mark when Albion’s PL2 side host Sunderland at Keys Park on Friday evening (ko 6.30pm).
*Please note, kick-off has been delayed until 6.30pm owing to severe traffic which is affecting Sunderland's journey*
Richard Beale’s men are unbeaten from their first two league matches, defeating local rivals Aston Villa 3-0 before playing out an entertaining 3-3 draw at The Hawthorns with Blackburn Rovers earlier this week.
Wales youth international Hollingshead ended the 2022/23 campaign on a high; winning Scholar of the Year, signing his professional contract midway through the term, going away with the Dragons’ U21s, and playing senior football during a short loan spell at Hednesford Town.
And as the 18-year-old prepares for a return to Staffordshire on Friday night, the shot-stopper is hoping to showcase what he’s taken on board from last year and help the young Baggies push on further with a positive result against the Black Cats.
“Getting four points out of the first two games, despite not playing myself, has put the team in good stead going into the Sunderland game,” said Hollingshead.
“Playing out from the back is a style which suits me and I think I can showcase myself a bit more and display the abilities I’ve got that way. It mirrors the first team and the way they want to play, but you’ve also got to mix it up.
“You can’t keep playing out, passing around because it can be predictable so being able to play those longer balls as well gives me a good chance to mix our game up a bit.
“I had a month’s loan at Hednesford last year and that gave me good exposure playing against men, which is the complete opposite to academy football. It’s balls into the box, every team had a long throw so I had that to deal with while I was out and in the Birmingham Senior Cup too.
“But that’s something I can improve on with Marcos (Abad) coming in as well. He’s shown us how he wants us to play as keepers and I think that’ll help me be more confident in those difficult situations this year.
“We want to make it three games unbeaten against Sunderland. We had a bit of a dip during the last match. The first half against Blackburn wasn’t our best, but coming out and producing the second-half performance we did has helped us going into Friday.
“We need to nail down our press, win the ball back higher up the pitch - because the players we’ve got at the top end of the pitch can really do some damage - and I think a bit more directness could help us keep this run going.”
How to follow the match
Tickets for the encounter are priced at £5 adults and £1 concessions and will be available to purchase on the door at Keys Park on Friday night, while Albion season ticket holders are able to watch the game for free.
WBA TV+ subscribers will be able to watch a live stream of the game here from 6.20pm.
*Owing to Premier League broadcasting rights and the crossover between tonight's game and Chelsea's Premier League encounter with Luton Town, the live stream will be forced to cut out when the match at Stamford Bridge begins (ko 8pm).*