U23s Thrash Palace to Increase Lead at Top of Table
Monday, 19th Nov 2018 15:18
Town’s U23s thrashed Crystal Palace 5-2 at Playford Road to extend their lead at the top of the Professional Development League Two South table to five points. Ben Folami netted twice and Shane McLoughlin, Conor McKendry and Kai Brown one apiece.
Assistant manager Stuart Taylor and first-team coach Matt Gill were among those watching the game but manager Paul Lambert was absent, presumably as he was meeting with owner Marcus Evans who we understand is at the club today.
The Blues, playing a 4-3-3 system in line with the senior side, started on the front foot and in the eighth minute they went in front via the game’s first chance.
McKendry, who ended a loan spell with Lowestoft last week, curled a freekick from just outside the area goalwards, keeper Joe Tupper ought to have claimed comfortably despite the wet and breezy conditions but dropped the ball and Blues skipper McLoughlin reacted quickly to slam home.
Palace, who went into the game second in the table, came close to an equaliser in the 16th minute when Kian Flanagan burst down the left and crossed low to Rob Street, who turned the ball towards goal, however, Harry Wright was able to react quickly to save.
But Town had looked the more threatening side for the most part and almost immediately a well-worked move down the right led to Ben Folami volleying against a defender at the far post. Soon after, earlier goalscorer McLoughlin saw a strike blocked.
And in the 20th minute the Blues doubled their lead. McLoughlin sent over a cross from deep on the left and Folami was able to guide a difficult bouncing ball under the bar and into the net.
Barry Cotter was booked for pulling back a Palace attacker on 23, but the freekick from a dangerous area on the left was wasted.
The Blues continued to control the game and in the 32nd minute a neat interchange between McLoughlin and McKendry ended with the Northern Irish winger’s shot deflecting wide.
Following the resultant corner, Brown, playing down the middle with McKendry to his right and Folami to his left, turned a shot over.
Town remained dominant and in the 41st minute they went three in front. Following a long spell of neat passing involving midfield trio McLoughlin, Idris El Mizouni and Brett McGavin, the Irishman laid the ball to McKendry on the edge of the box and the wideman deftly found the bottom right-hand corner of Tupper’s goal.
Cotter shot not too far over from distance, then as the game moved into injury time Palace were awarded a penalty after Corrie Ndaba somewhat needlessly handled an aerial ball. Flanagan shot to Wright’s left as the keeper dived in the other direction.
The Blues were well worth their lead at the break but they will be disappointed to have allowed the otherwise not overly threatening Eagles their goal just before the break.
Gio McGregor struck the second half’s first shot for the visitors but his effort from distance flew past Wright’s left post.
Town made it 4-1 with their first chance of the half in the 56th minute. After a strong run forward from El Mizouni, McLoughlin’s ball into the box was flicked on by the Tunisian U23 international and Brown turned it past the advancing Tupper.
Two minutes later, El Mizouni wasn’t far away from a fifth with a superb 25-yard strike which looked destined for the top corner until Tupper made a terrific save to his left.
On 61 Kenlock, who had put a solid display, was replaced by Bailey Clements in a pre-planned substitution, the left-back playing only his second game after an ankle injury.
Five minutes later, Palace went close to their second of the match but centre-half Nick Tavares’s header from a corner on the left bounced wide.
In the 71st minute, McLoughlin’s dangerous cross from the right was turned over by Martin Onoabhagbe, then from the corner Ndaba headed over. Moments later, the Blues switched the again impressive El Mizouni for Armando Dobra.
McKendry wasn’t far away from his second of the game in the 77th minute, Tupper doing well to get down and across to his left to touch his 20-yard freekick - awarded after the Northern Irishman had been fouled as he looked to shoot - past the post.
With four minutes of scheduled time remaining Palace pulled a goal back, Tavares nodding home from a corner on the left.
Soon after the game had moved into three minutes of injury time the Blues restored their three-goal lead.
McKendry sent over a freekick from deep on the right which reached Folami at the far post. The Australian U19 international took a couple of touches to get the ball from under his feet before shooting back across goal and inside the post.
Neither side created another opportunity before the referee’s whistle confirmed a well-deserved win for the Blues, who extended their unbeaten run to 12 games.
Town had the game all but won in the first half with Palace getting more into the match after the break, although the Blues still had chances to have made the margin of victory greater than the three goals, which was a fair reflection of the match overall.
Again there were impressive performances throughout the team with Folami taking his chances confidently, as did Brown, while McKendry was always a threat and finished his goal clinically.
Skipper McLoughlin and fellow central midfielders El Mizouni and McGavin were in control for the most part and will have been among those to have impressed assistant boss Taylor and first-team coach Gill.
Neither Jack Lankester nor Teddy Bishop were involved, presumably as both are in line for inclusion in the senior squad facing West Brom on Friday.
U23s: Wright, Cotter, Kenlock (Clements 61), C Smith, Ndaba, McGavin, McKendry, McLoughlin, El Mizouni (Dobra 72), K Brown, Folami. Unused: Ware, Marshall.
Crystal Palace: Tupper, D Boateng, Mitchell, McGregor, Onoabhagbe, Tavares, Robertson (Hungbo 64), Flanagan, Street (Baptiste 74), Addy (F Boateng 64), Lumeka. Unused: Luthra.
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