Middlesbrough 2 (Kavanagh 56, Evans 90) Wolves 1 (Ojinnaka 2)
Wolves under-18s rollercoaster season continued this weekend as Steve Davis’ side were unable to make it successive victories despite a dominant opening 45 minutes at Middlesbrough.
In similar fashion to their previous match at home to Sunderland, the young gold and black side came out the stronger of the two sides and could have taken the lead early on if not for letting their opportunities go begging.
However, it was Wolves who did get their reward for their positive play in the opening half, as 16-year-old Temple Ojinnaka was quickest to the rebound after Lee Harkin was set up for a shot by Owen Farmer. Boro keeper Henry Popple could only parry the Northern Irishman’s shot but Ojinnaka was quickest to the rebound to give his side a deserved lead.
Wolves continued to push in the hopes of at least doubling their advantage before half-time, and had enough chances fall there way to have taken a commanding lead into the break, but they were punished in the second period.
From a Wolves goal-kick, Boro caught the visitors our immediately, as Calum Kavanagh was able to break clear after latching onto a headed pass over the old gold defence and slotted the ball past Joe O’Shaughnessy.
Although the under-18s continued to create chances of their own as the game wore on, it was heartbreak for Davis’ boys, as a free-kick in the dying moments of the game was headed in by Louie Evans to see all three points remain in the north east.
Head coach Davis felt his young side had plenty of opportunity to have extended their lead, but also need to learn how to manage the game when they only have a one-goal lead.
He said: “I thought we were really good in the first-half and had a lot of control in the game, dominated the game really, and went 1-0 up. It probably wasn’t reward for our play and we should have been about two or three ahead really, and there was a bit of frustration from the players that we weren’t able to go ahead by more coming into half-time.
“Maybe because of that, they took their frustration into the second-half, thought things were going to happen a bit too easy for us, and our mentality changed.
“They [Middlesbrough] came out fighting, they pressed high, and changed their shape, so we had to adapt to it and found that tough.
“We still did a lot of good things in the second-half, but we still made a lot of mistakes; more mistakes than we did in the first-half. They might have pressurised us more in the second, but we should have coped better because of it.”
On lack of clean sheets this season
“The goals we conceded were very simple and more because of our own undoing. But going behind in the 90th minute, it becomes difficult to pick their heads up to try and get a goal back.
“We had plenty of opportunities, didn’t take them and then got punished by a bit of sloppiness in our defensive set-up and concentration.
“But I’m pleased with the majority of the performance, just need to get rid of those little lapses and focus more on keeping clean sheets, which is something we haven’t done enough of this year.”
On learning to perform for the whole 90 minutes
“We seem to be able to put a good half together and then not follow it up with another one in quite the same way. They need to lean to be consistent over the 90 minutes in everything that we do.
“They’ve still got to lean to keep that strong mentality from their first-halves and take it into the second and realise what got them that control, because they’re too easily distracted from their focus and then because of that, they allow the opposition to get a foothold in the game.
“Last week against Sunderland, we were good in the first-half and then let them get back into it in the second but weren’t punished, this weekend we did the same thing again, but this time we did get punished.
“For me, performance has got to be paramount, even though the lads want to win, it’s about finding a way to win and learning a way to win through your performance and managing the game better.
“They need to avoid the lapses in concentration they’ve been having, keep our cool when in front, not get frustrated because we’re not winning by a bigger margin and keep a strong mentality for each half. They’re a young group, but the quicker they can learn that, the better it will be for them.”
On Ojinnaka’s first under-18’s goal
“He’s been struggling physically having come back from injury, with one or two changes to his physicality over the last six months, where he has been focusing more on his game than his body.
“I’m pleased for Temple because he’s not renowned as a goalscorer, but he has the capability. Maybe this goal will give him that extra bit of confidence as well.
“I’ve been pleased to see his performances getting better over the last couple of weeks, because he started the season brilliantly, then suffered some injuries and set-backs, and he’s know back in and trying to get back to the level he was at.
“I thought on Saturday he made a big step towards that, which was really good to see.”
The under-18s are back in action on Saturday afternoon as they travel to league leaders Manchester United, with kick-off at 1pm.
Davis added: “It’s always difficult when you face United. They’re top of the league and got some really talented lads. They beat us 1-0 at home earlier this season but they dominated large portions of that game, even though we probably had the best chance when Lee Harkin broke through one-on-one and fluffed his lines.
“We know how difficult it is to play them, although every time we’ve played them, the games have been close. They’re tactically astute and technically very good players, although they slipped up at the weekend against Newcastle. They put out some slightly younger players and lost 3-2, but you can always get those kinds of results in this league.
“They put a few younger kids in, probably looking at blooding for next season, but at the same time, those Uniteds, Liverpools, Man Citys want to win the league every year, so they’ll always go as strong as they need to, so I’ll imagine they’ll go strong to try and win the game and keep the gap at the top.
“We know it’ll be tough whoever they put out, because we’re a really young group, but if we all play to our maximum, work really hard as a team and learn from the last couple of game, we’ve showed that we’re capable of scoring goals and if we can keep it tight at the back, then we can take them close again.”
24/04 Manchester United (A)
01/05 Everton (H)
08/05 Newcastle United (A)
Middlesbrough: Popple, Simpson, Lindo (Gitau 73), Trialist, Marshall, Howells, Woolston, Doherty, Fenton, Kavanagh (Evans 72), Hutchinson (Willis 67).
Unused subs: Bulmer, Finch.
Wolves: O’Shaughnessy, Birtwistle, Mabete, Tipton, Hubner, Keto-Diyawa, Ojinnaka (Kandola 81), Francis-Burrell (Rees 65), Hodnett, Farmer, Harkin.
Unused subs: Storer.