The writing was very much on the wall for Cardiff City’s Under 18 side when I left their lunchtime game with Millwall at Treforest today with about a quarter of an hour to play. 3-1 up at the break, they went to pieces in the second half as Millwall, benefiting from the strong wind behind them, pinned City back to the extent that I cannot remember seeing a single attempt on the visitor’s goal in the second half before I made my way to Cardiff City Stadium. City were clinging on to their lead at 3-2 at that time, but ended up conceding twice more in the remaining minutes to slip to a very disappointing defeat after an encouraging start to the campaign had seen them beat Brighton and draw at QPR.
It must be said though that, based on what I saw, City could have few complaints about their defeat. Millwall started the better side with their goal after around fifteen minutes being overdue when it came such was their early domination and I’ve already touched on how they completely bossed what I saw of the second half. However, the frustrating thing was that for the brief period when they did get on top, City played with a quality and skill which Millwall never matched in their long periods of control.
Liam Matthews was forced into an early diving save by Millwall’s number seven who soon afterwards shot across the face of goal when well placed and with the visitors also having a header fly just over the bar before they found the net with a fierce header from a cross from the left, no one could claim that their lead wasn’t deserved. It was a good cross and fine header, but the goal was made possible by City losing the ball twice in dangerous areas – unfortunately, this was fairly typical of the disjointed start City made and they had offered nothing going forward at this stage. That situation was to change completely over the next twenty minutes or so though as the team responded very well to going a goal down.
Malky Mackay is on the look out for wingers, so it was ironic that it was the two wingers in the Under 18 side who were the catalysts for the dramatic change in the match. On the right, Tyler Roche didn’t give the best performance I’ve seen from him by any means, but, for that short time, he upped his game and was heavily involved in a series of flowing attacks which caused the Millwall defence all manner of problems. However, it was Abdi Noor on the left who really took the eye – it was the first time I had seen him start a game and it was easy to see why he has won age group caps for Wales.
Noor earned the corner which led to City’s equaliser with a brave and exciting forty yard run down the left and when the Millwall defence failed to clear their lines from the flag kick, Roche got to the bye-line and squared the ball across goal for centre forward Jake Watkins to turn it in from close range – it was City’s fifth goal so far this season and Roche had claimed the assist for four of them. He wasn’t involved a few minutes later though when City took the lead – this time the assist came from midfield player Ben Watkins who slid a fine ball inside the Millwall right back and Noor gave the pass the finish it deserved by placing his shot into the top corner of the net from about fifteen yards.
Another corner from the left caused the visitors problems when the cross skidded off one of their player’s heads and flew inches over the bar and Millwall were in danger of conceding again as they gave away a series of free kicks arund the edge of their penalty areas with fouls which a less lenient referee would have been prepared to show yellow cards for.
Millwall were coming back into things as half time approached, but a long ball by City’s impressive right back put Roche clear, it looked like his cross had been blocked, but the referee had seen a handball and pointed to the spot. Roche took the penalty and was lucky to see it rebound back to him after the keeper saved it, he didn’t make any mistake with this simpler opportunity and City looked comfortable with a two goal lead which they looked well capable of adding to.
At least that was what I was thinking at half time as I watched a few minutes of the Under 16’s match – they lost 1-0. However, if the wind blowing down the pitch was getting stronger, it was a case of the Under 18’s having blown themselves out because they, seemingly, had nothing left to give after the interval except for dogged defending. For much of the time it looked like that would be all they needed because, despite their all of their possession, Millwall weren’t doing a great deal with it until a couple of corners they were awarded as the game went into the last twenty minutes. Matthews made a fine tip over from a close range header from the first one, but got caught in no man’s land a bit with the second as the cross went beyond him to be nodded in at the far post by one of the visitors centre backs.
This was where I took my leave of the game, but it did not really surprise me at all to learn that the scoreline had been turned on it’s head in the closing stages – it might sound harsh, but based on what I saw, City got what they deserved.