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Blues U18s 1 Bristol Rovers U18s 0

Posted: Thu 31 Jan 2013

Reece Hales penalty

Image by: Roy Smiljanic

Blues under-18s put in a thoroughly professional performance to beat Bristol Rovers in their FA Youth Cup fourth round tie on Thursday evening.

The closely-fought contest was won courtesy of second half penalty conversion from striker Reece Hales (pictured).

The victory means that Blues will now travel to Norwich City in the next round of the competition, after the Canaries overcame Millwall 2-1 tonight.
On a chilly evening at Solihull Moors’ Damson Park ground, both teams took a while to get into their respective strides and they struggled to string more than two or three passes together at a time.

The first clear opening fell to Blues after 11 minutes. Hales burst into box and drove on towards the goal, but his close range effort was deflected wide for a corner. The ball was sent back in and it dropped to Hales again, but with the goal at his mercy he blasted his shot high and wide.

Minutes later Blues were fortunate to keep the scores level when Alfie Santos’s cross was almost deflected into their net, but fortunately keeper Nick Townsend managed to grab the ball just before it crossed his goal line.

The Blues stopper then did well to deny Santos with his legs at the near post before Demarai Gray tried a long-range shot at the other end, which flew over the top.

As the half progressed both sets of players were settling into their rhythm and the ball was being passed around much more comfortably.

With 35 on the clock Blues captain James Fry headed a corner ball several yards over the bar after finding space deep inside the visitors’ box.
The match was largely being played in the centre of the park with chances hard to come by. 

That was until just after the hour mark when Blues caused panic in the Rovers box, which culminated in the award of a penalty. Demarai Gray was caught by a Rovers defender and Hales stepped up to  the spot and made no mistake as he sent the keeper the wrong way to fire Blues into the lead.
With the game entering the final 15, Hales came close to doubling his side’s advantage with a low effort that drifted just inches wide of the far post.

The visitors’ manager sent on a trio of substitutes in a desperate attempt to get his team back into the contest, but Blues held firm for a deserved win and a trip to East Anglia.

Academy coach Steve Spooner was delighted to see his side claim a narrow victory and a trip to Norwich in the next round.

“It always looked like it was just going to be one goal that was going to win it,” he said. “To be fair play to Bristol Rovers they made it hard for us and did their homework on us. They got close to us and stopped us playing.

“We made a couple of mistakes early on and then we started resorting to the easy way out by just shelling the ball forward. I was a little bit disappointed with that, but then we got to grips with it a bit towards the end of the first half and got a little bit of shape and made a few passes. 

“Bristol started really well second half and came at us again, but we managed to get a foothold and the penalty went our way and that gave us that little bit of confidence. When you have a goal to hang onto the danger is you sit too deep, but we didn’t do that. We managed to deal with the onslaught and we got up the pitch when we could.

“Keeping a clean sheet is a massive positive. Too often I’ve accused the players of having a soft underbelly and when they’re not playing well they don’t stay with it, but in fairness to them they showed a resolve and made it hard for the opposition. 

“We now go to Norwich who are a Premier League club and it will be a hard game because they will be good technically. But we’ve got every reason to go there and feel confident because we’ve got enough ability in our team to rival other teams and we need to go there with belief.”
Blues under-18s: Nick Townsend, Dominic Bernard, Bobby Moseley, Reece Brown, James Fry, Callum Thomson, Charlee Adams, Liam Truslove, Reece Hales (George McGee, 90), Deqwon Ebanks, Demarai Gray.
Subs not used: Koby Arthur, Callum Preston, Jean Kalenda, Fisaya Adarabioyo.
Bookings: None
Goals: Hales (63)

Bristol Rovers under-18s: Matt Macey, Josh Southway, Dan Greenslade, Laurent Mondo (Sam Kamara, 77), Trey Anderson, Tom Lockyer, Alfie Santos (Aaron Ward Baptiste, 81), Dominic Thomas, Jamie Lucas, Shaquille Hunter, Carlos Barrera (Chad Douglas, 77).
Subs not used: Connor Finn, Aaron Bryan, Liam Vaulters.
Bookings: None 
Goals: None

Referee: Neil Radford