Crystal Palace U18s fell to a narrow 2-1 defeat in the West Country on Saturday afternoon, and will feel unlucky to return to south London without a point.
- Palace hit post twice in first half
- Bristol City strike in 29th and 43rd minutes
- Half-time: 2-0
- Ajayi pulls one back for visitors
- City reduced to ten men but hold on for victory
The Eagles named an attacking line-up, with Fionn Mooney deployed as playmaker behind John-Kymani Gordon in a 4-3-3 formation. And on a crisp afternoon they were quickest out of the blocks, carving the game’s first chance after just two minutes. A cleverly worked free-kick culminated in TQ Addy fizzing in a low cross from which Gordon hit the post.
Bristol City hit back almost immediately, with Joe Whitworth producing a superb stop to deny Robins’ striker Samuel Bell from close range. The chances were flowing for both teams in a hectic opening half hour and Palace’s Ayman Benarous was next to go close, seeing a low drive saved well. Addy was proving a particular nuisance to the City defence, regularly threatening down the left with his dynamic dribbling and crossing.
But it was the home side that struck the first blow. A fine save from Whitworth landed at the feet of Marlee Francois, who scrambled the ball home to give his side the advantage. Palace’s youngsters responded well and could have been level straight from the kick-off. Gordon fired a low shot at goal but was once again left ruing his misfortune when the ball crashed off the post for a second time. Minutes later, Palace found themselves two goals behind just before half-time. The hosts’ Ayman Benarous found space in the middle of the park, driving forward before wrong-footing Whitworth with a low strike.
The Eagles shuffled their pack at the break, with Josh Ajayi coming on for Jessurin Rak-Sakyi in attack. The second period began quietly, and it wasn’t until the 57th minute that the first chance came. Palace whipped in a dangerous corner and Gordon fired straight at home goalkeeper William Buse. Despite a subsequent increase in intensity, both sides struggled to create clear-cut chances. That all changed on the 70-minute mark, however. The physical Ajayi picked the ball up on the right and slalomed past two defenders before poking home to bring the visitors back into the game.
David Omilaba replaced Gordon as Palace looked for an equaliser which looked more probable in the 75th minute when Bristol City were reduced to 10 men, as Will Gould was given a second booking of the match for dissent. Palace pushed for an equaliser and looked to have snatched a point as the clock ticked towards stoppage time, with Joshua Chamberlin-Gayle flashing a header agonisingly wide from a corner. But the young Robins held firm, sending a spirited Palace side on their way without a point, by the finest of margins.
Bristol City: Buse, Taylor, Allen, Owers, Williams, Pearson, Francois, Williams (Henry 80), Bell, Benarous (Lott 60), Gould.
Subs not used: Smith, Thuo, Porton.
Palace: Whitworth, Wright, Bello, Olopade, Chamberlin-Gayle, Woodman, Rak-Sakyi (Ajayi 45), Wells-Morrison, Gordon (Omilabu 70), Mooney (Gonzalez 80), Addy.
Subs not used: Quick, Russell.