U23s End Season With Comeback Victory Over Bolton
Monday, 23rd Apr 2018 21:11 by James Ager
Town's U23s finished their league campaign with a fine comeback to defeat Bolton Wanderers 3-2 at Portman Road on Monday evening. Goals from Conor McKendry (pictured) and Shane McLoughlin (pen) followed by a stoppage time winner from Jack Lankester secured the win for a young Blues side.
Town named trialist Dennon Lewis in their starting XI and the Watford youngster, who has been told he will be released by the Hornets at the end of the season, lined up on the left side of midfield.
Behind him, Bailey Clements started at left-back in a late change to the advertised team with Chris Smith dropping out and Pat Webber moving across to centre-back.
Blues keeper Harry Wright was forced into a good save down low to his left inside the first minute but he could do nothing to prevent Connor Hall firing the visitors into a third minute lead. The striker did well to control a long ball into the box on his chest before he turned and found the top corner from close range.
Wright then parried Cole Lonsdale's effort from distance well away from danger, shortly before he was forced into an acrobatic save to claw a fierce volley away from the top corner.
Moments later Hall was released again but this time his lobbed effort beat the advancing Wright but dropped just wide of the near post.
Although the young Blues, who were overseen by Geraint Williams following Gerard Nash and Chris Hogg's temporary promotion to first-team duties, failed to create any chances of note in the remaining part of the opening period, they did at least stem the wave of early attacks from the visitors.
Right-back Idris El Mizouni picked up the game's first caution on 38 for a foul on Ryan White in what proved to be the last action of the first half.
Within a minute of the restart Town were level. The ball was played to McKendry on the edge of the box and the Northern Irishman hit a fine effort into the far top corner.
However, just two minutes later Jeff King restored the Trotters' advantage when he capitalised on a mistake from Clements and toe-poked the ball past Wright.
El Mizouni blazed an effort high and wide of the near post soon after, while at the other end Hall latched on to a powerful header forward but he couldn't quite find the far corner of the net. Trialist Lewis then lifted an effort well over the bar after a quick break from the Blues.
Midway through the second half a fierce shot from King was beaten away by Wright, shortly before McKendry's freekick was headed over by Aaron Drinan. Lankester followed suit moments later following a neat backheel from Lewis, who then curled an effort inches wide.
Town were certainly creating more chances than they had in the first half and on 74 a driving run forward from McKendry drew a foul from Lonsdale in the box. Referee Josh Smith pointed to the spot and captain McLoughlin stepped up to send James Aspinall the wrong way and level the scores.
Aspinall got down well at his near post to deny McKendry moments later before Wright and Clements combined to keep Dennis Politic's low shot out as both teams pushed forward in search of a winner.
Following a spirited second-half fightback it was the home side that found the winner in the second minute of stoppage time. A low ball into the area from El Mizouni found Drinan and although Aspinall got down to keep his goal bound effort out, Lankester was on hand to nod in the rebound.
The visitors, who went into the match top of the Professional Development League Two North table, dominated large periods of the first half but Town stayed in the game and took their chances when they came.
Lankester and Drinan impressed up front, particularly after the interval, and trialist Lewis got involved more during the second half and showed some neat touches and made some good runs forward.
The victory guarantees Town's U23s third place in the Professional Development League Two South table.
U23s: Wright, El Mizouni, Webber, McLoughlin (c), Goteni (Ndaba 56), McKendry, Blanchfield (Sagaf 46), Drinan, Lankester, Lewis, Clements. Unused: Ware, McGavin.
Bolton: Aspinall, Brockbank (Morris 46), Lonsdale, Edwards (c), Elsdon, Carter, Politic, Earing, Hall, King, White. Unused: Navarro, James, Jones, Brown.
Photo: Larry McQuillan/Drogheda United
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