YOUNG AMMIES MARCH ON
Salford City enter uncharted territory once again as a splendid 3-1 victory over Bradford City propelled their Under 18s side into the FA Youth Cup Second Round. It’s the first time ever that the Ammies have reached that stage of the competition and Crewe Alexandra are now lined up for a visit to the Peninsula Stadium during week ending 17th November.
Despite the dubious attractions of Halloween, another decent sized turnout assembled to cheer on Jamie Russell’s young charges. Salford were soon setting the tone for the evening – putting pressure on a Bradford defence that didn’t wouldn’t look comfortable at any point. As early as the 4th minute Harry Hatton lifted a pass over the Bantams’ rearguard and Douglas James-Taylor controlled well before trying a low effort that rolled narrowly wide of Alfie Darke’s right-hand post.
Sam Wright initiated the next chance just a couple of minutes later after winning possession in midfield. A cross-field ball fell for Taylor Dyson who passed inside for James-Taylor, but his effort was charged down by a Bradford defender.
Hatton won a free-kick on the left soon after that and was on the end of Dyson’s delivery as well. This looked like a great chance, but a defender got a foot in, deflecting what appeared to be a goal-bound effort over the crossbar.
An impressive start from the Ammies who were dictating the pace of the game and looking sharper in every department. Bradford had hardly managed to cross the halfway line so far but managed to win a free-kick on the left with a dozen minutes played. With everyone in the middle expecting a cross, Elliot Goldthorpe hit a stinging effort that slipped out of George Neave’s grasp, dropping to the keeper’s left. There were light blue shirts in attendance, but Neave recovered well, getting across to push the ball away from immediate danger.
The action switched back to the school end almost immediately as Brandon Lockett slammed a low 20-yarder from left-of-centre just wide of Darke’s right-hand upright. Soon after the quarter-hour Dyson tried a surprise of his own, delivering low to the near post from the right. Darke was scrabbling, but luck was with Bradford’s keeper as the ball spun off the upright and across the penalty area. Hatton was on the end of it, driving in a low 15-yarder that Darke saved well, getting down to his right and pushing the ball away to safety.
The Bantams had survived Salford’s early spell of dominance and there was a lull for a while, with neither side getting much change out of the other’s defence. That situated changed in the 26th minute as Dyson’s corner from the left was met by SAM ADETILOYE, rising high to power a great header past Darke.
No more than Salford deserved and Bradford struggled to find a response against opponents who looked quicker and stronger. On 30 minutes Goldthorpe tested Neave from distance but Salford’s keeper held on to his effort and that would be a relatively rare opportunity for the Bantams.
Salford continued to look most likely to add to the scoring and 13 minutes before the break Wright swung in a nicely judged cross from the left. James-Taylor was on the end of it, just beyond the far post and his looping header was in course to drop in until Darke stretched to tip over. Dyson dropped in the corner and James-Taylor was there again, only to see his header scrambled clear from just in front of the keeper’s right-hand upright.
In the 38th minute Bradford’s defence were caught dithering in possession, allowing Kamar Moncrieffe to nip into the left-hand side of the box. A good ball into the 6-yard box followed and JAMES-TAYLOR got to it ahead of his marker, poking home from close range.
That two-goal lead by no means flattered Salford and the visitors were looking increasingly unsettled. Goldthorpe had another go from distance but this one went well wide and the Ammies were soon back on the offensive. Once more Bradford’s defence failed to cover itself in glory and James-Taylor almost capitalised, prodding in an effort that Darke pushed away to his right. There were no blue shirts to cover but HATTON arrived to steer a cool, angled finish inside the near upright.
Bradford were reeling at this point but made it to the half-time whistle without any further mishaps. Getting back into this cup-tie would be a huge challenge for a side who had been comprehensively outplayed over the first 45 minutes.
HALF-TIME: SALFORD CITY 3 BRADFORD CITY 0
Having endured an often torrid first half the Bantams needed to hit back quickly if their Youth Cup hopes were to survive. They needed a stroke of luck and one arrived, right on cue, within 2 minutes of the restart. MATT BIRCHALL broke into the area on the right before hitting a low effort that appeared to be routine for Neave. Salford’s keeper seemed to do everything right but having crouched to collect, the ball somehow evaded his grasp, rolling through his legs and into the net.
Could a comeback be on? The Bantams certainly thought so and in the 51st minute Birchall latched onto a Kielen Adams knock-down only to shoot wide from the edge of the box.
The opening half-dozen minutes of the second half had given Bradford by far their best spell so far. They couldn’t exert consistent pressure on the home goal however and had to wait until the 66th minute for another chance worthy of any note. A corner was headed back across goal but Adams’ ambitious bicycle kick passed both high and wide of the target.
Goldthorpe had been Bradford’s liveliest attacking player and 20 minutes from time he fancied his chances again. That proved to be misplaced confidence as the subsequent shot soared yards over the crossbar.
To be fair the Ammies had been less of an attacking force during the second half, but they put together a good move 15 minutes from the end. Lockett picked up discarded Bradford possession in midfield, exchanging passes with James-Taylor as he advanced. A pass to the left found Hatton whose effort on goal may well have troubled Darke until Reece Staunton headed the ball behind for a corner.
Another goal for Bradford would set up an interesting finish and Birchall did well to control Hayden Smethurst’s chipped pass up the right with 7 minutes left. His second touch came in the form of an angled volley but the ball dropped wide of Neave’s left-hand post.
A decent chance but once again Bradford couldn’t keep the pressure on and the game was drifting to its inevitable conclusion. During the first minute of time added on Goldthorpe’s free-kick, from deep on the right, looked certain to be touched in but no blue shirt could poke the ball home. It would have been far too little much too late for the Bantams and in truth a 2nd goal would have flattered them.
Fittingly the final opportunity of the game went the way of Salford, deep into injury time. The lively Dyson nicked possession in midfield before driving forward on a right-of-centre run. He let fly from just outside the box and was unlucky to see his well-struck effort pass narrowly wide of Darke’s left-hand post.
FULL-TIME: SALFORD CITY 3 BRADFORD CITY 1
Salford City’s Under 18s march on, and this was a very impressive performance against a good side. The Ammies seized the initiative very early on and apart from that brief spell immediately after half-time, Bradford never really looked like taking it back.
Salford worked hard, kept their shape and never allowed their opponents time to settle, especially during the first half. Birchall’s early, fortunate goal after the break could have set off an attack of the jitters yet the Ammies kept their cool and didn’t take any risks.
If anything, the margin of victory could have been greater, and credit is due to Jamie Russell, Lewis Craig and their academy team – it looks as if all that hard work is paying real dividends.
Well done to all involved this evening – we can now look forward to a visit from Crewe Alexandra in the second round, with that game to be played during the week ending 17th November. One more win puts the Under 18s in the hat with Premier League clubs, so let’s hope the fans turn out in force again to see another slice of Salford football history in the making.
SALFORD CITY: 1) George Neave, 2) Joel Barlow, 3) Sam Wright, 4) Brandon Lockett ( 17 Dan Thompson-Edwards 80), 5) Markell Foulds, 6) Sam Adetiloye, 7) Harry Hatton (16 Emmanuel Ogunrinde 86), 8) Alex Doyle (c), 9) Douglas James-Taylor, 10) Kamar Moncrieffe, 11) Taylor Dyson Subs Not Used: 12) Adam Barthram, 14) Will Shepherd, 15) Will Hall
BRADFORD CITY: 1) Alfie Darke, 2) Hayden Smethurst, 3) Jeremie Milambo (c), 4) Jake Maltry, 5) Joree Sikora, 6) Reece Staunton, 7) Christian Farrar, 8) Elliot Goldthorpe, 9) Kielen Adams, 10) Matt Birchall, 11) Connor Shanks
Subs: 12) Tom Donaghy, 14) Finn Cousins-Dawson, 15) Kian Scales, 16) Wade Ripley, 17) Dan Aitken