West Brom u21s 4-0 Stoke City u21s – report and pictures
Albion under-21s chalked up yet another big PL2 victory on a treat of a Halloween evening at a drenched Keys Park.
Second string boss Richard Beale returned to the dugout in his day job following the recent two-week stint in charge of the first team and his side continued their excellent form this term by climbing to second in Division Two after a 4-0 win.
Striker Jovan Malcolm was on top form and finished well for his two goals as Stoke were swept away in the teeming rain thanks to quickfire goals at the start of either half.
Forward colleague Reyes Cleary also fired a brace, his 11th and 12th goals of the season, as the teenager continues to catch the eye in front of goal.
Wing-back Ethan Ingram, winger Rico Richards and defender Reece Hall caught the eye on another comfortable and clinical evening for Beale's side.
The under-21s trail only Leeds United - the academy when new senior boss Carlos Corberan previously worked - in the standings having lost just once, and won five, of their opening eight league games. They host Nottingham Forest in Hednesford next Monday night before a handful of PL Cup ties to see out 2022.
There was no under-21s captain Jamie Andrews, who earlier in the day had sealed a short-term loan deal at National League outfit Yeovil.
Mo Faal was also absent having joined AFC Telford United on loan in National League North .
It took Beale's youngsters less than five minutes to break the deadlock.
Centre-forward Malcolm was space outside the area and drilled a low strike into the far corner away from the reach of Potters keeper Tommy Smith.
It was one-way traffic in the opening stages with Stoke powerless to resist. A cross from the right looked harmless but bounced to Cleary whose messy finish bobbled over Smith for an 11th of the season.
Ted Cann was called into action in Albion's goal as he denied dangerman Emre Tezgel one-on-one.
Stoke gained a foothold and Cann was forced into more routine stops after some anxious moments with his kicking. Tezgel then flashed one across Albion's box.
Beale's youngsters had been under the cosh at the end of the first period but repeated their fast start to the fixture at the beginning of the second period.
Flying right-sided wing-back Ingram, who tuned out for the first team in the EFL Cup this term, sent in a fine low cross from the flank that was turned in for a composed finish by striker Malcolm for his second.
And five minutes after that the hosts made it four through Cleary - who recently made two first-team substitute appearances under caretaker boss Beale - and profited from a woeful defensive error at the back before finishing calmly for his second.
The heavens had opened in Cannock Chase and the Keys Park pitch took a battering but held up well, although a soggy surface did not make for the best spectacle with the Baggies four up and coasting.
Beale was able to include the next crop of Albion youngsters to see the contest out, with Evan Humphries making his under-21s debut at left wing-back, as Jesse Wangusi was also called for, alongside lively cameos from midfielder Kevin Mfuamba and forward Akeel Higgins.
The closest Albion went to a fifth saw Malcolm just miss out on a hat-trick with a fine curled strike from the edge of the box on another satisfactory evening for Beale's side.
Albion under-21s (3-4-3): Cann; Hall, Harper-Bailey, Nguepissi; Ingram, Whitwell, M Richards (Mfuamba, 45), Ashworth (Humphries, 58); R Richards (Wangusi, 58), Malcolm, Cleary (Higgins, 58).
Subs not used: Cisse.
Stoke City under-21s: Smith, Curle, Blackerton, Lewis, Souttar, Baker, Reddin, Kershaw, Tezgel, Holland Wilkinson, McGuinniess
Subs not used: Roney, Jackson, Singh Lohia, Smith, Lowe.
Referee: Aaron Jackson