The Academy looked to keep their positive start to the season going against Newport County on Tuesday. Having already played four games, the season ahead is looking very positive, or at least better than last season. The lads started pre-season with a 0-0 away draw with Bristol City, a 2-1 away win versus Tiverton then followed, with goals from new captain Lucas Dawson and trialist Michael Smith, from Darlington. A 3-1 win against Cheltenham at Clayton Woods last week carried on the unbeaten run, however the first loss of the season came last Saturday, with a 2-0 defeat against Chasetown.
The game started brightly as Stoke kept possession well and looked for opportunities. The players pushed forward and it was only a matter of time before a goal came. A smart through ball put Linus Sjoberg in, a Swedish U17 winger on trial, who then neatly rounded the keeper and finished into an empty goal. Within the first 2 minutes City were in front.
“It’s still 0-0” the line used by most players, especially the captain – Connor Roberts-Nurse. A motto used to convince the players to keep at it and put the pressure on for a 2nd. The first five minutes were all Stoke, keeping possession nicely and playing football like they were from South America, quite the opposite compared to the first team. Newport attacked back however, and a long range shot by the County #9 was split by Eve, hearts in the mouths of the 20 fans or so present, however Eve collected.
The game then settled down for a few minutes, but City started to push on again, and it was the captain, Connor Roberts-Nurse who went on a sweeping run down the right, played a smart one-two with Linus Sjoberg and came inside, Connors cross was then smash over the County crossbar from the centre back. Stoke piled the pressure on and the next attack nearly produced the 2nd goal, a long range pass found Tunji, who controlled amazingly with his chest, but volleyed inches wide.
With Stoke keeping possession nicely, the team were confident, and when Unpha Koroma – an U19 Congolese international – broke, an opportunity was looking likely, until the big County defender broke in and hoofed the ball up field. The County #9 was through on goal and when the ball bounced up nicely in front of him, the forward volleyed the ball over Eve and into the net. A simple lob but nothing Eve could do apart from watch the ball roll in to the net.
After an eventful first 20minutes, the game settled and with both teams playing only one upfront, chances were rare and neither keeper had much to do. The game lightened up quickly when the Swedish trialist, Sjoberg, made a chance out of nothing, receiving the ball on the half way right side, dribbling down the line, nut megging the Newport left back, and taking the ball around the centre-back with a couple of stopovers. He cross, but it was behind Tunji , the City #10 however improvised with a smart bicycle kick which floated wide.
County went ahead, against the run of play, after a bit of a horror moment from Dale Eve. The Bermuda ‘keeper collected the ball along the floor, and calmly(too calmly!) hung on, until the County #9 closed him down and jumped in the way of Eve’s clearance. The ball struck the #9 and rolled into an empty City net 10minutes before half time. Immediately though, Stoke went looking for the equaliser, Unpha Koroma collected the ball just inside the County half, went past one, pulled off a roulette turn past another, set himself and blasted the ball just over the bar. Just before half time, Koroma had another chance, the Congolese midfielder curled the ball around the keeper from the edge of the box but he also curled it around the post. The half-time whistle went shortly after, the score was 2-1 to County at that point. However Stoke were still confident of turning the game around after being on top for most of the half.
The second half started quieter than the first with neither team managing to push on in the final third. That changed when Karim Rossi, on at half-time, chipped the ball up from about 20-25 yards out and thumped a dipping volley over the County keeper which crashed off the ball earning an applause from the crowd. The Switzerland U18 international looking for his first City goal and what a goal it would of been. Stoke continued the pressure from set pieces but couldn’t trouble the County goalkeeper. The first touch for either keeper was after new boy Suljevic picked the ball up from inside the half way mark and ran for goal. The Swede hit a strong shot along the floor but the effort was well saved from County’s #1. City’s ‘keeper Daniel Bachmann, on at half time for Eve, didn’t have much to do but he was calm and composed when the defenders needed him to relieve pressure.
The game settled down again, and the resemblance between the first team and the Academy became clear when the main threat for a goal from City was from corners, free kicks and even a few long throws from Jordan Richardson. A chance did come eventually through Sam Whitehurst, the midfielder broke forward down the right skipping past the defence. Whitehurst then floated a cross into the box which Jordan Richardson headed wide. More chances then came when Will(Another Swedish trialist) broke forward, he and Rossi were through, but Will took his time, squared the ball behind Rossi and the chance was gone when the defenders got back.
City finally grabbed the equaliser when Karim Rossi received the ball on the half way line and played a neat one-two with Smajl Suljevic. Rossi then split the defence with his well timed run, before regaining the ball from Suljevic and slotting it past the County Keeper. The pressure was piled on for a winner and that nearly came when Andy Hall bombed forward, and played a lofted ball into Jordan Richardson, who turned and shot. The keeper got down low and palmed the ball out for a throw. Jordan Richardson launched the throw-in Rory Delap like and Karim Rossi flicked just wide. With 2 minutes left it was all Stoke, long balls going into the box one after the other. The last chance came when the ball was crossed in and the County keeper came rushing out, Rossi headed the ball over the stranded ‘keeper but it slowly rolled wide. The final whistle went before the goalkeeper took the goalkick.
First Half XI
Connor Roberts-Nurse(C), Immanuel Parry, Ryan O’Reilly, Travis Gray
Smajl Suljevic , Unpha Koroma, Will(trialist)
Linus Sjoberg(trialist), Tunji Agaebje, Omar Holness(trialist)
Second Half XI
Travis Gray, Jordan Galloway, Ryan O’Reilly, Andy Hall
Sam Witehurst, Smajl Suljevic, Will
Linus Sjoberg, Karim Rossi, Jordan Richardson