Wolves 2 (Roberts 71, 90) Middlesbrough 0
Tyler Roberts’ second half-brace saw Wolves earn a hard worked 2-0 victory against Middlesbrough in the U18 Premier League North at the Sir Jack Haywood Training Ground.
Neither side was able to break the deadlock during a challenging first-half. But Wolves persevered resulting in Steve Davis’ side coming away with all three points thanks to Tyler Roberts’ close range brace in the second period.
Wolves got off to a bright start in the opening minutes. Aaron Keto-Diyawa’s deep cross from the left found the head of a diving Roberts on the right. His effort was narrowly wide of the target allowing the Middlesbrough defence to clear their lines.
The away side fought hard to get themselves back into the game and turned the first-half into a well contested bout with both midfields battling to keep possession in the centre of the park.
Oliver Tipton was next to try his luck at goal. Keto-Diyawa produced another deep cross this time from the right. His pass was headed out but not convincingly and dropped towards Tipton inside the box. The captain struck a volley but saw his shot sail over the goal.
The home side kept pushing and created the closest chance of the half. Picking up the ball on the left, inside the penalty area, Ty Barnett jinxed the ball onto his right foot. He set himself and hit a curling right-footed effort towards the far-right corner. However, his shot rattled off the post and the rebound deflected off an incoming Roberts and out for a goal kick.
Middlesbrough finished the half positively with a flurry of scoring opportunities. A myriad of shots came from within the area before Dexter Lembikisa was able to block a strike and clear the ball up the pitch.
Half-time | Wolves 0-0 Middlesbrough
The Old Gold started the second-half like they did the first and created a brilliant scoring opportunity. Exploding down the right, Lembikisa drilled a low cross into the feet of Josh Esen. Poised on the penalty spot, his first-time shot was excellently saved by Henry Popple in goal, but the ball rebounded to Roberts who headed into an open net but he was met with a raised flag for offside.
Roberts’ disallowed goal would be a sign of things to come for Wolves as he would later open up the scoring. Mason Rees sprayed a searching ball over the top for Roberts who battled with his marker to the pass.
The onrushing Popple then came to claim the pass but a mix up between his teammate left the ball rolling into open space to the right of the goal. Second-half substitute, Fabian Salmon, latched onto the loose ball and struck at shot goal wards. Scrambling back to his goal, Popple produced another superb save but to his misfortunes Roberts was there to clean up and smash home Wolves’ opening goal.
The visiting side would look to equalise but to no luck as Palmi Arinbjornsson had an answer for every shot that came his way.
It was not until the 90th minute where Wolves would seal the win. Salmon won a freekick inside the opposition half to the right. Esen stepped up to take and delivered and in-swinging cross towards the front post. Roberts burst past him marker and nodded the incoming cross past Popple to confirm the victory for Wolves.
Full-time | Wolves 2-0 Middlesbrough
Head coach Steve Davis was pleased on his teams’ second-half performance and especially proud of the debuts for youngsters Fabian Salmon and Brayden Clarke. He said: “It was a tough game Middlesbrough were good, they always are when we play against them.
“In the first half we needed to be a bit more composed and a bit more patient on the ball. I thought we rushed through things. We were trying to get from A to B too quickly. Sometimes you’ve got to move the opposition around a bit longer because we have the ability and technique to be able to do that. Once we started to settle into that and be a bit more patience, we started to open up more gaps and cause them more problems.
“I think the boys need games I think it showed today they were tired towards the end, the last 15 to 20 minutes we looked tired. I think for some of them that’s only their second full game since 18th December, so they need games and to get that game time which they got today, and I think that’s important.”
On playing some of the Academy’s younger stars
“We were able to give some of the under-15s a game, Brayden [Clarke] made his debut and we got Fabian [Salmon] on as well to make his debut for the under-18s.
“We are just trying to feed some of the kids through now and look to see how they deal with it from a mental point of view and the physical point of view.”
On Roberts’ impressive form
“He’s the most threatening player we’ve got in terms of his ability to get in behind, use the ball and run with it, draw defenders in and put defenders under pressure.
“He asks the questions in the team so when we have him in the side, we always know he’s going to create something for himself and other players. To get the goals is the key to all his work. It was great to see him get a couple goals and boost his confidence.”
On under-23s showing professionalism when with the under-18s
“That is something we have to deal with. The players have high expectations to move up and deservedly so. All the second years are training with the under-23s, and the majority are in the squad there playing, so to come back down, the boys today showed fantastic attitude and that’s what we look for.
“When they go up, we look for how they deal with it but when they come down that’s even harder to deal with. But they were very professional and I thought their attitude was spot on. They helped the kids that came into the team and I was really pleased with their attitude today.”
Wolves’ next U18 Premier League North game is an away trip up Merseyside to face Liverpool, however, the under-18s have an FA Youth Cup game coming up soon against Tottenham Hotspur as well as several under-23s matches in between now and their away trip.
Davies spoke on the busy period ahead, he said: “It’s just another game. We don’t know who will be available for that game [against Liverpool] because the majority of the squad are jumping between under-18s and 23s and we have some kids coming up to play in the under-18s.
“All the games we play we look forward to and as it gets nearer to the game. We have the FA Youth Cup coming up and we’ve got two under-23s games which hopefully some of our boys will be involved with as well.”
TBC Tottenham Hotspur (H) FAYC
19/02 Liverpool (A)
26/02 Derby County (A)
03/03 Sunderland (H)
12/03 Newcastle United (A)
Wolves: Arinbjornsson, Lembikisa (Carson 72), Clarke (Salmon 63), Kandola, Hubner, Keto-Diyawa, Roberts, Rees, Esen, Tipton, Barnett.
Unused Subs: Reynolds, Amos, Ashworth.
Middlesbrough: Popple, Simpson, Marshall (McCarthy 78), Myers-Smith, Whelan, Traore, John, Stott, Finch, Kavanagh (Brioge 55), Howells (Evans 78).
Unused Subs: Fisher, Costello.
By Tom Alston