The Under 18 team have already won more league points than any of their predecessors have done since City joined the Academy system in 2004 so their season has to be seen as a relative success, but they aren’t finishing it too well as they slumped to their seventh defeat in ten matches and lost their grip on fourth place in the table by letting Watford leave with a 2-1 win yesterday.
To be fair, the team is in a bit of a state of transition at the moment with yesterday’s starting line up containing four players who have played most of their football this season for the Under 16 team and, in the second half especially, they dominated large chunks of the game, but Watford looked that bit more sharper going forward and even during the stages when City were dominant, their counter attacks, particularly down their right hand side, always carried a threat.
The visitors were the better side in a dull first half and took the lead when their centre forward beat Stephen Last down the right and knocked over a low cross that their number 10 slotted in easily. Keeper Reece Ottley was also forced into a sharp save at his near post from a visitor’s attack and Nat Jarvis’ poor second touch when put through with only the keeper to beat by Adam Davies lost City a great chance to equalise, but that was about it as for as goalmouth incident went in the first period.
The second forty five minutes offered much more entertainment as City began to get on top in midfield without carving out that many decent chances but they did manage to work Billy Taylor through only for him to be taken out right on the edge of the penalty area by a cynical challenge by the Watford captain. It looked an obvious shooting chance for Luke Cummings when he lined up the free kick, but, instead, he clipped a lovely ball in for Nat Jarvis to head home from six yards for his twelfth goal of the season. For a while after that it looked like City would go on to win the game as Cummings hit a post and shouts for a penalty were turned down. However, Watford were always able to work dangerous situations for themselves and a couple of shots inches wide of Ottley’s left hand upright offered proof that they were by no means out of the game.
Having made all three of their substitutions, the decisive moment of the game for City probably came with ten minutes to go when their influential captain Jarvis (who, his first half miss apart, had again impressed in the lone striker role he has played virtually all season) went off with an injury. Reduced to ten players, City conceded a second goal within a couple of minutes as the visitors got the better of City’s defence down the left once again and the resultant cross found it’s way to one of two visiting players in glorious isolation on the far post who gave Ottley no chance with a shot high into the net.
Having struggled to create chances when they had eleven on the pitch, City were always going to find it hard to get back on terms without their main attacking threat and Watford saw the game out easily to get a win that they probably just about deserved, but, by the same token, City could feel had done by following their much improved second half showing and the fact that they had to play the closing stages of the game one man short.