In the end this was probably a fair result. City were competent, at best, and if it hadn't been for a late resurgence the visitors would have left with all three points. Blackburn would have certainly felt slightly aggrieved that they didn't claim the victory, but in truth it was a game lacking in any true quality from either side. Blackburn were a threat, but a functional one, relying mainly on their delivery from out wide and set pieces to crafted their few decent chances. City, too, resorted in more direct measures with their usual methods, all methodically intricate and precise, giving way to a rather laboured approach. It was indicative of the team's current form. The u18s aren't in a particularly purple patch currently, and that early season swagger has disappeared a little, even if a few of the scores on paper would suggest otherwise. The winter months and the (usually forced) ever-changing lineups will do that to any team, and City are no different. Still, Wilcox's team does have a welcome knack of finding a way back into games where most would see a game as lost, and not for the first time this year they mustered up something to snatch a point from the jaws of defeat.
It was a young lineup. Albinson started in goal and it was a relatively inexperienced defensive pairing of the u15 Joel Latibeaudiere and Joe Coveney that partnered ahead of him. Callum Bullock started at right back and Jacob Davenport, usually a smart, intelligent holding midfielder, stepped in on the left in the absence of Demeaco Duhaney. A more experienced midfield three sat in front of them - Marcus Wood partnered Will Patching and Sadou Diallo, and up top Lukas Nmecha lead the line with the pair of Spaniards either side of him. Brahim Diaz on his left, and Paolo Fernandes continuing over on the right. City took the lead half way through the first half. After a relatively uninspiring opening, only really notable for a few strong challenges from Blackburn's defenders, we scored seemingly out of nowhere. A delightful, whipped Callum Bullock cross from the right found Lukas Nmecha at the back post and the young forward made no mistake from a few yards out. City should have stepped it up from there, and for a handful of minutes they looked confident, knocking the ball well around midfield as Blackburn chased shadows, yet it didn't last.
Barely five minutes had passed when Blackburn levelled, and it was soft. A corner swung in from the right saw a header diverted goal-wards. Albinson did manage to get a touch, yet it wasn't particularly substantial and he could only watch as the ball trickled into the bottom corner. Their second goal quickly followed, Albinson this time spilling a cross to their forward who fired home on the stroke of half-time. Not the keeper's finest ten minutes, but his team mates were culpable too, gifting possession sloppily and inviting unnecessary pressure. The referee blew the whistle seconds later with the score at 2-1. There was no changes at half time, yet Dele-Bashiru, and Dilrosun were quickly introduced for Patching, Diallo. The third and final change followed not long after, Nmecha making way for Isaac Buckley as City desperately tried to shake off the general malaise that had descended over the game. Thankfully, the equaliser did come, even if it hadn't looked likely. Both teams were trading relatively limp and pointless punches in midfield when, seemingly out of nowhere, another wonderfully delivered cross from Callum Bullock found the most unlikely of sources, Brahim Diaz. Despite being the smallest on the pitch, he rose highest to head past the keeper with only ten minutes left on the clock.
From there on out, a resurgent City looked the most likely to win it, and a few chances did follow. Buckley hit the post from a tight angle, yet the best chance fell to Brahim who somehow failed to score from two yards, a chance that would have completed a brilliant hat-trick of assists for Bullock. That was the last moment of note and it remained level at full-time, a score that, on reflection, probably felt fair. Bullock deserved more. He was easily City's stand out player. The eighteen year old is turning into a fine right-back. Strong, consistent and tough with several assists to his name already this year, he's a very likeable player and he deserved better today. He was a cut above most. It was a day to forget for Albinson in goal and there was moments when the young centre-half pairing showed their age too. Both momentarily showed their class, undoubtedly, yet at times they were caught ball-watching. The naivety of youth clearly evident. Davenport over on the left was functional, yet lacked, understandably given his midfield preference, the intelligence that Duhaney offers at full-back. It wasn't the finest day for any of the usual midfield three. Wood, Patching, Diallo - none of them were at their usual, silky best as the biting cold stifled proceedings and played up to the visitors more robust style.
Brahim grabbed a goal, his first officially at this level, yet he was lucky to be on the pitch. He arguably should have been replaced long before he levelled proceedings. Despite the odd fleeting moment, the youngster has found the transition into life in the u18s a little difficult and he was guilty of overplaying or under-hitting passes here. I guess this is understandable - he looked marvellous with the u18s in preseason, a real live-wire, all fleet-footed and impossibly tricky. He spent weeks being the standout in an all conquering u16s team too, but this is clearly a step up and the games are notably tougher, and its told. He will adapt to the demands and considerably higher physicality, but it will take time and he is still only just sixteen. The goal was encouraging though, even if just for the brief glimmer of confidence it gave him. Time, thankfully, is on his side. Fernandes, equally mercurial, couldn't quite spark into life either. The Spanish winger has been arguably the team's star playing recently, scoring a plethora of simply brilliant goals, but he struggled to isolate his marker and, one decent effort aside from twenty yards, it was a quiet day for the usually buoyant forward. Nmecha toiled, grabbing a goal for his efforts, but he was offered little support in a day that City's forward line struggled to click into gear. The subs, Dilrosun, Dele-Bashiru and Buckley in general blended in with the rest, though the latter two did add a little energy at least, but they couldn't change the overall flow of the game. Elsewhere the u16s continued their remarkable run, winning out 4-3 winners. Tom Dele-Bashiru grabbed a goal before heading over to join the u18s bench at half time, Tyrese Campbell and Mace Goodridge scored one apiece and the other came from an own goal. Next up is the u19s in the UYL on Wednesday with a trip to Juventus.