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March back as Albion suffer narrow defeat

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Solly March made his competitive return to action as Albion under-23s narrowly lost their first game in six to Leicester City in Premier League 2 this evening on the south coast.

By Bruce Talbot • 13 January 2020

By Paul Hazlewood
Peter Gwargis looks to get Albion on the attack.
  • Solly March returns from injury for the under-23s
  • Winger plays opening 45 minutes in narrow 1-0 defeat to the Foxes
  • Leicester score early through Josh Eppiah before Albion recover
  • Hosts go close after the break but are thwarted by Johansson in visiting goal

March, who has been out for more than two months with a groin problem, played for 45 minutes in atrocious conditions at the American Express Elite Performance Centre on Monday night.

The visitors dominated the early stages and went in front through Josh Eppiah but Albion were the more threatening after the break with Lorent Tolaj, Bojan Radulovic and Warren O’Hora all going close.

March operated as a wing-back on the left with Albion employing three central defenders, but they were under pressure early on against a vibrant Leicester team.

The visitors went in front after ten minutes, although it was a poor goal from Albion’s perspective as Tudor Baluta was dispossessed on the edge of the box and Eppiah rounded goalkeeper Tom McGill and rolled the ball into an empty net.

Two minutes later Matt James fired just wide of the left-hand post and in the first 25 minutes or so of the first half Leicester were a constant threat as they dominated possession. Ali Reghba went close with a powerful drive before weaving past a couple of challenges only for Baluta to get in a vital interception just as Reghba was about to shoot.

By Paul Hazlewood
Andrew Crofts plays a pass in midfield.

It had been hard for Albion to build any sort of pressure in the opening half-hour but towards the end of the first half they began to come into the game a bit more.

Peter Gwargis, looking to score for the fourth successive league game, was set up by Romaric Yapi for a shot which was deflected over before the Swede created Albion’s best opportunity of the half for Taylor Richards just before the break but Richards couldn’t keep his shot on target from a decent position on the left.

McGill made a terrific save at the start of the second half when he dived to his right to push away Reghba’s swerving strike from distance and the Albion keeper made another save to deny Mitch Clark after the Leicester right-back had cut inside.

But Albion then began to get on top and Tolaj had two decent opportunities to equalise.

He was found by skipper Alex Cochrane’s cross in the 62nd minute but Viktor Johansson stood tall to make the save before Cochrane whipped over a great ball to an unmarked Tolaj who blasted over from a good position.

By Paul Hazlewood
Skipper Alex Cochrane issues instructions against Leicester City.

Johansson then dived full length to push away Taylor Richards’ effort which was heading into the bottom corner as the home side pushed strongly for an equaliser.

There were chances at both ends in the closing stages. McGill made a brave double save to thwart Adi Muskwe after the Foxes had broken quickly, then Radulovic worked a great opening in the final minute, but could only shoot straight at Johansson.

The Leicester keeper saved his best until last, when he brilliantly pushed away Warren O’Hora’s shot, after another good delivery from the left by Cochrane, deep into stoppage time to deny Albion the point their second-half efforts deserved.

Albion line-up: McGill, O’Hora, Baluta, Roberts, Yapi (Radulovic 74), Crofts, Cochrane, March (Jenks 45), Gwargis, Tolaj (Tsoungui 90), Richards.

Subs not used: Keto, Freestone.

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