Under-21 boss Shannon Ruth said Jakub Moder’s successful return from a long-term injury was the “biggest positive” from his side’s 6-3 loss to Arsenal on Sunday.
The Gunners raced into a 4-0 lead after 39 minutes thanks to goals from Bradley Ibrahim, a brace from Khayon Edwards, and a strike from Jack Henry-Francis, only for Mark O’Mahony to grab a goal back in first-half stoppage time.
Amario Cozier-Duberry’s double, either side of O’Mahony’s second and Josh Duffus’ finish, secured the three points at Mangata Pay UK Stadium; but the big plus for Albion was Moder’s successful comeback.
The Polish international played the first 30 minutes of the contest before being withdrawn as Albion ease him back into action after 18 months out with an ACL injury. And Ruth was delighted to see the 24-year-old playing competitive football once more.
“I said in the changing room, he [Moder] is our biggest positive from today (Sunday). For him to be back on the grass after what he has been through is really good to see,” he said.
“All credit to the medical team and rehab team because I thought he looked sharp when he came back in. He has had a couple of training sessions with us, and he has shown glimpses of the quality player that we know he is and I am sure when he is back fully fit he will be a real asset to the first team.
“For him, it wasn’t necessarily about the scoreline it was about him getting that first set of 30 minutes under his belt and to be back on the pitch playing with teammates again.
“Although he will be disappointed with the scoreline, probably deep inside he will be pleased he got through that and onto the next set of minutes.”
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Ruth was less pleased about the number of goals his team conceded against the Gunners, in what was only their second league defeat of the season.
He called on his players to improve ahead of their next Premier League 2 clash against Aston Villa on Friday.
“I think to concede that many goals is not acceptable. When you are a possession-based side it requires you to be slightly open with your structure and it means when you take the risks that we do, if you are not quite at it the opponent can hurt you. Arsenal capitalised a lot on our build-up and we couldn’t quite find a rhythm,” he said.
“The worst thing in football is doubt; doubting a strategy, doubting each other. I thought Arsenal did well in terms of creating that doubt and they have got some very creative players who can hurt you on the transition and one versus one and that is where the majority of their goals came from.”
Ruth added, “We have to value defending better than we did today. We felt it was just going to happen and we would have lots of the ball and the game was going to be easy. Football has a great way of reminding you if you are not at it you can get hurt. Although we were in a good moment, we can’t get complacent.”