Crystal Palace Under-18s fought back from two goals down at half-time to earn a rousing draw against a battling Burnley at the Academy ground in Beckenham today.
Only three minutes were on the clock when the Clarets scored with their first chance of the game, captain Chris Conn-Clarke sliding a free-kick through to Rhys Fenlon, who escaped some unsure zonal marking to slam home at Jacob Russell’s near post.
The home side slowly grew into the game, and after 15 minutes livewire winger Jayden Reid exchanged well with full-back Jude Russell, but the ball deflected out off the Palace man.
Five minutes later the same pair combined down the right-hand side, but under pressure from centre-back Joe Conley, John-Kymani Gordon’s attempt deflected kindly to the goalkeeper.
Just before the half-hour mark a misjudged pass in midfield fell to Gordon and, from the resulting phase of play, TQ Addy burst past his marker and laid off Brandon Aveiro, whose first-time goal-bound effort was well blocked.
Moments later the visitors stretched their lead, right-back Joel Connolly skipping through a few weak challenges before feeding skipper Conn-Clarke, who burst into the box and finished left-footed and low past Russell.
Minutes before the break, the hosts nearly halved the deficit but a fluid, flowing move between front three Aveiro, Addy and Gordon ended with Aveiro blazing over from Lion Bello’s cross.
Paddy McCarthy’s men came out fired up after the break, and on fifty minutes Aveiro latched onto an excellent Gordon flick-on, but his half-volley was fabulously saved by goalkeeper Harry Allen’s outstretched left foot. However, from the resulting corner Allen could only manage a weak punch, and Reid calmly crashed the loose ball into the far corner across the ‘keeper to get one back.
Palace, now dominating the play, went close again when Addy exchanged passes with Ryan Hanson and found Aveiro one-on-one with Allen at the back post, but he rushed off his line and Aveiro couldn’t hit the target.
Jinking forward, Addy, who was often troubling Connolly with his movement, was bundled over clumsily by the full-back on the hour, who picked up a booking. Aveiro made Burnley pay for their indiscipline, curling a cute free-kick over the wall and into the top corner past Allen’s despairing dive.
On seventy minutes, bright spark Aveiro casually nutmegged Joe Conley down the right-hand channel and played it into Gordon, whose instinctive effort was well saved by Allen’s legs.
Now applying constant, one-way pressure, Eagles midfielder Hanson chested down a strong Allen punch from a corner and volleyed goalwards, but his clean strike was blocked on the line by left-back Matty Rain’s head.
With ten minutes remaining, explosive striker Gordon powered his way past Edon Pruti from a long ball and sprinted through on goal, but Connolly leaned on him enough to force the shot wide after a fine 40-yard solo run.
In quick succession, Aveiro shimmied past a defender from a throw-in before his low driven shot was well parried down to Allen’s left, then Rowan Smith burst into the box but had little support and was crowded out.
On ninety minutes, a penalty-box scramble ended with home captain Jashaun Chamberlin-Gayle’s shot heroically blocked by a black-shirted defender.
Palace almost completed a superb turnaround when Addy’s drive came off the underside of the bar, on the rebound Reid’s shot was pushed out well by Allen and, with desperate tackles flying in, Gordon’s shot was again just about saved.
Deep into added time, Addy was fouled in a similar position to Palace’s equaliser, and Aveiro almost snatched a winner from the set-piece but once again Allen denied the Eagles in what proved to be the last chance of the game.
Palace: J. Russell, J.A. Russell, Bello (Thiselton 87), Hanson, Chamberlin-Gayle (C), Siddik, Reid, Smith, Gordon, Aveiro, Addy. Subs not used: Luthra, Parris, Gurung, Trehy, Ajayi.
Burnley: Allen, Connolly, Rain, Woods, Conley, Pruti, Fenlon, Conn-Clarke (C) (Chima 90+3), McGlynn (Major 75), George, Steels (Tucker 77). Subs not used: N/A.