Crystal Palace Under-18s were unable to prevent a heavy defeat to table-topping Cardiff City this afternoon at the Academy's ground in Beckenham.
Palace found themselves 4-0 down after 37 minutes following a series of neat passing moves and clinical finishes from the visitors’ forwards and were unable to claw back any goals of their own despite a rejuvenated second-half performance.
Overloading the midfield and switching play between the wings, Cardiff had too much for the hosts in the first-half with centreback Trystan Jones and forward Sion Spence being particularly instrumental for the Bluebirds.
The visitors’ first goal came on 15 minutes from a sharp break down the right, with the resulting cross being tucked away across Eagles shot-stopper Rohan Luthra by Spence.
Despite Palace forcing their first corner shortly afterwards through slick interplay from skipper Sean Robertson and Will Donkin, Cardiff – with Spence having already missed a good one-on-one opportunity – struck again when Sam Bowen, evading the Palace defence on the edge of the box, smashed an unstoppable drive into the top corner.
Looking stunned, the home side were soon another goal down. This time Kieron Evans got on the end of another cross from the right and slotted the ball under Luthra to make it 3-0.
With encouragement from boss Paddy McCarthy, the hosts rolled up their sleeves and began to spring forward more regularly. On the half-hour mark, David Omilabu showed trickery down the left and a strong shot by Bivesh Gurung forced another corner as his effort cannoned out of play.
The resulting delivery was poor however and Palace were subsequently unable to carve out a clear scoring opportunity. Frustratingly, this seemed to set the tone for Palace's offensive charges throughout the morning.
Conversely, Cardiff continued to make the most of their own opportunities and on 37 minutes their fourth goal arrived. Ntazana Mayembe, who kept his width on the left, delivered a whipped cross into the Palace box and with Luthra unable to gather, Rubin Colwill turned home the loose ball.
Half-time couldn’t come soon enough for McCarthy’s men, but the game's resumption saw a much improved home side take to the pitch. With an extra man in midfield, and a much more aggressive, energetic press led by Jashaun Chamberlin-Gayle, Palace finally began imposing themselves on the clash.
In quick succession, Palace saw two chances go begging when, firstly, Donkin had a penalty shout turned down and, secondly, Omilabu saw a shot deflected over following a driving run from Robertson.
Substitute John Kymani-Gordon, who replaced Josh Ajayi towards the hour mark, brought added intensity up front, and it was from his excellent play that Palace created their best chance of the game as Dylan Thiselton headed over from point-blank range following Kymani-Gordon's inviting cross.
In the final 10 minutes, with both sets of players feeling the pace of the game, Palace's pressure earned a number of free-kicks and corners, but once again the deliveries were in vain and the Cardiff goal remained untroubled.
Despite the scoreline, Palace's second-half performance was an encouraging sign as they prepare to make the short-hop next Saturday to face south London rivals Millwall.
Palace: Luthra, Jude Russell, Bello, Gurung, Trehy, Chamberlin-Gayle, Robertson, D.Boateng, Ajayi (Kymani-Gordon 54), Donkin (Thiselton 60), Omilabu (Parris 75).
Unused subs: Jacob Russell, Onoabhagbe.
Cardiff: Ratcliffe, Kavanagh, Reynolds, Davies (Warnock 54), Jones, Pinchard (Patten 60), Nayembe, Colwill (Parsons 60), Evans, Spence, Bowen.
Unused subs: Andrew-Knott, Duffey.
Wanting to support Crystal Palace's surrounding teams? Make sure to head down to Hayes Lane on Thursday evening where Palace Ladies will face Lewes Women. It's sure to be a well-attended night, so buy your tickets now!