I could go on for ages trying to explain the new rules on Youth Academies which were voted in last week as Football league clubs found themselves browbeaten into accepting them by Premiership teams, but this link does a better job of it than me. The only comment I would make is that I reckon an awful lot of supporters would not have been aware of the protest (which has now finished) held today and it would seem more sensible for a bit more time to have been taken arranging it so that a more impressive response could have resulted (having the protest on successive Saturdays would have given fans of all clubs a better chance of taking part as well). Anyway, in a week where the balance of power tilted even more in favour of the Premiership, there was a certain degree of satisfaction in seeing City get the better of one of the big boys this morning as their Under 18’s beat Aston Villa 3-2 at Leckwith.
To be honest, Villa were unlucky not to get something out of an entertaining and open encounter in which they probably had the lion’s share of the chances. Therefore, you could understand their player’s frustration in the closing stages as what had been a fairly clean game turned a little spicy and ended with a pushing and shoving match between the teams after the final whistle (it was much ado about nothing really and the ref, rightly in my opinion, saw no need to take any further action).
I doubt it if anyone watching the game would have backed City to end up winners in the ten minutes which followed the visitors opening the scoring, because our youngsters seemed to lose their way completely after going behind to a Villa team, who were certainly willing to put their foot in at times, adapting the better to a pitch made much slicker by the heavy rain that started just as the match kicked off. City did work one or two promising positions early on, but were struggling from the moment that a clever lob was superbly turned over by keeper Liam Matthews. Within a couple of minutes, Matthews was rounded by a Villa player who seemed certain to score, but Josh Yorwerth cleared the shot off the line only to be unlucky as the ball was crossed back into the danger area and was impressively headed into the corner of an empty net by a Villa forward with the keeper in no position to save.
Matthews kept City in contention after that with a couple more saves, but his tendency to come rushing outside of his area to act as a sweeper – keeper also caused one or two problems for City, who were lucky to get to the half hour mark only 1-0 down. However, to their credit, City began to work their way back into things after this and the closing stages of the half saw more of the action taking place at the Villa end than ours. City’s number eleven * (sorry, like one or two others in the team, I was unable to recognise him – this is the downside to playing games at Leckwith, where you keep dry on days like today, compared to Treforest where you are much closer to the action and can hear player’s names being called) was foiled by the Villa keeper and Kevin Saint Luce also fired just over when the ball dropped to him ten yards out. The French forward was not to be denied though and when Kane Owen’s excellent free kick was only half cleared, it fell to Saint-Luce who had the simple task of scoring from close in before indulging in the more difficult matter of completing his, increasingly familiar, post goal somersault routine.
Having gone in 1-1 at half time, the visitors came out eager to regain the superiority they had enjoyed for the majority of the opening forty five minutes. Matthews was again called into action on more than one occasion and Villa also had a goal, correctly, disallowed for offside, but, although it was sometimes hard to figure out how they quite managed it, City not only survived this spell of pressure, but also ended it by taking the lead around the hour mark when a high cross by our number eleven* was missed by the Villa keeper as he was challenged by Jesse Darko and the ball ended up in the net.
City gained confidence from having a lead to hold on to, but they still had the odd hairy moment or two. In particular, when Matthews again ventured a long way out of his goal and put Owen in a terrible position with a pass back into the penalty area – a Villa player won the ball and, with Matthews out of position, an equaliser looked inevitable, but the excellent Yorwerth got back just in time to clear off the line again. The visitors had another goal disallowed shortly after that and it began to look like City could see the game through with their lead intact, but, with about a quarter of an hour to go, a speedy Villa sub got clear of Yorwerth and knocked the ball across for one of his team mates to tap in an easy goal which sent the vociferous away fan sat close to us into raptures!
However, unlike with the first Villa goal, City’s reaction this time was impressive and their two French forwards in particular finished the game strongly. Saint-Luce and Drais were both involved in a fluent move which ended with the latter firing in an impressive low shot from the edge of the penalty area to regain the lead and the former almost made the game safe when his effort was deflected not far wide. It didn’t matter in the end though as City held on fairly comfortably to secure a very hard earned win. After three draws and three defeats in their first six matches, the Under 18’s have turned things around pretty impressively with three wins in four games – recent matches have offered good entertainment as well and with their next home match, against Leicester City, scheduled for November 12 with a noon kick off, it would be good if a few of those going to the Wales match that afternoon could turn up early to give our kids a bigger crowd than normal to perform in front of.
* the official site has confirmed that the scorer was Jordan Carter.