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Blues U21s 2 Coventry City U21s 2

Posted: Mon 07 Apr 2014
Author: Andy Walker

A late penalty save from Callum Preston ensured that Birmingham City U21s maintained their recent unbeaten run.

Demarai Gray had slotted the hosts into a 31st minute lead at St. Andrew's before two goals either side of the break from Louis Garner put Coventry City in front. 

Reece Brown made it 2-2 in the 62nd minute before both sides went close to a winner during an enthralling final five minutes. However, the best chance fell to the Sky Blues' Garner from the spot for his hat-trick in the 85th minute only for Preston to pull off a fine save and Reece Webb to follow up with a useful tackle.

While Blues were left feeling that this was a game that they could have won, it did ensure that the development side are now unbeaten in their last seven, with the previous six all victories, in the U21 Professional Development League Two heading into their final game at Derby County on Tuesday 15 April.  

Blues had started brightly with their first real chance arriving in the ninth minute. Liam Truslove played in Koby Arthur down the left side of the area and his powerful shot fizzed just over the bar. Gray then, four minutes later, almost caught Coventry 'keeper Lee Burge off guard with an awkward bounce from a low shot from distance.

At the other end, Lewis Rankin wriggled his way into the Blues penalty box in the 16th minute only for Preston to gather the ball before he could get a shot away.

In the 28th minute, Akwasi Asante, fresh from scoring four in last week's 4-2 win at Huddersfield Town U21s, forced Burge into a save with a stinging shot from just inside the Coventry area. 

Then came the opener, created by Scott Allan's clever run down the left flank to lay it on a plate for unmarked Gray to finish with ease from 12 yards.

Garner gave Blues a warning sign of what was about to come in the 41st minute when he saw his powerful strike from distance, from a cleared corner, fizz just past the right post. On the stroke of half-time, Garner made no mistake as his 25-yard free-kick from slightly to the left of goal looped up over the wall beating Preston in the near corner. 

The second-half continued in the same vein. Truslove pounced on a defensive error to cut in from the right and force Burge into a save at his near post in the 50th minute before captain James Fry had a header from a corner cleared off the line by Garner.

Having kept one out in front of the Tilton Stand, Garner didn't waste any time getting up the other end of the field to bag his and Coventry's second in the 53rd minute. The lively George Thomas set Garner free down the left side of the area and he calmly slotted beyond Preston.

Yet midfielder Brown arguably claimed the goal of the match shortly after the hour mark. From a clearance, the England U18 international pounced from 18 yards to emphatically hammer a low effort into the bottom right corner. 

Preston was called into action in the 66th minute to save with his feet and deny Thomas what looked to be a certain goal.

As this fixture entered the closing stages, the game started to come to life as both sides cranked up a gear in search of a winner.

Dominic Bernard was harshly judged to have fouled Garner inside the box with five minutes later but the Coventry forward couldn't complete his hat-trick. 

Burge almost gifted substitute striker Reece Hales a winner in the 86th minute by a mistake at the back but the goalkeeper recovered to make a tackle on the edge of his box. The drama continued right up until the final whistle; Coventry's Jack Finch saw an effort strike the bar before Burge brilliantly turned a low 30-yard drive from Gray around his right post. 

Blues U21s: Preston, Dacres-Cogley, Bernard, Brown, Fry (C), Webb, Gray, Truslove (Cooper 72), Asante, Allan, Arthur (Hales 79).

Subs not used: Trueman, Moseley, Sutherland.

Coventry City U21s: Burge, Smith, Haynes (C), Trialist, Urquhart, Lawton, McGeouch, Finch, Thomas, Garner, Rankin.

Subs not used: Richards, Dion Kelly-Evans, Devon Kelly-Evans, Bromley Forester.

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