Match Previews

Under-21s relishing Walsall test

Crofts' unbeaten side start their Papa John's Trophy campaign tonight.

By Matt Bishop • 14 September 2021

By Paul Hazlewood
The under-23s have won three and drawn one of their opening four Premier League 2 matches so far this campaign.

Albion under-21s begin their Papa John's Trophy campaign on Tuesday when they travel to League Two Walsall, kick-off 7pm.

Andrew Crofts' side will take on the Saddlers having started the Premier League 2 season in great form, with three wins and one draw from the opening four games consolidating their spot at the top of the league.

Friday night's 4-1 victory over Blackburn Rovers was their second win in a row, and was secured thanks to first-half goals from Marc Leonard, Lorent Tolaj and James Furlong, and a late fourth from the in-form Evan Ferguson.

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PL2 Highlights: Albion 4 Blackburn Rovers 1

Walsall are currently 16th in League Two with eight points from their first seven outings.

Albion’s Carl Rushworth has started every game for Matthew Taylor's side since joining on a season-long loan in July, and most recently helped the Saddlers beat Mansfield 3-1 on Saturday.

Crofts said, “Friday night was an excellent performance and a really pleasing result. The enthusiasm and appetite the lads started the game with was really impressive.

“After a little rest over the international break, you could tell they were eager to get back onto the pitch and that really shone through on Friday.

“Getting the early goals set the tone and it was definitely our most complete performance to date, both with and without the ball.

“There’s always things we want to do better but the relentless energy and intensity that we played at was a big reason as to why we won the game and played so well.

“We’ve now got an exciting challenge and it’s one the group is really looking forward to. We’re going in with real confidence and belief, but a professional attitude. The group take nothing for granted and we’ve got to keep going every day.

By Paul Hazlewood
Marc Leonard opened the scoring on Friday as Albion defeated Blackburn 4-1 at the Amex.

“Walsall and these cup games pose a different test but I hope we can stamp our identity on the game. The next step for our players is first-team football, whether that’s for us or on loan, so this will give them a real taste of what to expect.”

Rushworth is one of Albion’s youngsters who has already taken that step, and Crofts has been impressed with how the goalkeeper has adapted to life in the EFL.

“Carl seems to have settled in really quickly, which is a testament to where he’s at in his journey.” said the under-23s head coach. “By all accounts, he’s had some really high-level performances.

“The Walsall staff and players are really happy with him, and some of the clips I’ve seen from Carl’s games have been very impressive.”

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