Sunday, 13 September 2015

MCFC u18s 1-1 West Brom

After a flawless start to the new season, five wins from five nonetheless, the u18s eventually came crashing back down to earth yesterday. It was only a draw, but this felt like an opportunity missed - sitting the top of the Barclays u18s Premier League, City should have extended their already impressive lead at the summit. Early signs indicated they would - it was a confident and composed opening. Predictably, City quickly broke the deadlock. Some excellent work down the left by Javairo Dilrosun lead to a whipped, teasing cross - Buckley looked likely to connect before he was impeded by a particularly overzealous West Brom defender. The referee pointed to the spot, Buckley picked himself up off the ground, before coolly placing the ball into the lefthand corner. One nil after ten minutes, and deserved. There could have been more too as City elegantly prompted and probed for a second. It didn't quite happen, disappointingly, and City's missed chances gave West Brom the confidence to grow into the game. They did, and they had their own notable moments, even if they did often came from a mistake or two of our own making. It was left to Grimshaw to keep us ahead, pulling off a great double save to preserve the slender lead at the interval. 

Frustrated by the slack ending to the first forty-five, Wilcox rang the changes at half-time. Charlie Oliver was replaced by Lewis Blackshaw and Will Patching made way for Tom Dele-Bashiru. Despite their best efforts it didn't quite happen, and West Brom eventually grabbed a deserved equaliser. Sadou Diallo was far too slack, caught dallying on the ball and West Brom took advantage, dispossessing the midfielder before breaking away to score. It was a disappointing blow to the players, and it showed. A few fiery challenges, notably by Callum Bullock, raised the temperature and the game descended into a niggly, scrappy, if passionate and entertaining, affair. Both had their chances to win the game. The usually clinical Nmecha, a second half sub for Faour, was the most guilty, somehow missing from four yards out when it would have been easier to score. Buckley had a strong claim for a penalty and Grimshaw almost gifted West Brom a late winner, cannoning an attempted clearance straight off a West Brom forward. Perhaps the miserable, miserable weather had an effect, as the heavy rainfall made conditions made the usually slick passing game difficult, but it was a frustrating result as the game eventually petered out and the scores remained level at 90 minutes.

It felt like an opportunity missed. West Brom were there for the taking, and it was a strong lineup too. Grimshaw was in goal. Bullock continued at right back and Marcus Wood dropped into the left-back slot in the place of the absent Demeaco Duhaney. Centrally, Ash Kigbu and Charlie Oliver partnered, and in front of them were the midfield three of Patching, Diallo and Davenport. Dilrosun, fresh from international duty, lined up on the left wing, with Buckley over on the other flank, with Zack Faour the lone striker up top. Bullock was the pick of the bunch. After a competent and consistent start to the season, this was his most encouraging display yet. Strong, powerful, committed and great going forward, it was a complete full-back performance from the Stockport-born youngster. He was lucky to escape further punishment after a rather cynical hack on their left-winger in the second period, but he was everywhere, charging up and down the right flank, crossing well, crunching into tackles and in general being a persistent nuisance. Wood, in the unfamiliar position of left-back for the first half, was equally impressive, strolling powerfully down the left and linking up well with Dilrosun. He wasn't quite as assured when switched into the middle of defence in the second period, but it was a positive outing for the u18s captain.

It was a little more mixed for Kigbu and Oliver. The latter lasted only half the game, hooked at half-time after an indifferent start to the game. He was far too loose in possession, gifting West Brom the ball on more than one occasion. Kigbu, too, wasn't his usually reliable self and positionally was a little lapse, caught on the ball a couple of times, nearly gifting West Brom a goal on the counter. Both had their moments defensively, but it wasn't the best outing and a game they'd rather forget after a good start to the season. Second half sub, Lewis Blackshaw, a slight, whippet of a left-back, looked assured and got forward well in an encouraging second half cameo. It wasn't the most productive days for the midfield trio. Patching found himself unable to make any real impact - there was the odd nice touch but it wasn't particularly surprising that Dele-Bashiru was introduced at the half-way point. It was another decent outing for the youngster, though perhaps not quite as involved as he was last weekend. Diallo was a mixed bag, culpable for their goal, but also involved in some strong midfield work - his partner Davenport was arguably the pick of the three. After an in initially hesitant opening fifteen, he grew into the game well and was a calm, intelligent presence in the midfield as he snuffed out West Brom's forays forward with relative ease.

Faour had a quiet outing - he toiled, ran and put himself about but looked off the pace as he struggled to make any real impact. His replacement, Nmecha, was doing all the right things before he fluffed his one real chance, somehow firing wide with the goal at his mercy. After a blistering start to the campaign, he's missed a few sitters recently, but that will happen. There's far too much innate talent there, and his next goal will surely come soon. Buckley wasn't quite his usual, explosive self,  yet he still proved a menace and was often our greatest threat when he was given the space to run at his left-back. He scored too, his fourth in four starts and two sub appearances this year. Not bad at all. Dilrosun was involved in a lot we did right, creating the first with a powerful run that lead to the penalty but faded in the second period. After returning from injury, Grimshaw made a few strong saves, and one heart in mouth moment aside where he nearly gifted West Brom a late winner with a miscalculated pass from the back, he had a solid game. 

Elsewhere, it was another great day for the academy. The u15s turned Arsenal over 3-0, with two goals from Bobby Duncan, a relative of Steven Gerrard nonetheless, taking his tally to eight in four for the season. The other came from Henri Ogunby in a team containing Taylor Richards and Jeramie Frimpong, a relative of the ex Arsenal midfielder. The u16s carried on their impeccable form too, this time only winning 5-0 against West Brom - relatively modest compared to their previous weeks efforts, bagging ten and nine against Middlesbrough and Sunderland respectively. Mr 'Own Goal' opened the scoring for City, Tyrese Campbell grabbed another brace, Ed Francis scored from the spot and Matt Smith added the cherry on the proverbial cake as the remarkable form continued. There was a trialist involved too, a young player from Benfica, and according to reports from the parents at the game, he was great. Another name we'll surely be hearing more of, when we eventually hear who he is of course. Before you ask, Diaz wasn't involved. He's continued his involvement with the EDS and hopefully, with a little luck regarding his international clearance, he should be involved in the UYL on Tuesday.

And finally, but not leastly, a shoutout for Kelechi Iheanacho. He joined Manu Garcia and Patrick Roberts on the bench yesterday for the first team, and what an introduction he made. He scored the winner, and to put it simply, it felt wonderful. What a player he is. A magical talent, one that lit up the CFA last year with some tantalisingly promising displayers and this felt like deserved recognition for his ability, and for the wonderful work currently being done at the CFA. He's not the only one either. I've said it a thousand times - we have some exceptional talent at this club and we won't know how they will take to first team football unless given a chance. Some will surprise us, I'm certain of it. He's just one of many, great young footballers this club has and given a little more faith we could unearth some stars of our own, saving ourselves a fortune in the transfer market. Here's to many more Kelechi moments. Next up at the CFA is the the first game of the Uefa Youth League. Juventus take on City at 5pm on Tuesday before the first team. See you there.

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