Bradford City youth team 0
Millwall youth team 3
Pavey 45, Rylah 69, Onyedinma 90
Tuesday 17 December, 2013
By Jason McKeown
For a group of players that have received so much positive hype, this was the toughest of introductions to an expectant crowd. The Valley Parade main stand was healthily filled with supporters, braving a freezing cold Bradford evening to catch the first public showing of the Youth Alliance Invincibles. But they were to see City’s youth team fall to a first defeat of the season, bowing out of the FA Youth Cup in slightly disappointing fashion.
It was undoubtedly a night of harsh lessons for a crop of youngsters who – this season at least – have known only success. Falling behind to a self-inflicted Millwall goal on the stroke of half time, the lack of positive response to the sudden adversity eventually enabled the Lions to score two more on the break.
3-0 flattered Millwall for sure, as the one-sided scoreline disguised a promising first half Bantams performance that bodes well for the future prospects of this team. As supporters, tonight we were – ultimately – looking to identify players who could be good enough to one day play for the first team; and this group look to have a few contenders.
Catching the eye most of all tonight was Jack Stockdill. I saw him play for the first team at Guiseley in pre-season, and it is known that first team manager Phil Parkinson is an admirer of the all-action midfielder. Captaining the side, Stockdill performed with an authority and assurance that set the tone for his team mates; winning the ball, setting up attacks and dictating the tempo. There is a touch of Jack Wilshire about the lad, and it was a great shame that a deserved first half booking forced him to rein in his tackling thereafter. On this evidence, Stockdill should be pushing to join Oli McBurnie in first team matchday squads during the second half of the season.
Most eyes were firmly on McBurnie, who has been the poster boy of the favourable local media coverage directed at this team. His recent league debut at Oldham is no mean feat – gaining an opportunity ahead of senior players like Andy Gray and Caleb Folan, who have both had good careers. Tonight, McBurnie looked excellent in the air and had a strong first touch that saw him effectively involve himself in the team’s build up play. It wasn’t until the 90th minute, however, before he had a meaningful shot on goal.
Elsewhere, Niall Heaton seems to have brushed aside any disappointment at being released by Liverpool in the summer and looks a first team player in two years’ time. There is a composure and sharpness about Heaton’s play and he reads the game very well. Other impressive players included the direct winger Dylan Mottley-Henry and centre half Sam Wright. Callum Chippendale and Nathan Curtis have been talked up positively by those who watch the youth team on a regular basis, but in truth only displayed flashes of their potential.
Nevertheless, City passed the ball well in the first half and carved out plenty of openings against a physical Millwall side. Wright headed over from a corner in the 13th minute, before Mottley-Henry was played through by Stockdill and forced a decent save from visiting keeper Tom Beadle. Yet although the Bantams dominated possession, Millwall created good openings on the break with Jamie Philpott wastefully firing wide when played clean through.
The Millwall opener, right on half time, was harsh but preventable. A harmless ball over the top should have been dealt with by James King, but his weak back-header enabled Alfie Pavey to nip in and apply a cool finish past Jack Bentley. But worse than this goal was the limited fightback during the second half. City failed to come out all guns blazing to try and find an equaliser, they stopped passing the ball around and reverted to long punts forward. Millwall slowed the tempo down, began to time-waste and ensured that City could not find any rhythm.
A quick word about Millwall’s style of play tonight. It was extremely depressing to see their youngsters play like a wily old League Two side in terms of the depths they stooped to in killing off the game. I know that winning should be everything, even at this level. But at a time when English football has been soul-searching about the struggles of its national team, to see a selection of the next generation of players kick, push and time-waste their way to success was depressing. So…English.
City’s players did not react well to the physicality and provocation of certain opponents, and a weak referee provided no protection from such underhand tactics.
The second goal came on 70 minutes when John-Prince Rylah latched onto a throughball and smashed it powerfully past Bentley. But the fact that City failed to register a shot on goal in the second half until a minute after Rylah’s goal told you everything about how comfortable it became for Millwall. With 10 minutes to go, their captain Sid Nelson was deservedly sent off after hauling down Curtis. Although James Pollard and McBurnie had chances to reduce the deficit, a slip up by Pollard at the other end enabled the 10-men to score a third goal through Fred Onyedinma.
The body language on the pitch told of a team that had not fully done themselves justice and had found it a painful experience. You just hope that the goodwill that this group of players has built up over recent months, due to their exploits in the league, isn’t damaged by this set back. Because although their first occasion of playing in front of a Valley Parade crowd was one to forget result-wise, this team provided enough flashes of promise to suggest that the future should still be looked upon as very bright.
City: Bentley, Hepworth (Brennan 73), Wright (Devine 86), King, Pollard, Mottley-Henry (Webb-Foster 73), Heaton, Stockdill, Curtis, McBurnie, Chippendale
Not used: Barker, Jenkinson
Categories: Match Reviews