Middlesbrough 1 (Folarin 36) Wolves 1 (Lonwijk 76)
Nigel Lonwijk’s first goal of the season saw Wolves under-23s come from behind to secure a well-deserved point in an end-to-end Premier League 2 contest with Middlesbrough.
Wolves got off to a fast-paced start in the north east and put the Boro defence under pressure right from the first whistle when Chem Campbell put a cross into the near post and towards Austin Samuels, but the host’s goalkeeper Bradley James was able to get across to snatch the ball of the striker’s boot.
The visitors had their best opportunity to open the scoring through Owen Hesketh, with the Welsh youth international stepping up from a free-kick 20 yards out from goal, and although his curling effort looked to be heading into the top right corner of the net, it just missed wide of the upright.
Middlesbrough were finding luck down their right, with Sam Folarin finding space behind Hugo Bueno, but his crosses were dealt with comfortably by Wolves keeper Joe Young, making his first start of the season in place of the injured Andreas Sondergaard.
Wolves might have opened the scoring on 23 minutes when Campbell was played in behind the Boro defence by Samuels, and with only James to beat, the forward was caught in two minds, as whether to shoot or take the ball around the keeper, but his hesitation allowed the red shirts to recover.
Moments after Bueno was swapped for Christian Marques after the wing-back had gone down injured, the hosts made Wolves pay for Campbell’s missed opportunity ten minutes before the break when they took the lead through Folarin. The winger picked up the ball in midfield, turned a couple of Wolves players before launching a stunning shot from distance into the far corner of the net and past the dive of Young.
Despite going into half-time a goal down, Wolves tried their best to turn the game in their favour in the opening minutes of the second period, with Hesketh once again showing his prowess at shooting from distance, and although his effort was on target this time, James was equal to his shot.
A well-worked set piece almost earned Wolves their equaliser, with Luke Cundle playing the ball into a clever run by Campbell, but from 12 yards out, the forward was unable to keep his effort down.
It was a battle of the goalies, with James in the Boro goal keeping his side in charge of the tie throughout the second-half, making good saves from Samuels after he got round the host’s defence, but the keeper was quick off his line, and then easily getting behind a Cundle long-range effort.
But not to be outdone by his opposite number, Young made a stunning block to deny Isaac Fletcher what looked to be a certain goal after the forward got on the end of a clever back-heeled through ball before aiming an effort goalwards.
Wolves got the equaliser their play deserved with 20 minutes of the match remaining. Cundle’s cross from the left was flicked on by the head of Jack Scott, and onto the boot of Lonwijk to stab home from a matter of yards out.
As they were looking for a winner, Wolves almost produced an exact carbon copy of their first when Cundle’s cross was headed on by Scott, but this time, James was alert to the routine and was able to gather Scott’s flick before it reached anyone in a Wolves shirt.
A neat piece of Wolves passing almost paid off when Samuels was played in behind the Boro defence, but once again James was quick to the danger and he got a strong hand on Samuel’s goalbound shot, with Wolves having to settle for a point.
James Collins’ side will be back in action next Frida evening when the under-23s make the short trip to Birmingham take on Aston Villa. The match will kick off at 7pm at Villa’s Bodymoor Heath Training Ground.
02/04 Aston Villa (A)
12/04 Newcastle United (H)
19/04 West Bromwich Albion (H)
26/04 Norwich City (H)
30/04 Reading (A)
Boro: James, Gibson, Robinson, Sykes, Kokolo, Hackney, Malley, Fletcher, Folarin (Simpson 87), Green, O’Neill.
Unused subs: Brynn, Williams, Waites, Kiernan.
Wolves: Young, Scott, Lonwijk, Estrada, Mayounga, Bueno (Marques 35), Hong Wan (Perry 65), Cundle, Hesketh, Campbell, Samuels.
Unused subs: Arinbjornsson, Tipton.