Wolves ran riot in the first-half of their Under-17 Premier League Cup clash with West Bromwich Albion to take a 5-1 victory in the first Black Country derby of the season.
Two goals from Ty Barnett and one each from Dexter Lembikisa, Tyler Roberts and Erik Bugarin, saw Steve Davis’ side go into the break 5-0 up against their near neighbours, but the visitors were able to get a second-half consolation from the penalty spot.
Barnett quickly put Wolves on their way to three points in their second Group B match when he found the back of the net after his initial shot was blocked. Following a scramble inside the penalty area, the ball came back out to the forward who was able to squeeze his low effort in at the far post from a tight angle.
Wing-back Lembikisa added the second after Harry Birtwistle had burst down the right wing before lifting the ball over to his opposite wing-back who had made a run round the back of the Albion defence and after a block on his first strike, Lembikisa made no mistake with his second, firing the ball into the roof of the net.
It didn’t take long for Wolves to move three ahead and for Barnett to add his second of the evening when the 15-year-old smashed a first time volley past Ronnie Hollingshead in the West Brom goal after the ball had deflected back out the edge of the box.
Bugarin scored his second goal in two matches, after his dramatic late winner against Liverpool before the international break, when he was slipped in behind the defence. After dummying to shoot, the Spaniard then took another touch before hitting the ball hard and low under the visiting keeper.
The game was wrapped up before the half-time whistle when Roberts got in on the scoring action. The forward’s run in behind the centre backs was found with a through ball, and the 16-year-old then smashed an effort into the top right-hand corner of the net.
Although the visitors scored a penalty to reduce the deficit to just the four goals, Wolves ran away with the victory, and now know there is everything is to play for in their final match of the group stages against Aston Villa in January.
On dominating the first 45 minutes
“It was a really good start from the lads,” Davis said. “We knew we needed to win the game if we wanted to a chance to progress from the group and take something into the final match at Villa, and they put in a very good performance.
“We began the game on the front foot and didn’t let off, with the goals going in thick and fast to mean we went into half-time 5-0 up.
“The goals were great quality. Ty’s second on the volley was a really good finish, right into the roof of the net. It was a great strike with really good connection from just outside the box, and then Tinks’ [Roberts] just before half-time was another really good finish, right into the stanchion of the goal.”
On team’s mindset at half-time
“When you have a scoreline like that at half-time, you can either decide to manage the game and see it out or try to add more goals.
“If it was 2-0, I might have told the lads to settle down, and see the game out, but when it’s five, you want to score more, especially in a cup competition which only has three games and could come down to goal difference.
“But it’s difficult for young players not to switch off or be as competitive when you have the kind of a lead, but despite their penalty, I was really pleased with the performances from all of them.”
On a boost for Bugarin
“It’s been a difficult few years for Erik, so these two goals in his last two games will give him a lot of confidence for the rest of the season.
“Last season, he suffered an injury almost straight after joining the club and that put him out for the entirety of pre-season, and since then, he’s been recovering while also suffering further injuries. This year, he’s had to try and regain his fitness, while also having periods of self-isolation, which has been really hard for him as he’s been away from his family in Spain and living with a host family here.
“It’s been a very tough time for him, but as a second-year scholar, he knows there is pressure on him to show us what he can do. He needs to get physically stronger, but we always knew the quality that he had, which is why we brought him here, and he’s starting to get back to those levels.”
The under-18s are straight back in action this weekend as Davis’ side take on Middlesbrough at Compton Park as they aim to move up the U18 Premier League North table in a 1pm kick-off.
On the younger players proving they’re ready
“We’ve got some really big games coming up in the next couple of weeks, starting with Middlesbrough on Saturday and then Everton, Man United and the FA Youth Cup before Christmas.
“The majority of the team that played last night will more than likely be involved again at the weekend, but we still have ‘Tippo’ [Ollie Tipton], who we rested after picking up a slight injury with the under-23s last week, and some of the older lads like Owen Hesketh, Jack Hodnett and Lee Harkin who can all come back in.
“But I would have no reservations about playing the same team that played last night against Middlesbrough because even if our more experienced lads aren’t available, we know we can trust the younger ones to make that step up and compete in the league.”
28/11 Middlesbrough (H)
05/12 Everton (A)
12/12 Manchester United (H)
09/01 Newcastle United (H)
20/01 Aston Villa (H) U17PLC
Wolves: Arinbjorsson, Birtwistle, Kandola, Hubner, Mabete, Lembikisa, Scicluna, Barnett, Bugarin, Rees, Roberts.
Subs: O’Shaughnessy, Farmer, McLeod, Trialist, Keto-Diyawa.
West Brom: Hollingshead, Williams, Hall, N’Goma, Shaw, Okoka, Trialist, Lamb, Barrett, Trialist, Cleary.
Subs: Grant, Oliver, Richards.