Saturday, 7 November 2015

City u18s 2-2 Wolves

This was a disappointing result and unquestionably two points lost. At half-time it felt comfortable, despite the one goal lead. City were in control, confidently dictating proceedings and two or three nil really wouldn't have flattered Wilcox's men. Several additional chances were created after Dilrosun had opened City's account, finishing neatly after some good work down the right from Paolo Fernandes. It remained one at the interval, but it was totally one-sided. It didn't take long for City to extend their advantage after the break either - Brahim brilliantly skipped past a Wolves challenge in midfield, drove at the defence before sliding in Dilrosun on the left who squared the ball across goal for Buckley to convert the easiest of chances. Simple, but beautifully effective. And then, for some reason, it all went wrong. A series of changes seemed to invite pressure onto City, the subs seemingly disrupting the rhythm. They pulled one back almost immediately, Davenport hanging out a leg that the Wolves forward promptly went over. The right decision, and they made no mistake from the spot. After a scrappy, midfield battle for twenty minutes, a whipped free kick from Wolves' right hand-side found three Wolves players totally, and criminally, unmarked. Their forward controlled the ball, turned and fired past Haug for an equaliser.

Despite a late surge, it remained 2-2 at full time. It was a frustrating watch, and one entirely unpredictable given City's promising early start. Haug had started between the sticks and there was two returning centre-backs. After a spell on the sidelines, Kigbu reunited his partnership with Oliver and Lewis Blackshaw carried on at left-back, with Duhaney getting a rare outing over on the right for once. There was no changes ahead of them from last weekend's game against Liverpool, with Davenport, Diallo and Brahim making up the midfield three and Dilrosun and Fernandes the wingers, with Buckley through the middle. It was working well - neat, tidy and intricate, City were in cruise control. Fernandes sparkled yet again, dancing past challenges on the right, though he faded later on as City's confidence disappeared. Buckley was bright, though struggled to get involved and he was replaced in the second half by Will Patching in a move that saw Brahim become the nominal centre-forward. Brahim's many things, but he's not a striker. He struggled to provide a real focal point, understandably give his size. It was an encouraging performance before that, with his powerful, exciting run that created the second goal the real highlight. He's finding his way at this level still, playing deeper than I expected, but the talent's clear.

Diallo was a strong presence in midfield before he was replaced by the returning skipper, Marcus Wood, half way through the second half. Though sadly like his fellow substitutes, Bullock and Patching, Wood struggled to find his feet in the game, uncharacteristically sloppy in possession as the game ran away from City. Patching couldn't quite get involved as City's shape seemed to disappear, and Bullock, who replaced the impressive Blackshaw at left-back, who left the game due to a knock, found himself on the periphery too. Defensively we were relatively solid until the aberration that was their second goal. Oliver and Kigbu had coped pretty well with what little they had to do before they, and many others, were guilty of ball-watching and leaving a whole host of Wolves players unmarked. Blackshaw, as mentioned earlier, was having an excellent game at left-back. Only small, the first year scholar was a bright and intelligent presence on the left and he formed an excellent partnership with Dilrosun, who impressed in the first half with some powerful, surging runs down the left. Duhaney over on the right was his usual steady self, though having spent most of the season at left-back, he was a little rusty and Davenport was having a good, solid game before he gave away the penalty and his usually slick game took a slight hit.

Against the back drops of all the highs the u18s have been through this year, the lows do seem to stand out. Admittedly, that is a little unfair at times, as this is a team that deserves admiration. But days like this will happen, and though it wasn't catastrophic, it wasn't good either. It'll serve as a stark reminder that you simply can't switch off at any level in football, regardless of how well you're playing. Wolves were defiant, dug in and worked hard, and a job was still there to be done, yet City invited them back into the game. Wilcox expects impeccably high standards from his players, and rightly so - these are a talented bunch who should be controlling games for 90 minutes, not just one half. Nine times out of ten, this is the case, thankfully. The decision to leave Brahim upfront didn't help, admittedly. Faour was left on the bench, despite being a recognised forward, and it told. The other changes, though they didn't help, were understandable - Patching and Wood needed game time after their spells away with England, and usually they'd slot in with no problems whatsoever, but it didn't happen today. So be it. The ever changing nature of the u18s lineup will cause moments of inconsistency, as is to be expected too given the age of the players involved. A disappointing day, but, as ever, one to learn from. Next up, the EDS face Norwich tomorrow at the CFA.

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