U23s defeat Villa in season opener

Wolves 1 (Gibbs-White ’89)

Morgan Gibbs-White scored the only goal of the game as Wolves U23’s Premier League 2 campaign, got off to a winning start against local rivals Aston Villa.


Gibbs-White’s goal in the 89th minute capped off an eye-catching performance by the 16-year-old and it was enough to settle an entertaining contest at Bodymoor Heath. A contest which also saw striker Nouha Dicko play 45 minutes as he continues his comeback from injury.


Wolves’ win was made even more impressive, as they were forced to play the remaining 25 minutes of the game with ten men, following an injury to winger Daniel Armstrong. 


The home side included the former Wolves and England defender Joleon Lescott in their starting XI and it was they who started the better of the two teams.


They should have gone ahead in the third minute, when Rushian Hepburn-Murphy dispossessed Aaron Hayden in the Wolves half, he then released Keinan Davis who could only fire wide when one-on-one with Wolves goalkeeper, Harry Burgoyne.


Wolves’ first chance came in the 15th minute, Will Randall brilliantly intercepted a midfield pass and ran at the retreating Villa defence, he then found Armstrong, who in-turn released Dicko, but the Frenchman could only fire wide of Jed Steer’s near post.


Villa were on the front foot once again moments later, Hepburn-Murphy cut inside from the left channel and saw a shot deflected wide by Hayden, while midfielder Jordan Lyden shot straight at Burgoyne.


But as the half went on it was the visitors who developed a foothold in the game, thanks to good spells of possession.


One such move saw Dicko come close to marking his comeback with a goal, when he headed Armstrong’s beautifully weighted cross against the post, while eight minutes later strike partner Bright Enobakhare rounded Lescott, before seeing his shot brilliantly blocked by Steer.


Half time: Aston Villa U23 0 – 0 Wolves U23


As in the first half it was Villa who dominated the early proceedings, with Hayden and fellow centre-half Ryan Leak combining to deny Jordan Cox what looked like a certain goal in the 46th minute, after the ball had worked its way to him from a right wing cross.


Wolves then had Burgoyne to thank after he twice denied Hepburn-Murphy in the space of three minutes.


The first of which was a superb stop from a one-on-one, while the second saw Burgoyne produce a smart reflex save to palm the striker’s left footed shot wide.


Niall Ennis replaced Dicko at the interval, and in the 67th minute he was narrowly beaten to a through ball by the on-rushing Steer, the loose ball was picked up by Armstrong but he was unable to chip the ball over Mitchell Clark and into the net with Steer well off his line.


It would turn out to be Armstrong’s last action of the match as he suffered a foot injury when challenging for the ball with Villa left back Joonas Sundman.


His departure along with Wolves having used all of their permitted substitutes forced Head Coach Scott Sellars into a tactical reshuffle, with Donovan Wilson moving to the right wing from a centre forward position.


The loss of Armstrong as well as positional adjustment did not deter Wolves however, and thanks to good defensive shape and pace on the counter attack they looked the team most likely to break the deadlock.


One such attack saw Ennis win a corner, where from Randall’s resulting set-piece Hayden lost his marker but could only send his header over the bar. While in the 85th minute Ennis shot wide from 18 yards out after good link-up play between Ross Finnie and Gibbs-White in midfield.


But Wolves did not have to wait much longer for the goal that their play deserved.


With just a minute of normal time remaining, Gibbs-White won possession on the halfway line from Villa’s Jordan Lyden. He then advanced into the Villa half and played the ball to Ennis.


Ennis then took the ball into the penalty area, holding the ball up long enough before squaring to Gibbs-White, who gave Steer no chance with a side-footed effort into the bottom right-hand corner of the net, and in the process sparked wild scenes from the Wolves players and coaching staff.


Villa were unable to muster anything meaningful in the game’s closing stages as Wolves comfortably held on to secure the three points.


Aston Villa: Steer, Leggett, Sundman, Lydon, Lescott (Abdoul ’65), Clark, Hayes, Cowans, Hepburn-Murphy, Davis (Mooney ’67), Cox.


Subs not used: Johansson, Clarke, Rowe.


Wolves: Burgoyne, Odoffin, O’Hanlon (Simpson ’60), Finnie, Hayden, Leak, Armstrong, Gibbs-White, Dicko (Ennis ’46), Enobakhare (Wilson ’67), Randall.


Subs not used: Beasley, Levingston, Collins.