Last season City played the grand total of five reserve matches as players such as Martin John, Adam Matthews, Jon Meades, Paul Quinn and Jordan Santiago went weeks on end without kicking a ball in a match situation. Just as last year, the club do not belong to any reserve league, but, this time around, there appears to be a genuine desire for players not featuring in the first team to get games with the newly formed Development team. I don’t have a figure for the number of matches they have played so far, but it seems to me that they may well have already gone beyond last season’s, pitiful, figure.
Furthermore, after a couple of seasons where what home reserve matches there were took place behind closed doors at the Vale, it was good to see today’s match with Brentford being played at Leckwith – I don’t know if this signifies that all home Development team matches will be open to the public to watch at the Athletics Stadium, but I’d like to thank the club for giving supporters a chance to see our second team in action.
It was entertaining fare as well with a very open match ending up 4-2 in favour of the City side as they picked up their first win of the season. I went along to the game expecting to see players such as McPhail, Ralls, Turner and, possibly, Gestede in action, but none of them featured and so I wonder if it means that we might see some of them involved with the first team on Saturday? My guess is that Ralls and Turner may be, but not the other two (although the local press have run stories in the last few days about who will be returning this weekend, Rudi’s name has been conspicuous by it’s absence).
There were some experienced performers in the side today like Gabor Gyepes, Dekel Keinan and Soloman Taiwo, but, besides that, it was an Under 21 team and some of the youngsters took the chance to impress the watching Malky Mackay. Best player for me was Ibby Farah, who tested the Brentford keeper with stinging shots either side of half time (Ibby’s continuing non selection in the Wales Under 21 squad is a real mystery to me) and generally did well in the confined spaces which modern midfield players invariably find themselves in – whether the battle was one to gain or retain possession, Farah invariably came out on top. Adedeji Oshilala at right back was another who did well and, after around ten minutes, his fine cross was neatly glanced home with his head by City’s number nine who I didn’t recognise (he was a youngster who played in a target man role until going off with about twenty minutes left – maybe he was a trialist?).
Around a quarter of an hour later, the goalscorer was to the fore again as his quickly taken throw in was picked up by Aaron Wildig, who became more influential as the game opened up, and he did well to cross low to the unmarked Jesse Darko who scored from about six yards out. At this stage, City were looking much the stronger team physically and in terms of ability, but Brentford were given a slightly lucky lifeline back into the game when a shot from the edge of the area which didn’t look too dangerous, got a deflection which lifted the ball into the net. Half time came with City 2-1 ahead and the goals continued to flow after the break as Darko’s well struck effort restored their two goal lead within five minutes of the restart (the ball seemed to go through the net, but the officials were in no doubt as to the goal’s validity and there were no complaints from Brentford).
With Darko and Farah switching sides to good effect and Taiwo doing a good job in the holding midfield role, City were again looking pretty comfortable, but what was probably the goal of the game by Brentford’s left back as he controlled a cross and then instantly dispatched a fierce low drive into the corner of the net from fifteen yards, put the visitors right back into it and, for ten minutes or so, they began to look the more likely to get the next goal. However, a foul in the penalty area on one of our subs (I think it was Yannis Drais) led to a spot kick – the way Farah chased after the ball to pick it up after the penalty was signalled, gave the impression that he would be taking it, but, instead, Darko was given the opportunity to complete his hat trick and, as is often the case when that happens, the chance was missed as the Brentford keeper dived to his right to keep out a weak effort. The missed penalty had no effect on the outcome of the game though, because with about ten minutes left, left back Jon Meades (another one who did well) cut in and scored, via a post, from the edge of the penalty area. Two tired teams looked for more goals after that, but there were to be none and an entertaining afternoon ended up with a two goal victory margin for City which, on the balance of play, was probably about right.