Close-season update from Nigel Pearson
Posted: Saturday, June 12th 2021
Friday, May 14th 2021
City Under-23s’ impressive season has drawn to a close after a 2-1 defeat after extra-time at home to Birmingham City in the Professional Development League semi-final.
Owura Edwards fired the young Robins into a merited lead midway through the first half before the visitors drew level through Adan George’s spot-kick.
With neither side able to net a decisive goal in the allotted 90 minutes, the game went to extra-time and it was Birmingham captain Joe Redmond who led by example as he struck the winner with two minutes to go and advanced his team into the final.
It was the young Robins who went close to breaking the deadlock inside the opening five minutes but for a crucial touch from the diving Sam French in the Birmingham goal.
Edwards showcased his turn in pace as he sprung away from his marker before seeing a low drive tipped away. The rebound fell awkwardly to Louis Britton at the back post and unable to get any real connection, his follow-up was cleared off the line.
In an open and entertaining first period, City went close once again in the 20th minute through Saikou Janneh. Josh Owers flicked a ball over the top for Vince Harper to attack and with supporting options to his left and right, he played in Janneh who forced French into a strong save.
A Blues free-kick caused a moment of uncertainty amongst red shirts as the ball bobbled around the six-yard area, but Harvey-Wiles Richards was quick off his line to thwart the danger and deny Kyle Hurst.
The breakthrough deservedly came on the stroke of 25 minutes, with Harper’s endeavour and directness causing issues for the Birmingham back four. The wideman powered forward and was caught in possession but his recovering tackle saw the ball reach Edwards, whose fine strike from outside the area nestled into the back of the net.
City were unlucky to not double their advantage through Callum Wood as half-time approached, only for the defender’s downward header to be saved by French low to his right.
The visitors came out after the break on the front foot and Wiles-Richards was forced into an early stop as he pushed a long-range shot behind for corner. But in a disappointing phase of play, Birmingham were awarded a penalty from the resultant set-piece for a foul on Redmond, and Adan George made no mistake from 12 yards.
It was almost a perfect response from the young Robins as Britton peeled away from his marker to connect with an inviting Ryley Towler cross, but he was unable to generate enough pace on his header to trouble French.
At the other end, Wiles-Richards had to be alert in the 78th-minute as he clawed away Gerald Bajrimi’s close-range header and Adan George's shot which looked destined for the back of the net.
With the teams back out for extra-time, it was a head in hands moment for the Robins over a missed opportunity after substitute Zac Smith whipped a teasing ball across the face of goal but neither the advanced Britton nor Edwards could get the necessary touch to turn it towards goal.
Again, Wiles-Richards showed the worth of his recent new two-year contract as he closed the angle for Hurst who broke into a threatening position before Kane Thompson-Sommers struck high and wide after a late surge into the box.
However, with penalties looking the likely outcome, Birmingham won it at the death through a piece of brilliance from Redmond. The midfielder controlled a cross from the left with his chest before lifting the ball into the far corner, leaving the Robins heavily disappointed but they can be extremely proud of their efforts this campaign.
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