N.B - Scroll down for highlights and goals
The second half wasn't quite as fluid - City were a little scrappier, and Middlesbrough traded blows as they grew in confidence. Haug was called into action a few times before they eventually made their growing pressure count, Lee Heatherington guiding the ball into the far corner after a deep cross from the left found him free. It was deserved after a disjointed beginning to the second interval. Charlie Oliver had replaced Tosin Adarabioyo at the break, joining Ash Kigbu in defence and the change unsettled the backline and 'Boro deserved their goal as they stepped up the pressure. Before that there was chances for City to extend their lead, Nmecha and Buckley both culpable of wasting food chances after neat build-up play. Eventually, however, Buckley got his goal and he took it well. Almost a carbon copy of the first, this time Kongolo broke, delaying the pass until the last moment and Buckley did the rest, finding the corner with a deserved goal after a typically buoyant cameo after he was brought on for Fernandes on the hour.
|15. Isaac Buckley|
We held on for the victory, which was perhaps marginally deserved as there was chances to extend the lead towards the end - and if the disciplinary procedures hadn't been so typically lax at this level, Middlesbrough could have been down to 10 men after one particularly nasty hack at Dilrosun. It was quite a changed team from the previous game. Injury forced Daniel Grimshaw to sit out and the Norwegian youth international, Haug, donned the gloves behind a back four of Callum Bullock on the right, Tosin Adarabioyo and Ash Kigbu in the middle and Demeaco Duhaney on the left. Jacob Davenport and Rodney Kongolo were recalled alongside Will Patching, Sadou Diallo was away with England and Marcus Wood sat the first half out. Up front, Nmecha returned to the lone forward role and he was flanked by Dilrosun and Paolo Fernandes. There was a few changes in the second half, with Adarabioyo replaced at the interval by Oliver and Fernandes and Davenport making way for Buckley and Wood with an hour on the clock.
It didn't quite happen for Nmecha. His link up play was as cool and composed as ever - he's such a lovely little footballer and there's a real elegance to his play, but for once his usually reliable finishing let him down, uncharacteristically missing numerous strong chances that on another day would have left him with a brace, maybe even a hat-trick. Dilrosun to his left shuttled up and down well, grabbing a deserved goal and he whipped in a few good crosses too. He looks strong at this level, clearly better equipped as a second year scholar and twelve month's experience over here. Fernandes was a threat, gradually growing into the game and he was involved in some intricate link up play, nearly scoring himself too with a few strong efforts. His replacement, Buckley, was good. Buckley's grown so much in the last twelve months. The first time I saw him he was all energy and pace. A real handful, but perhaps a little rash with his decision making - there's a real composure to his game now and he's becoming impossibly tricky to dispossess. Think Sterling, stylistically. A long way to go, of course, but the early signs this year are encouraging.
|Ash Kigbu - credit Manchester City Football Club|
Haug didn't really have a chance with their goal, though he did make a couple of smart stops in what wasn't an overly testing game for the younger. I was impressed by Duhaney. He's great on either flank, and some of the crosses he whipped in with his left foot, despite naturally preferring his right, were fantastic. He's fast, tough and he score, too - his goal last weekend. He's currently on standby for the England u18s, alongside Buckley and Humphreys, and he deserves it. Nmecha, Patching and Marcus Wood all made the full team, by the way. Over on the right, Bullock battled hard as ever, overlapping well, and Kigbu was his usual, powerful self. He's a little raw round the edges still, but he's an immensely promising young player. A leader too. Tosin alongside him, glided through the game, though he was spun once far too easily, but he remains a fantastic prospect. He was replaced at half time by Charlie Oliver who excelled last weekend in a dogged, tough display against Blackburn. He wasn't quite as impressive here as a few poor decisions undermined his performance, but admittedly joining a game at centre-back at the half way point is no easy task.
Davenport was effective in midfield, recycling possession well, though he was eventually replaced by Marcus Wood who impressed. He's a powerful player, and his influence was clearly felt as City looked to regain their foothold in the game after a difficult start to the second half. Kongolo was a persistent, leggy presence in the centre of midfield, if a little too quiet and Patching was as tidy as ever. There was some brief glimpses of what he's capable, some lovely footwork around the area and a nice assist for Dilrosun, but I get the impression that there's still lots more to come from him. It was an efficient, if not exciting, day and Wilcox's team extended their lead at the top of the Barclays Premier League u18 table. A shoutout too for the u16s. They beat Middlesbrough 10-0. Yes, ten. I didn't see it, but apparently it could have been more. The wonderful young Spanish prodigy, Brahim, scored five, Jadon Sancho scored three and Tom Dele-Bashiru and Phil Foden got the others. That is one hell of a generation. It's a little disheartening on days like today, with Lopes confirming his transfer to Monaco, but surely its a matter of time. This generation is wiping all before them away. You can't keep that good a thing down, can you? Fingers crossed we'll see one or two of them get a chance in the 18s as the season progresses.