With no goals for and eight against in losing their last three matches, it was important that City’s Under 18’s got something out of today’s game with Watford at Leckwith. Watford were one of two clubs (Reading was the other one) of fairly equal standing to us who I noted on here last week have tended to get the better of us in the year’s since we gained Academy status. This led me to wonder whether they were spending more on youth development than we were and, with Watford sitting third in the table going into the game with eighth place City, they represented a tough obstacle to us ending our losing run.
In the event though, there was very little between two well matched teams as they battled to a 1-1 draw which, on the balance of play was just about right. Both sides had chances to go ahead in a goalless first half – City keeper Dave Richards had to go full length to save a fiercely struck shot from outside the penalty area, while a Watford cross shot from the corner of the penalty area flew just wide. However, it was far from one way traffic as, if anything, City edged the opening forty five minutes with Steffan Jones nodding just wide, Declan John hitting a shot slightly too high and wide and the Watford keeper falling on Alex Evans’ jabbed shot just as it was about to cross the line.
An Adam Davies shot from twenty yards that was beaten out by the keeper a minute or two before the break confirmed that if a side carried any momentum into the second half, it was Cardiff and, although there were fewer chances for either side in the opening stages of the second period, the feeling persisted that City were just shading things. Nat Jarvis was inches away from connecting with a John cross and the visitors were a little fortunate to scramble away another cross shortly afterwards. Within thirty seconds though, they had missed the best chance of the game so far when City’s otherwise impressive left back got himself in a bit of a mess dealing with an awkwardly bouncing ball and left Watford’s number nine clean through on goal only for the striker to fire wide when he really should have at least got the ball on target.
The same player was involved when the game got it’s overdue first goal with about twenty minutes to go – Richards did well to come out and block the ball but it was retrieved by the number nine who knocked over a cross from the bye line which the visitors number seven nodded into the unguarded net from about six yards. City’s response to falling behind was impressive as they forced a series of corners with one of them resulting in a period of pinball close to goal following John’s shot which Watford were lucky to survive, but, as City pushed forward, there were always going to be chances for the visitors to double their lead and they hit the post shortly afterwards when they had a three on one situation and then wasted another great chance to seal the win with about five minutes to go.
Those missed opportunities came back to haunt Watford a minute or so later when City captain Ibby Farah fired home a fine left footed goal from what seemed a long way out (I didn’t have the best of views as I was sitting in my car in car park at the time!). Even before his goal, Farah had turned in what I thought was a very good display as he showed energy, commitment and skill in equal measures to keep on driving his side forward. Ibby is one of only a few second year scholars in the current team and a decision will have to be made soon on whether he will be offered pro terms – my view is that he will be pretty unlucky if he isn’t.
Both teams looked for a winner after that, but didn’t really come close to getting it as City got a draw to go with the one they had got at Watford earlier in the season, so, for this year at least, my theory about Watford’s dominance in these games has been disproved. Finally, the Under 16’s game also finished 1-1 – from my position up in the stand at Leckwith, I was able to see City take the lead about half an hour into a first half which also featured what looked to be some fine saves by our keeper only for Watford to draw level with about twenty minutes left with a shot which flew in off the underside of the crossbar.