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/