Albion eased into the third round of the Carabao Cup with a 3-0 win over League One Forest Green Rovers.
The hosts were lively in spells, but Deniz Undav raced through to put us ahead and Steven Alzate doubled the lead with a fine strike in first-half stoppage time.
Forest Green threw more attackers on in the second half and Jason Steele made two terrific blocks while Undav headed a glorious chance wide before Evan Ferguson scored his first senior goal deep into stoppage time.
By the end Albion had used eight Academy players with Cam Peupion, Jack Hinchy and James Furlong all making their first-team debuts as Albion got the job done.
There were first starts for Levi Colwill, Jan Paul van Hecke, Kaoru Mitoma, Julio Enciso and Undav in a team captained by Steele. Tariq Lamptey and Mitoma occupied the wing-back roles with Undav operating behind Evan Ferguson.
Around 1,200 Albion fans had made the trip for our first game at The Bolt New Lawn, and they saw a lively start. Mitoma raced forward on the counter in the first minute but his pass to Julio Enciso was cut out. Forest Green went quickly down the other end and after dispossessing Ed Turns by the corner flag, Josh March’s cross-shot was smothered by Steele. Enciso then fires just past the far post from the left-hand corner of the six-yard box.
Mitoma and Lamptey were the wing-backs with Jack Spong alongside Alzate in midfield and Undav supporting Ferguson and gradually Albion started to dominate possession.
They went close in the 27th minute when Enciso's left-wing corner was flicked on by Undav and hit the near post. The rebound fell to van Hecke, but he stabbed his low shot at keeper Luke McGee.
But Albion were now on top and they broke the deadlock in the 38th minute. Ferguson’s cushioned the ball into the path of Undav and he raced through before guiding his shot inside the left-hand post. Moments later Enciso capitalised on a mistake at the back but fired straight at McGee. His reaction suggested that he should have hit the target.
But Albion did have a second in stoppage time. No one closed Alzate down 25 yards out and he took a couple of paces before lashing a left-foot shot past McGee, who seemed to see it late, and inside the right-hand post. It was the midfielder’s first goal since his famous winner at Anfield in February 2021.
Albion had a comfortable advantage although it needed a great save from Steele to preserve the two-goal cushion nine minutes after the break. Kyle McAllister was sent clear down the right by Baily Cargill’s brilliant cross-field ball and McAllister’s cross picked out March, but Steele spread himself to block the shot.
The hosts had made five changes in the second half and had power and numbers in attack. It left them vulnerable to the counter and Albion should have had a third on 64 minutes. Ferguson sprinted down the right and unselfishly picked out Undav at the far post but the German’s header back across McGee bounced the wrong side of the post. It was the striker’s last involvement as he and Mitoma were replaced by Odel Offiah and Andy Moran.
The hosts kept coming and Reece Brown stabbed his shot wide after a scramble in the box before Albion made three more changes as Jack Hinchy, Cam Peupion and James Furlong came on to make their first-team debuts. In the closing stages Steele made another good save with his legs to deny McAllister a consolation.
Instead, Albion got a third goal deep into stoppage time. Peupion tricked his way to the line and pulled the ball back to Ferguson who swept it past McGee for his first first-team goal.
At times it had been a testing night but Albion's quality shone through, particularly in front of goal.
Albion: Steele, Lamptey (Hinchy 79), Colwill, van Hecke, Turns, Mitoma (Moran 67), Alzate, Spong (Furlong 84), Enciso (Peupion 79), Undav (Offiah 67), Ferguson. Subs: McGill, Tsoungui.
Attendance: 3812 (1224 Albion)