I’ve not been too complimentary about our Under 18’s this season in some of the pieces I’ve done on them on here, but by beating Bristol City 2-0 in what were at times very tricky conditions at Leckwith yesterday lunchtime, they took their unbeaten run to nine matches with seven of them being won.
The last table I saw for their league had QPR running away with things at the top, but City were pushing Charlton hard for second spot which would be enough to see them qualify for the end of season Play Offs.
With them also having reached the last sixteen of the FA Youth Cup (they face Chelsea at home on 18 February), the 13/14 side is shaping up to be one of the more successful ones we’ve had since achieving Academy status and so it’s fair to say that I probably have been a bit over harsh on them at times.
Their football could hardly be called scintillating yesterday, but they had a perfectly valid excuse for this as the weather conditions played a large part in proceedings.
At least a pitch which was in very good condition considering the amount of rain we’ve been having (the game was switched from the Athletics Stadium pitch to the one adjacent to it which the Under 16’s usually play on) gave both teams some chance of playing some decent football, but, even when it was not lashing it down with rain and hail and the sun was out, the strong, blustery wind was always a dominant factor.
Although it was hard to always gauge what direction the wind was blowing the kicking of the respective goalkeepers told you all you needed to know who had the elements behind them and in the first half it was the City team who had that advantage.
I say advantage, but in truth it wasn’t really. The wurzels’ keeper could never control his distribution after the break with the result that many of his clearances went all of the way through for City goal kicks and so his team, which had offered very little attacking threat in the first forty five minutes, could not muster one worthwhile scoring attempt when they had what was sometimes a gale behind them.
In truth, all of the threatening moments in the game came from Cardiff, but there weren’t too many of those in the first half as they also found the wind to be not much of an ally. The only real moments of drama both involved Yora Enzam who was being used on the left wing with Abdi Noor playing the lone striker.
The first came around the half hour mark when captain Macauley Southam saw his effort from about eight yards come back off the upright and fall into the path of Enzam. With the keeper still on the ground after the original shot, it looked a certain goal, but, although the block which denied the City forward was a lucky one in many respects, the defender responsible deserved credit for getting into a position to prevent his team falling behind.
Shortly afterwards though Enzam had his goal when Tyler Roche cut in from the left to shoot from just outside the penalty area – it was a good effort and was curling into the corner, but the Bristol keeper should really have made a better job of dealing with it as he palmed the ball into Enzam’s path and he was never going to miss another clear chance from six yards out.
City were dominant after the break and should really have got more than just the one goal – Noor shot across the face of goal, Roche was booked for diving as another official backed up my theory that referees seem reluctant to give penalties this season (it seemed a clear foul to me) and sub Jake Watkins was denied by a smart save from the keeper.
Besides this, an effort by one of our central defenders (think it was Tom James) was cleared just as it was about to cross the line and Noor was denied by a linesman’s flag when he found the net – I was pretty much in line with the official and it was a very tight decision, but probably the correct one.
That would have been Noor’s second goal because about ten minutes earlier he had moved on to a through pass and placed a shot wide of the keeper in very calm fashion – the goal celebration had very little of the flamboyance that you usually see when Noor scores, but in the atrocious conditions at the time, his understated reaction to the goal seemed more appropriate.
So, a win that was never really in doubt from a side which must be very confident at the moment. I thought the victory was built on a strong midfield performance from the central three of Tom Burridge, Robbie Patten and Southam with the first named being the City player who most took my eye on the day.
* Sorry about this, but the final score in this game was, in fact, 3-0. My excuse for this schoolboy error is that I arrived five minutes after the game kicked off and was told that there was no score by the person I asked – it turns out, it was actually 1-0 with the goal coming from, I think, Curtis Watkins judging by the pictures on the official site.