Monday 12 November 2012
West Bromwich Albion boosted their prospects of reaching the Barclays Under-21 Elite Group stage with an emphatic Group 1 victory against Norwich on Sunday.
Adil Nabi scored twice, while Romaine Sawyers's early penalty and a late Kemar Roofe strike did the damage for the Baggies, who moved to within a point of the third-placed Canaries with their fourth win of the season. The top three teams in Group 1 go through to the Elite Group Stage.
Boosted by the inclusion of Republic of Ireland defender Steven Reid, who had been out for two months with a hamstring injury, and an 11th-minute penalty, West Brom never looked back once Sawyers had beaten goalkeeper Declan Rudd from 12 yards.
Nabi connected with Roofe’s 36th-minute cross to double his side's lead, which would have been halved two minutes later had Jamar Loza not missed the visitors' spot-kick.
Thereafter it was one-way traffic as Nabi doubled his tally at the second attempt on 70 minutes after Rudd had saved his volley and Roofe rounded off the scoring from close range with 12 minutes left after good approach play by Bradley Garmstone.
David Oldfield's side's credentials will be tested to the full when they travel to leaders West Ham United on Friday.
Everton and Reading are also looking to boost their qualification prospects on Monday when they play at home against Blackburn Rovers and Bolton Wanderers respectively, while in Group 2 Tottenham Hotspur can preserve their stay at the summit with a victory against fourth-placed Southampton at White Hart Lane.
After winning four of their last five matches and hitting Newcastle for six last time out Tottenham will be confident of another free-scoring performance. Tom Carroll is back in the squad after his fine UEFA Europa League outing against Maribor, while Ryan Fredericks, Yago Falque, Massimo Luongo, Ryan Mason and Jon Obika are all set to feature.
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West Ham took a giant stride towards the Barclays U21 Premier League Elite Group Stage with a fine victory over their nearest rivals, Arsenal.
Goals at each end of the second half by Rob Hall and Paul McCallum secured the double over Arsenal, who now trail the Group 1 leaders by five points.
With three matches remaining, Ian Hendon's side are nine points ahead of Norwich City, who are third and have played a match fewer and another win should secure a place in the post-Christmas Elite Group Stage.
After an even first half with both sides hitting the woodwork, Hall put the visiting side ahead from the start of the second half weaving his way past the Arsenal defence and beating the goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, who was returning from injury.
With 12 minutes remaining Serge Gnabry equalised for Arsenal but McCallum reacted quickest to a loose ball after a corner to give West Ham the win.
They can secure passage to the next stage should they beat West Bromwich Albion at Rush Green on Friday evening.
"It was almost a mirror-image of the first-team match in the Barclays Premier League in that they had plenty of possession and we looked to hit them on the counter-attack,” coach Ian Hendon said. “Thankfully, we were able to hold out after they equalised and we got the win at the end.
Wolverhampton Wanderers maintained second position in Group 3 with a goalless draw with their nearest rivals, Middlesbrough. The Wearsiders could have leapfrogged their rivals on goal difference with victory at Telford's New Bucks Head ground but in an even match chances were few.
Middlesbrough still can reach second spot where progress to the next stage is automatic if they win their match in hand, having played nine times. Liverpool top the group with 20 points after eight matches.
Things are tight in Group 2 where five points separate five of the six teams. Fourth-placed Southampton could go top if they beat leaders Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane on Monday evening and other results go in their favour.
Newcastle United, who are a point behind Spurs, face Manchester United, who are a point behind, having played a match fewer. Aston Villa and Sunderland who are fifth and sixth will look to profit as they take on each other at Hinckley United's stadium.
Friday 9 November
Arsenal 1-2 West Ham United
Wolverhampton Wanderers 0-0 Middlesbrough
Sunday, 11 November
West Bromwich Albion 4-0 Norwich City
Monday, 21 November
Everton v Blackburn Rovers, Finch Farm TG, 1pm
Reading v Bolton Wanderers, Hogwood Park, 1pm
Aston Villa v Sunderland, Hinckley United FC, 7pm
Newcastle United v Manchester United, Northumberland FA, 7pm
Tottenham Hotspur v. Southampton, White Hart Lane, 7pm
For all the fixtures and the latest league tables, click here