Missing out on runners-up spot has not detracted from an impressive first season amongst the big guns for Albion's under-23s.

Friday's 2-1 home defeat by Chelsea prevented them from overtaking Arsenal in second place in Premier League 2 behind champions Everton.

They still finished above their conquerors at the Lancing training complex in third, as well as Manchester City, Liverpool and Spurs.

Coach Simon Rusk said: "We have to be pleased with the way our first season at this level has gone.

"There haven't been many games where we've not been really in them. That has been backed up by our finishing position in the league, challenging Everton for the title.

"I think overall we have to be delighted with it. I'm very pleased the players have acquitted and conducted themselves the way they have."

The under-23s maintained their challenge despite disruptions to the squad, particularly during the January transfer window.

"Credit to the players for that," Rusk (below) said. "The nature of under-23s football, you would have a concern if your squad was so settled.

The Argus: "There's always going to be that fluidity with players going up and down from the under-18's, players going out on loan, players training with the first team.

"We have a set of principles at the start of the year that we aspire to reach in terms of how we play with the ball and without the ball. I think that helps.

"Who ever comes in or out is well aware of what those principles are."

Under-18s winger Ryan Longman scored against Chelsea as part of an attack spearheaded by Viktor Gyokeres (below), the Swede who has signed a new long-term contract.

The Argus: Rusk said: "That will do his (Longman's) confidence good going into next year. Danny Cashman came off the bench at the end. There were far more positives than negatives.

"It's managing expectations with all our young players. They have still got aspects to improve but I think Viktor has made strides with and without the ball. His level of understanding in general play is far greater now and that will only stand him in good stead.

"Hopefully he can push those doors back and get himself in and around first team contention."

The Chelsea defeat was hard on the under-23s, some of whom will now feature in the Hong Kong Sevens.

"In terms of how we moved the ball and how we played, I thought we were excellent for large parts of the game," Rusk said. "I don't think we deserved to lose.

"I'm really disappointed to have conceded two goals from corners. It's important we learn from that.

"In games against Bayren Munich, Chelsea and Everton we've performed very well and had lapses of concentration on a couple of set pieces.

"It's one to learn from - but that's what development football is."