A stoppage-time goal from Eddy Gnahore helped Blues U21s to a narrow victory against Leeds United on Monday afternoon.
Liam Truslove (pictured) fired Blues into a 64th minute lead, before the visitors struck back with just two minutes of normal time remaining. With the match seemingly heading for a draw, Gnahore met Courtney Cameron’s cross to fire the ball home from close-range.
Blustery conditions at Blues’ Wast Hills training ground made it difficult for both sides. Much of the first half of football was played in the midfield areas, with chances at a premium.
Leeds striker Lewis Walters saw his goal-bound effort deflected behind for a corner, before Blues trialist Sam Gainford saw his long-range shot sail over the bar. Right on the stroke of half-time, Blues keeper Callum Preston produced a fine save to keep out Patrick Antelmi’s volley.
The game opened up more as a contest after the break and Amari’i Bell had to be alert to clear the ball off his own line.
But it was Blues who drew first blood as they went ahead just after the hour-mark when Truslove hit a peach of a free-kick from 30 yards out to find the bottom corner of the net.
Blues keeper Preston needed to be alert to deny Walters with a save low down. But Leeds finally got the goal their play probably deserved with an 88th minute equaliser.
A pass through the centre of the Blues defence found Walters and the impressive Leeds front man made no mistake as he guided the ball under Preston. But parity lasted just five minutes before Gnahore gave Blues the lead in the final minute of injury time.
Although his side won the match, development squad boss Richard Beale felt his players could have performed much better than they did.
"We set high standards at the club and it’s up to the players to meet those standards and today we didn’t reach them," said Beale.
"We had a number of trialists and the pitch was a bit bobbly and it was a bit windy, which are all factors, but we didn't pass the ball well enough. There wasn’t enough creativity and invention and we were lacking in quality.
"In the first half we had one shot that was high and wide and other than that we didn’t really test the goalkeeper. In the second half we had little spells where we sparked like after the first goal where we showed the energy levels required and the enthusiasm, but overall there were too many sideways or backward passes.
"Having said that, the winning goal was a fantastic goal and good example of what I’m on about. Eddy Gnahore has picked the ball up and sprayed it 40-yards forwards and out wide. He's then carried on into the box before getting across his man and on to the end of the cross."
On an individual level, Beale thought the contribution made by goalkeeper Callum Preston was worthy of a mention, adding: "Callum Preston is looking more mature and has come on a lot in the last year. He produced a couple of good saves at the right times and was probably our stand-out performer."
Blues U21s: Callum Preston, Ryan Higgins (Charlee Adams, 61), Courtney Cameron, Ollie Lee, Emmitt Delfouneso, Jack Deaman, Theo Bailey-Jones, Eddy Gnahore, Dominic Dell, Reece Hales (Amari’i Bell, 55), Sam Gainford (Liam Truslove, 55).