Despite a spirited fightback from two goals down, Wolves fell to late Manchester United pressure in the U18 Premier League Cup, before picking themselves up to claim a narrow 3-2 win over Birmingham City in the under-17 edition yesterday afternoon.
Steve Davis’ under-18s squad found themselves competing in two cup competitions this week, firstly heading to Manchester for an U18 PL Cup Group F clash on Saturday, in which winger Tyler Roberts was influential in getting his side back on level terms having fallen two goals behind by half-time.
Rhys Bennett and Isak Hansen-Aaroen scored for the hosts, before Roberts won his side a penalty for Ethan McLeod to halve the deficit, before scoring a stunning goal which Davis’ side believed to have secured them a point with just five minutes remaining.
However, United regained the lead through Charlie McNeill in the 89th minute before Maxi Oyedele put the game beyond doubt in added time.
The result leaves Wolves second in the group behind United, knowing they need a win against Birmingham City – currently sat on the same amount of points as Wolves, but with a lower goal difference – in the final group game. Wolves also have to hope other results go their way if they are to either snatch top spot off United or take the best place runners-up spot to make it into the quarter-finals.
Just a 𝗤𝗨𝗔𝗗𝗥𝗨𝗣𝗟𝗘 save from James Storer for our under-18s on Saturday 👏— Wolves Academy (@WolvesAcademy) October 25, 2021
It’s also very tight in the U17 PL Cup, as Wolves earned the victory against Birmingham on the road on Tuesday afternoon to put all four teams level pegging on three points heading into the final round of matches in Group G.
A younger Wolves side, featuring several first-years, schoolboys and even a few under-15s, got off to a positive start across the West Midlands, as Owen Farmer netted twice before McLeod got his second in two games just before half-time to give Wolves a three-goal lead heading into the break.
But with the young Wolves defence tiring late on, Birmingham capitalised with two goals in the final 15 minutes through Niall Rushton and Pharrell Williams. However, they were able to hang on to the win, meaning a victory over Aston Villa in November could be enough to progress into the quarter-finals.
U18 PL CUP REACTION
On falling in the final moments
“They worked that hard to get back into it after being two down,” Davis said, “but they had a poor start and took a bit of time to get going. In the second-half we tried of few things out to improve, which we did, and we got back into the game with a few good chances, which we scored.
“With five minutes to go, it was almost like a relief of all their hard work had paid off, but they lost concentration and focus in that last five minutes and made elementary mistakes. Man United had a good side out and if you make mistakes, they punish you.
“The players will be disappointed with the final five minutes, but we watched it and analysed it and looked at where we could be different in our mentality, and hopefully we’ll learn from it.”
On the performance of Roberts
“‘Tinks’ had an impact for both of the goals, winning the penalty which Ethan put away after being saved, but he got there first to put it back in the net, then scoring an excellent goal himself.
“It was a great switch from Mason [Rees] across the pitch to the edge of the box, wide on the right, and he cut inside the lad and bent it in with his left foot. It was a great goal.
“I was really pleased with the impact Tinks had in the game, and he’s just gone on and replicated what he did in one of the previous games where he put it into the top corner with his left foot.
“He seems to be enjoying it down the right-hand side more so than when he plays down the middle, as he can have an impact in the games, and he certainly changed the game for us in the second-half. It’s just a shame we couldn’t hold on to 2-2 and at least get a point out of it.”
On needing a win from their final group game
“We try and find a way of winning all of the games, so the approach will be no different in that respect. We know we’ve probably got to win the game to qualify or give us a chance.
“Our goal difference isn’t too bad with the five goals we scored against West Brom, so with that in mind, if we can get a good victory, with six points and a decent goal difference, it might just be enough to get through.
“It will be nice to get through, just to see who we play next and the new challenge it brings us, but the focus is always on the next league game, but it will be nice to have a little cup run in either the 18s or 17s cup competitions.”
U17 PL CUP REACTION
On a positive first-half in Birmingham
“We were three-nil up at half-time, and then they had a late flurry and scored a couple of goals in the last ten minutes, which made it a bit closer than it should have been.
“But we were very dominant in the first-half and they found it very difficult against us as we posed ourselves on them. But they came back into it in the second-half, had more possession, and we made a couple of defensive mistakes for the goals, but they kept going, showed spirit and were able to hold on and see the game out really well.
“I felt we thoroughly deserved the points, and it was a big closer than I would’ve liked, but it was good to get the three points, because every team in our league has beaten each other, meaning it’s wide open going into the final game.
“We’ve still got Villa to play in the final game, so we need to win that to have a chance of progression.”
On bringing age groups together
“It was good experience for the younger ones coming in as it gave me and James [Collins, under-23 head coach] the chance to see if they are able to step up, see what’s coming through and areas we may need to recruit in the future.
“But the younger players impressed me. Caden Voice played left centre-back and did really well, Lennon Patterson played left-back and really imposed himself on the game and Oliver Sweeney was at right-back, so it was quite a young back-four with Fil [Mabete] being the senior member, but I thought they all coped really well, apart from the final stages of the game when they tired.
“It’s a lot quicker and more demanding than what they are used to. They are only on a part-time programme and play 80-minute matches, so the last 15/20 minutes was a bit alien to them, but we went quite strong in the forward areas, which helped us with keeping the ball up top and causing Birmingham problems.”
Davis’s side have a run of home matches ahead of them and are first in Under-18 Premier League North action on Saturday afternoon, as they invite Burnley to Compton Park for a 12.30pm kick-off.
30/10 Burnley (H)
06/11 Derby County (H)
20/11 Middlesbrough (H)
24/11 Aston Villa (H) U17PLC
27/11 Birmingham City (H) U18PLC