Another day, another league game and another victory for the u18s. That's five in five now as Wilcox's team deservedly extended their lead at the top of the Barclays Premier League u18 table. Two tough, uncompromising, but ultimately successful games, at Blackburn and Middlesbrough were followed by this, up against a confident Sunderland team. It was always going to be a difficult - Sunderland have started the season well and they were second behind City at the start of play. It was evident early on. Both teams worked tirelessly, cancelling each other in a niggly, scrappy, non-event of a first half. There was effort and energy, plenty in fact, but neither keeper was really tested, with the game resembling something more approaching a rugby game as the ball moved side to side repeatedly. Whatever Wilcox said at the interval, it worked. City were good. Very good. There was an added impetus, and with confidence City pushed forward ruthlessly with the three resulting goals a fair reward for a convincing display of attacking football.
Nemane and Buckley were the catalysts for the turnaround - they were brilliant. Like most, it didn't happen for them in the first forty-five, but they ran Sunderland ragged in the second with their skill, desire and pace. It was Nemane that broke the deadlock, wonderfully cutting in from the left, leaving the right back for dead before cooly slotting into the far corner. Lovely stuff, and it was just rewards for the manner which we had started the second half. Buckley was even better, scoring two and terrorising their left-back repeatedly with his Sterling-like approach. His goals were clinically taken - both drilled efforts into the bottom left hand corner, the first coming after some magical footwork left Sunderland's left-back dazed and confused. The second was emphatic, placing the ball beyond the keeper's reach after a strong, driving run from Diallo had set him free. I commented last week on his development and it rang true again here. He's improving rapidly - a real technically proficient handful, something of a talisman for this team now too, and this could be an exciting season for the young English forward.
|7. Isaac Buckley|
Nemane and Buckley were joined by Nmecha up top and it wasn't quite as productive a day for the usually clinical forward. He made his debut for the EDS last week, despite being only 16 - just rewards for a fine start to the season, but it didn't fully happen here. He showcased some lovely footwork, as ever, but he would have been disappointed with a sitter he missed at the back post after Buckley had tore away down the right hand side. In midfield u18s regulars Sadou Diallo and Jacob Davenport were joined by the u16s midfielder, Tom Dele-Bashiru, for his first appearance at this level this year. It was a confident, bullish outing too. He's a pleasingly direct presence - not overly huge, but powerful and a real handful - technically strong as well, as you'd expect of any City academy prospect. He was here in place of Will Patching, away on England duty, and he stood in well. Davenport, too, was the beneficiary of an international call, stepping into Marcus Wood's slot in the defensive midfield role. He was typically everywhere, snapping into challenges and spreading the ball confidently. Diallo was strong, elegant and it was his burst forward that freed Buckley for his second. Good displays by all three as City dictated proceedings.
Defensively we were solid. Charlie Oliver, days after signing his first professional contract with the club, and Ash Kigbu, stepping into the injured Tosin Adarabioyo's shoes, both marshalled the defence aggressively, with real purpose. Sunderland barely mustered a shot in anger and on the one occasion they did, Albinson threw himself to his right hand side to just tip a twenty-five yard effort around the post. Bullock and Duhaney both came out on top of their opposing wingers, and with no real threat the other way, they took the opportunity to get forward. Both played their part as City upped the game in the second half, each whipping in some tempting crosses that could have lead to more on another day. There was cameos for Fernandes, Joe Hardy and Lewis Blackshaw, but the game was long won by then as City held out for all three points on yet another highly satisfying day for Jason Wilcox. The season's shaping up impeccably, and this was without Kongolo, Wood, Faour, Dilrosun and Patching, five regulars so far this year. Hugely encouraging and the league title seems a very plausible aim.
Elsewhere, the u16s continued their phenomenal form. 10-0 victors last week, they followed this up with a 9-2 victory over Sunderland's u17s today. Outstanding stuff. Nineteen goals in two games is simply incredible, regardless of the level. They were shorn of numerous regulars too. Matt Smith only played half the game before running across to join the u18s at half-time. Tom Dele-Bashiru and Blackshaw were both fully involved with the u18s too, and Brahim Diaz, one of the jewels in a glorious attacking crown, wasn't involved either, carrying on his EDS involvement as the club waits for his international clearance that will happen in two to three weeks time. In a nutshell, it was far from a strongest eleven, yet they still did this. Frightening. Jadon Sancho, Tyrese Campbell and Phil Foden did most of the damage, all grabbing a brace, as Colin Rosler, son of former City legend Uwe nonetheless, Luke Walsh and Luke Bolton scored the other three. They're a hugely promising generation, and big things are expected of them and rightly so. The amount of attacking talent they seem to possess is frightening to be honest. Something tells me we'll see plenty of them as the season progresses, with many increasingly likely to see u18s game time before the end of the campaign. You can't keep this good a thing down, and I can't wait to witness it. Next up for both teams is West Brom a week Saturday.