Wolves 2 (Samuels 16, 69) Middlesbrough 1 (Fletcher 71)
Austin Samuels helped Wolves under-23s begin their 2021/22 Premier League 2 campaign with the perfect start as his brace secured the three points against Middlesbrough.
The striker hit an early hammer blow to the side from the north east when he fired a powerful shot beyond the visiting keeper before extending the under-23s lead from the penalty spot. Although Middlesbrough hit back immediately, it was not enough for a comeback, with Samuels’ double enough to secure the spoils for Wolves.
Jack Hodnett, in his first start for the under-23s having been moved up from Steve Davis’ under-18s, could have put Wolves ahead when he found space on the edge of the Boro penalty area, but his shot was dragged wide of the upright.
Moments later, the hosts had an even clearer opportunity to open the scoring as Pascal Estrada got on the end of a neat one-touch move by the Wolves attack, but the midfielder’s shot struck the left post before bouncing back into the box. Even though Samuels was quick to it, he was unable to follow up with defenders closing in.
Samuels didn’t have to wait long to score the under-23s’ opening goal of the campaign when he was found by Chem Campbell after the winger took three Boro players out of the game, before lashing an unstoppable strike past Boro keeper Max Metcalfe, with the striker managing to find the corner of the net from a tight angle.
The goal was gaping for Middlesbrough on the half-hour mark as Louie Moulden, making his first start in goal for Wolves since his move from Manchester City, could only parry a long-range effort into the path of Boro striker Alberto Balde, but with the whole goal to aim at, Christian Marques recovered to make a stunning last-ditch sliding tackle to deny the visitors a certain equaliser.
In added time of the first-half, Campbell was playing in behind the Middlesbrough defence by Samuels, and with just the keeper to beat, the winger was thwarted by a good save from Metcalfe.
Just before the hour mark, Samuels had the opportunity to double his and Wolves’ tally for the evening when he burst through the Boro defence after being found by Estrada, only to have his shot from 15 yards out tipped over the crossbar by Metcalfe.
Having won Wolves a penalty when he was brought down inside the box when reaching a through ball ahead of Metcalfe, Samuels made no mistake from the spot when he smashed the ball into the bottom left corner of the net and beyond the reach of the keeper.
Straight from the kick-off, Middlesbrough halved the deficit. Moments after a corner was headed off the line by Marques, the ball found its way to Isaac Fletcher 20 yards out from goal, who fired a low drive through the crowded penalty area and into the bottom corner.
An impressive run from Jack Scott, playing in the unfamiliar role of right centre-back, almost saw Wolves regain their two-goal lead when the Irishman ran the length of the pitch before playing a one-two with Conor Carty, but having picked up the ball on the edge of the box, his effort was palmed over the crossbar by Metcalfe.
James Collins’ side will be aiming to maintain their 100 per cent start to Premier League 2 Division 2 when the under-23s travel to the Madejski Stadium to take on Reading next Monday evening (23rd August).
23/08 Reading (A)
27/08 Nottingham Forest (H)
31/08 Wigan Athletic (A) PJT
10/09 Burnley (A)
20/09 Fulham (H)
Wolves: Moulden, Semedo (Matheson 61), Scott, Marques, Nya, Richards, Estrada, Cundle, Hodnett, Campbell (Carty 79), Samuels (Lembikisa 87).
Unused subs: Pardington, Bugarin.
Middlesbrough: Metcalfe, Sykes, Robinson, Wood, Kokolo, Gibson, Hackney, Malley, Collins (Cornet 57), Fletcher, Balde (Finch 83).
Unused subs: Hannah, Gitali, Popple.