Wolves fall to rivals in under-17 cup opener

Wolves began their U17 Premier League Cup campaign with a 3-1 loss to West Bromwich Albion at Compton Park as a side which included some of the Academy's stand-out 14 and 15-year-olds faced up to a tough challenge in the opening group game.

After the under-18s overcame West Brom 5-0 in their U18 Premier League Cup contest last week, it was a chance for some of the younger members of the squad to get minutes in the under-17 edition on Tuesday night, but they weren’t able to replicate the previous success.

Handing first starts at this level to under-15 right-back Leo Shahar and under-16 left-back Hayden Carson, while midfielder Temple Ojinnaka – playing minutes for the first time since coming back from injury – and right-back Marvin Kaleta made up the rest of a make-shift back four, Wolves started the game slow.

West Brom came out of the box flying, going two goals to the good early on, but a young Wolves side, which also included a first start for under-16 forward Finn Ashworth, fought back just before half-time through Ackeme Francis-Burrell, who fired home from the edge of the penalty area to reduce the deficit.

Wolves brought their new-found confidence with them out of the break, and continued to attack throughout the second-half, coming close on several occasions to bring the scoreline level, before West Brom caught the team out on the counter to recover their two-goal lead.

The game finished with Albion on top and took the first three points of the group, with Wolves due to face Birmingham City and Aston Villa in their next two under-17 cup matches.


Under-18 assistant coach James McPike led the team against West Brom alongside under-16 head coach Ian Sharpes, but felt his side were deserving of at least a point in their opening group match.

“We started slow in the first-half,” McPike said. “We weren’t quite at the races straight off the bat, and that reflected, with us conceding within 20 seconds.

“That doesn’t help the situation, but to be fair to the lads, they built themselves back into the game and then by the second-half, we were really dominant.

“We had lots of the ball, lots of chances, and probably should’ve come away with a draw, but got caught chasing a goal to make it 2-2 with a counter.”

On Francis-Burrell’s goal

“It was a really well worked goal. We built up down the right side with a good bit of combination play right out to the touchline with Ethan [McLeod] and he cut the ball back to Ackeme who hit a really powerful shot off the bar and in.

“It was a good but of play and a strong finish. Going into half-time at 2-1, that was as good as we could’ve hoped for.”

On turning momentum in the second-half

“We had the momentum, but it was just the goal we were searching for to make it 2-2 didn’t arrive. We spoke to them about being patient with the ball, switching play and trying to move them around a bit, and I felt we really did that well, and there were lots of gaps for us to play through.

“We created quite a few chances which just flashed across the goalline and just needed a toe, just needed somebody to throw their body on it.

“We had two or three chances like that, and we did more than enough to have deserved to get something out of the game. But it was just that last little back to finish the attack that we were missing.”

On giving opportunities to young players

“It’s great to be able to expose boys of that age to these sorts of challenges, not only physically but the whole occasion of playing down on the first-team pitch under the lights. It’s a great experience for them.

“I thought they managed the game really well, considering we put together a team at the last minute from those who were available.

“Leo and Finn came with us in pre-season and they’ve been doing really well and the more exposure they get will be good for them.

“We had one under-15 and three or four under-16s in an under-17s game, which is an indication of where the club’s going, as we’re giving lots of opportunities to younger players. You see that with our team and the under-23s.

“We go by ‘if they’re good enough, they’re old enough’ to play up the age groups, and that’s definitely the case with quite a few of our boys at the minute, so there’s some great opportunities with the younger boys coming through.”


Wolves: Storer, Shahar, Kaleta, Ojinnaka (Keto-Diyawa), Carson, Esen, Rees, Francis-Burrell (Harper), McLeod, Ashworth (Reynolds), Fraser.

Unused subs: Amos, Sweeney.

West Brom: Hudd, Nelson (Hurlock), Phillips, Olofinjana, Williams, Cardoso (Cisse), Richards, Heard, Higgins, Love, Oliver.

Unused sub: Tobi.