U23s Confirm Play-Off Place Via Forest Victory
Tuesday, 27th Apr 2021 14:58
Town’s U23s confirmed their place in the Professional Development League Two play-offs via a 2-1 defeat of Nottingham Forest at Portman Road with Matt Ward and Tyreece Simpson netting the goals in the first half.
The side coached by Kieron Dyer and Terry Butcher are second in the table and now can’t be caught by the teams behind them. The Blues are set to face Sheffield United, the winners of Professional Development League Two, in the semi-finals.
Town went closest to opening the scoring in the seventh minute when Levi Andoh’s cross from the right flew far nearer to goal than he intended and almost brushed the outside of the post on its way out of play.
Moments later at the other end, Ateef Konate cut in and struck a goalbound effort which Blues keeper Bert White palmed over. From the resultant corner, which was taken short and worked low into the area, Baba Fernandes blazed over.
The visitors continued to present the greater threat and on 16 Jamie McDonnell hit a low shot wide from distance.
However, within a minute the Blues were in front. Andoh broke into the area on the right and crossed low for Matt Ward, who deftly flicked with the inside of his heel past Forest keeper Michael Statham and into the net.
Both sides won corners following the Town goal but without any coming to anything, then on 24 Blues left-back Ross Crane was yellow-carded for a foul on McDonnell.
Following the resultant free-kick, Fin Back joined him in the book for a foul on Callum Page as the on-trial Needham Market youngster he broke away.
As the game moved towards the half-hour, Andoh headed over from a free-kick on the right, then on 34 Tawanda Chirewa shot over from distance.
Town doubled their lead in the 39th minute when Forest corner was cleared to Ward on halfway and Tyreece Simpson was sent away down the right. The striker used his strength to hold off Malique Spooner as he burst into the area before slipping the ball under Statham and into the net.
Just before the break Chirewa shot over from just outside the area following a Town corner.
Forest had seen more of the ball in what had been a closely contested half and had gone nearest early on.
However, Town U23s, in stark contrast to the senior side, had been clinical when they had created the half’s two outstanding opportunities with Ward finishing cleverly and Simpson brushing aside his defender before slipping home similarly confidently.
With neither side having created a second-half chance, the Blues swapped Fraser Alexander for Cameron Humphreys in the 56th minute. A minute later, Konate sent a Forest free-kick from 30 yards out well over the bar.
In the 65th minute Blues keeper White was forced to palm wide at his right post after a cross from the opposite flank had made its way to the other side of the box.
And from the resultant corner, the visitors levelled, Back rising to head across White and into the corner of the net.
Four minutes after the Forest goal, the Blues thought they’d been handed the chance to restore their two-goal lead when Aaron Donnelly appeared to have clumsily felled sub Colin Oppong, who had replaced Simpson, in the area and the referee pointed to the spot. However, the linesman appeared to indicate the Town striker had kicked the ground and the referee changed his decision.
Four minutes before the scheduled end, Albie Armin headed straight at keeper Statham at the far post from a corner on the left with the Blues looking the more likely scorers of the game’s fourth goal.
A minute later, Chirewa was played in on the edge of the box and hit a low shot which Statham saved low with his left hand, then schoolboy sub Nico Valentine, making his U23s debut, hit another effort from the same area which the keeper batted away.
Forest broke quickly up the other end and sub Yassine En-Neyah lobbed White but saw the ball loop the wrong side of the post.
With the game now in injury time, Valentine’s shot deflected to Chirewa, whose effort from eight yards flew into the side-netting, much to his frustrating.
Moments before the whistle, Fernandes headed a corner from the right well over the bar.
A deserved victory for the U23s, who clinically took their chances in the first half and rarely looked in too much danger of losing their lead despite Forest pulling a goal back and in the latter stages they had chances to add to their lead.
The win sees the young Blues stay second in Professional Development League Two South, joining the U18s in the end-of-season play-offs.
U23s: White, Andoh, Armin, Clements, Crane (Valentine 79), Alexander (Humphreys 56), Healy, Chirewa, Ward, Simpson (Oppong 65), Page. Unused: Bort, Bradshaw.
Forest: Statham, Back, Spooner (Raha 82), McDonnell, Fernandes, Donnelly, Gibson-Hammond (En-Neyah 46), Hammond, Taylor (c), Fewster (Dekel-Daks 71), Konate. Unused: Akers, Andrew.
Photo: Matchday Images
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