By Nathan Bliss
Wolves Under-18s recorded an impressive win over Blackburn Rovers at Thomas Telford School on Saturday, as a young Wolves side ran out 2-1 winners, with three players making their debut at this age group.
Wolves could have gone ahead in the first five minutes after a corner-kick whipped into the Rovers 6-yard-box caused panic, with the home side eventually having an effort cleared off the line.
Rovers then grew into the game and had opportunities to take the lead, with Jackson Smith pulling off a fantastic save in the 13th minute as Luke Brennan bore down on goal, bravely smothering the ball in the one-on-one situation. Both of Wolves’ central defenders were also on top form, with Aaron Crabtree and Lewis Richards both making excellent blocks in the opening half-hour to deny the away side.
Darren Ryan’s side took control of the game after that period and started to create chances of their own. Jayden Forrester, in his first appearance at this level, cut inside from the left in the 31stminute and produced an effort that came back of the far post and fell kindly to Kieran Feeney, who couldn’t take advantage.
The home side then took the lead just two minutes later, in what was almost a carbon copy of the chance just moments earlier. It was Forrester again who made a good run down the left and cut inside, unleashing a fierce shot that again hit the far post, only this time it rebounded off the opposition goalkeeper before hitting the back of the net.
Both Feeney and Luke Cundle then peppered the Rovers goal with shots before half-time, as Wolves finished the first 45 minutes on top.
That trend continued into the second-half and they eventually capitalised on their dominance by doubling their lead in the 70th minute. After a period of constant pressure, the ball eventually fell to Taylor Townsend on the right side of the box who took a touch and hit a sweet strike that flew into the left corner of the net.
With 15 minutes left to play, Feeney had to the chance to make it three after rounding the goalkeeper but was pushed wide and couldn’t find Townsend, who was lurking in the box. There was a similar opportunity for Wolves on 85 minutes, with Townsend this time rounding the ‘keeper, his cross found Feeney, but he was denied at close range by a good save.
Rovers did get a goal back just four minutes from time through Brad Lynch, but Wolves showed great mental strength to hold on in the final few minutes after pressure from the away side, as they secured an impressive victory.
Manager Darren Ryan was delighted with his team’s performance.
“The lads have been absolutely fantastic today,” said Ryan.
“The younger players have come in and done exceptionally well, it’s a great performance from them, the way they played with the ball and without the ball.
“It’s a pleasing performance and a pleasing win.
Wolves featured a number of players who made their debut at this age group, including Under-14 midfielder Dylan Scicluna, and Ryan was pleased with how they managed the game once Rovers pulled a goal back.
“It challenged them in different ways, we conceded and psychologically they had to manage the game.
“We probably should have scored more goals than the two we did, but the work-rate and commitment of the younger players was excellent.
“It’s great for us as a football club, that’s what we do, we challenge the players and we’re not scared to throw them in and it was a really good performance today.
“I think they’re intelligent footballers, some of the football was really good today, they moved it one and two touch and broke the lines with their passing.
“it was a really good performance and we need to maintain that now, it shows that the players we’ve got coming through are really good and they can step up to this level.
“We’ve got players coming back next week but it makes my job harder and I’ve got to make a couple of difficult decisions.
“It’s great to get the result and now we need to push on.”