City’s Academy team ensured that this weekend’s double feature with Birmingham City got off to a winning start yesterday with a 2-1 win that was more conclusive than the scoreline indicates in a match which was switched from Leckwith Athletics Stadium to the pitch about 100 yards away on which the Under 16’s normally play their games.
Perhaps the fact that the Under 21 Development team played Plymouth Argyle in midweek was the reason why it was an unfamiliar Under 18 team that turned out yesterday. City beat Plymouth by the same 2-1 scoreline thanks to a couple of fine goals by Jesse Darko and Theo Wharton and these two were amongst a group of players qualified to play for the Academy side who weren’t there yesterday – you don’t expect to see Joe Ralls turning out for them nowadays, but the French pair Kevin Sainte-Luce and Yannis Drais weren’t there along with Josh Yorwerth and Mamadou Diallo (I suppose it could be that some of them were being rested for the FA Youth Cup match at Bury on Tuesday?). Adedeji Oshilala who hadn’t played at this level for the last couple of months because of his selection in the Development side, was there alongside Ben Nugent at the back, but it was something of a shadow side that faced Birmingham.
Whatever the reason for the absences, it didn’t stop City continuing their run of improved results (it’s now five wins from the last eight Academy fixtures) and there certainly wasn’t anything flukey about what was a thoroughly deserved victory. It wasn’t just the final score that matched the Plymouth game in midweek either, because the quality of City goals were, if anything, even better than the ones at Home Park.
Because of all of the changes, this is going to be a bit of a vague report, but at least I hope I get the names of the scorers right because they both deserve particular credit for their classy finishes. The first came around the twenty minute mark, but City could easily have gone in front a minute or two earlier when Nugent’s header from a corner looked to have crossed the line before being scrambled clear (Neil Ardley wasn’t happy about the way some of the team were celebrating a goal rather than try to make certain that the ball would cross the line!). Within a minute or two though, City had scored when Jordan Carter crashed in a beautifully struck left footed half volley from the edge of the penalty area. Carter, who was generating plenty of interest from Premiership sides before he signed for us, has had to see Joe Ralls, the other signing we made from Farnborough, grab most of the attention during their time with us – Carter was meant to be the better prospect of the two, but he has found it more difficult at Cardiff than Ralls has. However, there have been signs in recent weeks that Carter is coming good and he coped better than most yesterday with the cold, swirling wind.
It was difficult to gauge exactly where the wind was coming from, but the suspicion that it was helping us in the first half grew as City got right on top and the visiting keeper had to be in fine form to keep the score down. The nagging doubt that City had not sufficiently cashed in on the seeming advantage of the elements they had enjoyed in the first forty five minutes grew early in the second period when Birmingham’s number seven scored with a header which flew over Liam Matthews. The goal had come from what was a routine free kick tossed into the penalty area from a wide position near the halfway line – it was a poor goal to give away, but, truth be told, it was just about the only chance Birmingham had throughout the whole ninety minutes, so it would be a bit churlish to condemn our defending too much.
It looked ominous that the visitors had managed to equalise so soon after the change of ends, but within a few minutes, City had gone in front again when their number eight (and captain) swept in a low volley from about the same distance as Carter had scored from. Now, I have always found it hard to tell Jason’s son, Jay Bowen and Tom O’Sullivan apart – ordinarily, I would have said that Bowen had scored because the number eight looked taller than O’Sullivan to me, but as his team mates were calling him Tom when he was in possession, I can only assume that it was O’Sullivan’s goal – it’ll probably turn out that neither of them scored it now! Anyway, it was a goal fit to win any game and with City still having the better of play without really creating the chances they had in the first period, that’s exactly what it did – the only slight criticism I would have of the team is that they shouldn’t really have have been just the one goal in front at the end.