Coach Shaun Cooper admitted to having had mixed feelings after watching AFC Bournemouth reach the last 16 of the Premier League Cup last night.
The Cherries guaranteed a place in the top two of Group C after claiming a share of the points from a 1-1 draw with West Brom at Hednesford’s Keys Park.
Jaidon Anthony finished a sweeping move to open the scoring in the 23rd minute as the visitors deservedly reached the break in the ascendancy.
But they were indebted to goalkeeper Mark Travers for preserving their lead in the second half before he was finally beaten six minutes from time by Finn Azaz’s strike.
Cooper was understandably delighted with the Cherries’ impressive first-half display but also said he felt his players would learn a lot from their second-half showing.
He told afcb.co.uk: “For a large part of the first half, I thought we were excellent. We played some really good football, scored a really good goal and I felt we deserved to be in the lead at half-time.
“But I thought we made hard work of it in the second half. They pressed us aggressively and we were on the back foot all the way through.
“When we got possession, it was very much on the counter-attack and we didn’t really manage to take the sting out of their press.
“You have to give our lads credit for hanging on but you also have to give a big mention to Travs (Mark Travers) for all the saves he made. He was outstanding, especially in the second half, and showed what a bright future he has in the game.
“In the dressing room after the game, the lads acknowledged we had qualified because of Travs so they appreciated his performance and what he did for us.
“The players are still developing and this was a big opportunity for them to reflect and learn for themselves in their careers moving forward.
“We discussed a few things in the dressing room and the lads are aware of what they could have done better to help themselves. They are a good bunch and will reflect and be better players off the back of that second half.”
Irishman Travers made a string of top-drawer saves to keep the Baggies at bay, including several from point-blank range.
He told afcb.co.uk: “We dominated the ball in the first half but the second half was a lot tougher. They came out on top, got a late goal as well so to get the draw was a good result in the end.
“It was a busy night, but we dug in and it was a good team effort. As a keeper, it’s enjoyable to make saves but we worked together as a team and tried to dig out a positive result.
“This tournament teaches you to dig in and you get good experience against good teams like West Brom.”
The Cherries could secure top spot in their group with victory against Liverpool at Vitality Stadium a week on Sunday (1pm).
Cooper added: “I was really pleased we qualified. So far in this tournament, we have done really well against some good teams so it’s a good achievement.
“The Liverpool game is one we can enjoy. We know it will be a tough game so we are very much looking forward to it.”
And Travers added: “We’re looking forward to another good game against Liverpool. We drew with them early on in the tournament so, hopefully, we can finish on a high, get another three points and kick on in the last 16.
“You want to finish on top and a win against Liverpool would be a massive confidence boost for us all ahead of the knockout stages so, hopefully, we can deliver.”