Last week a fine second half comeback saw Cardiff City’s Under 21’s score three times in ten minutes to turn a 2-0 deficit into a great 3-2 win over Charlton at the Valley, but, the boot was well on truly on the other foot last night when Huddersfield scored three times in three minutes just after half time to record a 3-1 win after they had trailed at the break.
To be honest, any other result than a Huddersfield win would have been an injustice as they showed exactly why they won the North Section of Division 2 of the Under 21 League last season and why they are top again this year with eight wins from their last ten games. City’s half time lead was very much against the run of play and, if anything, the two goal margin of defeat flattered them slightly – on the evidence of what I’ve seen so far, the third season of this league structure is going to be the first one in which we have not qualified for the end of season Play Offs.
City’s side featured Kadeem Harris who I believe was making his first appearance back after an injury which took longer to repair than the club anticipated – he certainly played like someone lacking match fitness, there were a couple of flashes of what he is capable of, but he was nowhere near the exhilarating performer he can be at this level and was taken off after an hour or so looking like someone in need of more game time.
There was also a name I didn’t know in the team. My mate who was at the game with me was mainly responsible for finding out that Elliot Newby was released by Bolton at the end of his Academy scholarship and it seems he has been playing for Barrow since then – I presume he was playing last night as a trialist. If he was, then I’m not sure he did enough to convince City to take him on – he faded in the second half and, physically, at times he looked what he was really, that is a boy playing against men. That said, he also showed on occasions that he has a lot of natural ability and, if it was my decision to make, I think I’d want another look at him before making a final decision – here’s a video of him in action if any one is interested in seeing what he is capable of.
Newby made an immediate impression by revealing his dribbling ability and then getting in a weak shot that the Huddersfield keeper made something of a meal of before diving on the ball before Etien Velikonja could pounce, but that was the last time City got close to their opponent’s goal for a long time as the visitors took over for the next half an hour or so.
Huddersfield, with Adam Hammill one of four players in the side with first team experience, were dominant both physically and in footballing terms during this period and centreback Joe Wright should probably have done better than steer his header on to the cross bar when presented with a good chance about eight yards out, while Hammill forced City keeper Charlie Horton into a good save as he cut in from the left and the American Under 20 international did even better when he managed to palm a low shot by Sondre Tronstad wide.
Although Velikonja showed an exemplary attitude as he worked hard in his lone attacking role and was often seen encouraging his younger team mates, City were offering little going forward at this stage, but there were a few encouraging signs as they began to win more tackles and this helped them to retain the ball pretty impressively for quite long periods.
It was shortly after the best of these passing moves had ended with a shot which went well wide, that City were awarded a penalty. Newby started the move off by impressively creating a bit of space for himself and then hitting a beautifully weighted pass out to left back Kane Owen who didn’t have to break stride as he fed Macauley Southam who was upended by Jacob Hansen for a clear penalty which captain Tommy O’Sullivan converted by sending keeper Allinson the wrong way.
Despite City’s improvement, it was still in no way a deserved lead, but the confidence they gained from it helped take them to half time with no more alarms and they could contemplate the possibility that they were on their way to what I would say would have been the best victory of the season so far given the quality of the opposition.
Within minutes of the restart however, such thinking was made to look ridiculous as Huddersfield put the game beyond City with that devastating three minute goal burst. That said, the visitors had considerable help from City with each of the goals. Both of the first two came from free kicks conceded after City had carelessly lost possession – for the first Rekeil Pyjke was unmarked to head home and then he was left with a simple tap in after City had failed to deal with what looked a pretty innocuous delivery.
While the defending of the outfield players wasn’t perfect by any means for either goal, I’m afraid that Horton had to take a major share of the blame for them – for the first, he was caught in no man’s land as he left his line to to try and catch or punch the free kick, but ended up being stranded on the six yard line and he was even more culpable for the second as he dropped what should have been a simple pick up at Pyke’s feet.
Within no time, Southam dived in to try and intercept a pass and left Hammill clear to run in on goal, Horton kept out the angled shot this time and was blameless as the rebound was swept in by the other over age Huddersfield player, Joe Lolley.
Huddersfield’s general supremacy meant that it was never the most enthralling of games even before they scored and it became even less so now. City used all three subs and Harris’ replacement David Tutonda, who I’d only seen play at left back before last night, showed that he can be a powerful and effective runner with the ball, but, even though City were able to finally cause the visitors some more defensive problems as they pushed more men forward, the closest either side came to another goal was when right back Brad Wickham (the best of the first year pros on show last night in my view) cleared off the line to deny Huddersfield a fourth goal.
Before I finish on the game itself, just a quick word about the ref. Generally, I try not to mention them on here – especially when we lose, because it sounds like sour grapes. However, it seemed me that referee Mark Lawrence tended to favour Huddersfield throughout. This was best illustrated when having, rightly, booked Newby for shirt pulling a few minutes earlier, he played advantage after Huddersfield’s Duanne Holmes was seen clearly grabbing the shirt of the City player who was bursting clear of him. A few seconds later, the ref had a quiet word with Holmes, but took no further action – it was poor, inconsistent officiating, but at least he noticed the obvious shirt pull, unlike the one he missed by the visitor’s right back early in the second half.
Although both of them made the odd mistake, I thought our best players overall were O’Sullivan and Deji Oshilaja, but I can’t help thinking both of them would probably be better off playing first team football somewhere on loan rather than almost stagnating at a club where their chances of breaking into the first team appear to be practically nil. City seem to have this “save them for a rainy day approach” with their better younger players (I’m thinking of people like Joe Mason, Harris, O’Sullivan and Oshilaja in particular here) whereby they don’t seem to want to get rid of them for not being good enough, but they are all nowhere near the first team and, yet, when watching this season’s insipid away performances in particular, I can’t help thinking sometimes that it’s pouring down already!
* picture courtesy of http://www.cardiffcityfc.co.uk/by The other Bob Wilson with no comments yet
I might think they sound shrewd at the time, but most of my utterances during a game about how it is going and how it’ll end up turn out to be complete and utter rubbish. Occasionally though, I get things right and that rare event happened last night at Cardiff City Development team’s game with Gillingham in a Second Round Under 21’s Premier League Cup tie.
As Anthony Bell’s shot rebounded back off the post a minute or so into the second half, I proclaimed “that’s it, we’re never going to score tonight, we’re going to lose this”. About twenty five minutes later Gillingham grabbed the only goal of the game in one of their very isolated attacks and City’s Under 21s, who had been unbeaten this season until a week ago, had lost their second consecutive match.
However, although a defeat by a side whose first team are struggling in the division below us will be reported as some sort of giant killing act, there were mitigating circumstances behind this so called shock result. Firstly, with another game at this level arranged against Chelsea tomorrow, it was an odd looking side consisting of senior players (Ben Turner, Declan John, Mats Dæhli and Javi Guerra), current Academy team members (Robbie Patten and Eli Phipps) and players who are too old now for the Under 18’s, but not normally first choice selections at this level (Ben Wilson, Brad Wickham, Curtis Watkins, Bradley Williams and Anthony Bell) which was selected.
The likes of Jazzi Barnum-Bobb, Josh Yorwerth, Tom James, Maximiliano Amondarain, Theo Wharton, Tommy O’Sullivan and Jaye Bowen would normally have played in such a game , but, presumably, most of them will be in action against Chelsea as could Magnus Eikrem, Juan Cala and Etien Velikonja among the older players – you never know, Kadeem Harris and Guido Bergstaller (both of whom appear to have dropped off the face of the earth in recent weeks) may also get a run out – while I’m on the subject of tomorrow’s match, it seems that Richie Towell, a 23 year old former Republic of Irleand Under 21 international midfield player whose contract at Dundalk expires on Friday, will be given an opportunity to try and earn a deal with us.
So, rather in the way that so many clubs field weakened senior sides for domestic cup matches these days, City picked a team some way short of the strongest they could have put out at this level.
Also, there’s no explaining this, but sometimes a team is fated to lose, no matter what they try, you just know that the opposition that has been hanging on for an hour or more are going to break down field and get a sucker punch goal.
To be fair to Gillingham, it would be wrong to put their win solely down to luck. Their experienced goalkeeper Glen Morris had a very good night before being forced off with an injury with about a quarter of an hour left, they got any number of defensive blocks in to deny City just as it seemed their defence was going to be opened up and their goal was well constructed and finished. Even so, if the sort of statistical analysis for first team matches were available for games at this level, I’m sure it would show City well ahead in terms of possession, goal attempts (on and off target).corners etc.
The pattern of the game was set inside the first minute when City forced a corner. Bell’s generally good dead ball delivery ensured that Ben Turner won a lot of headers all night and some in the crowd were cheering a goal from that first corner but the header didn’t have the power required to beat Morris who held onto the ball just before it crossed the line.
For a spell after that, things got scrappy with both sides cancelling each other out, but, after Gillingham had wasted a good chance as centre forward Millbank fired wide from about ten yards out after the visitors had got in down City’s right, the home side got on top.
John fizzed a shot across the face of goal, Morris again had to flop onto an effort that looked to be going in, Williams shot wide after being put into a good position by some neat passing and Bell was not far off at all with a well struck shot after weaving past three or four opponents, but it was Guerra who came closest to breaking the deadlock after Wickham’s fine run and subsequent cross found the unmarked Spaniard (who put the effort in this time that was missing against Bournemouth a month ago) only for his header to be a bit too close to Morris who was able to push the ball on to the post and out.
Those weren’t the only times a goal looked to be on either, but Gillingham got to half time still level. Bell’s low shot against the upright that I mentioned earlier began the second period on the same note as the first half had ended, but, truth be told, although Gillingham still had to absorb a lot of pressure, they were a little more comfortable than they had been. City, with Abdi Noor a half time replacement for Dæhli, still had their chances when, for example, Phipps’ well struck shot forced Morris into action and Noor’s goalbound shot was deflected wide, but Guerra’s replacement by defender Ashley Baker with twenty five minutes left seemed a strange decision at the time and didn’t look any less so as the minutes ticked by – I can understand the need not to overwork someone like Dæhli who will probably be involved on Saturday, but surely, Guerra needs as much game time as he can get at the moment?
This was especially true after Gillingham took the lead with about twenty minutes when City’s second string showed themselves to be as poor as their senior colleagues at keeping clean sheets (just like the first team, they’ve only kept one so far this season). As mentioned earlier, Gillingham passed the ball neatly enough to fashion the chance, but it was all a little bit too easy for them – I don’t know who scored I’m afraid, but it was from a well hit shot from the edge of the penalty area that Wilson (who had virtually nothing else to do) had no chance of saving and it made me smile at least to see virtually the whole of the Gillingham team follow the scorer in celebrating right in front of the completely empty away fans seats.
Apart from that one shot in the first half, it was the first time the visitors had looked like creating anything, but, within a minute or two they might have had a penalty when Turner clashed with Millbank – it certainly fell into the “I’ve seen them given” category as far as I was concerned.
Declan John was moved to left wing (I still think this might turn out to be his best position) in the rearrangement following Guerra’s withdrawal and the Wales international represented City’s best hope of getting back on terms as Gillingham closed in on their win – when Morris picked up the injury which was to force him off as he collided with a team mate as Noor chased a through pass, John got to the loose ball, stepped past an opponent and his shot looked destined for the net only for the stricken keeper to push the ball out for a corner. John was also not too far wide with a long range free kick, while replacement keeper Hadler knocked a fairly tame Noor shot into the sort of area that a goal poacher like Guerra may have been able to take advantage of.
Williams had the ball in the net late on, but it looked to me as if the linesman was correct to raise his flag and give him offside and Ben Turner ended the game playing up front – he must have won something like about 80% of the headers he had to go for in the game, but, there was a lack of precision in the balls that were knocked up to him which meant he was never able to offer the same threat as he had done from set pieces.
The Gillingham teams loud celebrations at the final whistle showed just what the win meant to them and good luck to them in the rest of this tournament.
This was only the second Development team game I’ve seen this season and, in contrast to the previous two seasons where they invariably won, I’ve yet to see them score this year. Having sat through much the same sort of game when the Under 18’s lost to Brentford on Saturday and then watched the first team’s latest lamentable away showing a few hours later, I must admit that 14/15 is not up there among my favourite City seasons at the moment!
by The other Bob Wilson with 3 comments