Aston Villa U18s 2-3 Saints U18s
The youngsters made it three wins from three with a hard fought success in the Midlands.
18s coach Jason Dodd said the substitute appearance of goalkeeper Chris Johns as a makeshift striker late on “epitomised the performance and character,” of his side as they battled back to earn all three points against the Villains.
Saints made an excellent start to the game, and put the feelers out early on when in form striker Ryan Seager went close to giving the visitors a 7th minute lead.
They didn’t have to wait much longer to make their breakthrough though, with the opening goal going Saints’ way on 12 minutes. Will Britt’s clearance downfield was brought skilfully under control by Gboly Ariyibi, who in turn set up Dominic Gape for a shot which was saved, but fell into the path of the deadly SEAGER to sweep home for 1-0.
The lead was doubled in the 19th minute thanks to more good work down the flank by Ariyibi. The midfielder got the assist this time as Jake FLANNIGAN was on hand to finish his cross and give the visitors a strong foothold on the contest as they held their advantage until half time.
As expected, Villa came out all guns blazing in the second 45, and they struck back on 56 minutes when a melee inside the area was finished with a low smashed shot into the bottom corner.
The pressure applied by the hosts saw them draw level midway through the half when a downward header from a long corner unfortunately ricocheted off Bevis Mugabi and into the net.
Soon after though and still weathering a storm, Saints dug deep to find an eventual winner when Tom Leggett’s pass found U16s midfielder Mark Irvine, who picked out Omar ROWE to bury his shot past the Villa ‘keeper and make it 3-2.
With players unavailable through injury prior to the game, Saints were light on options on the bench, as the aforementioned Irvine made his debut in place of Jake Hesketh.
Defender Fraser Colmer made his long awaited return from injury and with Saints fighting to hold onto their lead, that task seemed harder when goal scorer Rowe pulled up with cramp.
With one remaining option on the bench, goalkeeper Chris Johns made himself available to see out the match from an outfield position, which he did with professionalism to make the manner of the victory even sweeter for Dodd.
“I’m proud of the character we showed today,” he explained after the game.
“The fact that Chris has come on and won us a few headers late on summed it all up for me really. It was a magnificent response with sheer will power and determination from the boys who worked so hard.
“These are the types of wins you remember because we were up against it with injuries and tiredness, so to make it three wins from the opening three games against a Villa side who had won their first two games as well, is very pleasing.”
Saints U18s: Britt, Leggett, Wood, Mugabi, McCarthy, Gape (Colmer 77), Ariyibi, Flannigan, Hesketh (Irvine 65), Rowe (Johns 80), Seager.