It certainly wasn’t pretty, but the Academy Under 18 team were able to end a run of three consecutive defeats when they gained a hard fought 1-0 win over Bristol City in their first home league match in six weeks. Defeats in games at Birmingham and Tottenham have meant that their challenge for the top two places has fallen away in recent weeks, but this victory gives them some breathing space in fourth place (today’s result is not included in that table) and, although Leicester look out of sight, I suppose Spurs and Villa can still be caught.
The recent wet weather meant that there was a change of venue today as the team returned to the Athletics Stadium at Leckwith after three months of playing at Treforest and, although the pitch didn’t look bad, I wonder whether it played a part, along with a cold wind that was stronger than expected when you got out from the protection of the stand, in making the game the scrappy and bitty spectacle that it became in the second half especially.
One other thing about playing at Leckwith is that you are so much further away from the action than you are at Treforest and this meant that it was that much harder to identify the players in the City team – in saying that, with the likes of Aaron Wildig away with the first team and Billy Taylor missing with injury, there were some new faces in the side today so I probably wouldn’t have been any the wiser if we had been playing at Treforest!
To be honest, there wasn’t much action to describe throughout the game – the sides were evenly matched, competed hard and, largely, cancelled each other out. I thought City edged the first half and deserved their lead, but the wurzels had more of the game after the break and, probably, a draw would have been a fairer result.
While it would be stretching a point to say that City were dominant at any time in the game, they did score when they were enjoying their best spell. Shortly before going ahead, City came close twice when Jon Meades almost put in Nat Jarvis and then, from the resultant corner the ball was glanced just wide with the wurzel’s keeper beaten. Within minutes though City were in front when Jarvis and Leigh Smith combined well down the left and the former’s fine low cross was knocked in from about six yards out by Zac Evans (at least I think it was Zac Evans – it was our number 8 anyway!).
The only problems City had in the first half were nearly all of their own making as their policy of playing out from the back almost got them in trouble on a number of occasions. I like the fact that the keepers are encouraged to play short free kicks and goal kicks to defenders to try and build from the back, but City were flying by the seat of their pants sometimes this morning – the right back was caught out and gave away a free kick on the edge of the penalty area for which he could easily have received a yellow or possibly even red card and both centre backs came very close to losing the ball when they were the last man.
However City survived to half time, but any hopes that the second forty five minutes would see an increase in quality were soon forgotten with the game became more scrappy as the wind increased. There were more goalmouth incidents than in the first half though and it has to be said that the closer escapes came at the City end of the pitch. For example a shot from the edge of the penalty area got a very slight touch which deflected the ball inches wide and then from the corner that followed this time the ball needed only the slightest of touches from a visiting player for it to have found the net as it flew across the face of the goal with the City defence and keeper helpless. A few minutes later, keeper Reece Ottley (who has got a hell of a left footed kick on him) seemed to have presented the visitors with an equaliser when he failed to hold a long range shot – it looked like the wurzels striker who was following up had a simple tap in, but Ottley recovered well to dive on the ball and snuff out the danger.
It wasn’t one way traffic in the second half though as the visitor’s keeper made good saves from well struck efforts by City’s right back and one of their substitutes and, by the end of the game City were coping more comfortably than they had been with the visitor’s attack so the closing stages were played out with few alarms.
It wasn’t the type of game really where individuals stood out, but I thought IbbyFarah was very good in the first half only to fade in the second period as he suffered with the effects of an injury he picked up. Alongside him in the middle of the park was one of the players I didn’t recognise (he wore the number four shirt and got better as the game went on) – Neil Ardley did mention on the official site that someone called Adam Davies came in from the Under 16’s today and played the full ninety minutes so maybe it was him? Of the others, increasingly I like the look of centre half Alex Evans and, although as mentioned before, he and his partner Steffan Jones caused a few missed heartbeats as they almost lost possession in the first half, they both had solid games in which they proved too strong for their opponents.
One last thing, the Under 16’s game was also switched from Treforest and was played on one of the adjoining pitches to the athletics stadium – apparently it finished 0-0.