U18s battle to Fulham win
Alan Connell's youngsters earn narrow friendly victory over Fulham.
AFC Bournemouth Under-18s wrapped up their Merit League preparations with a 1-0 friendly win over Fulham on Saturday.
In a determined defensive display, the Cherries made one of their few chances count, while being without the ball for large spells of the game.
Bournemouth’s number eight, playing on trial for the club, scored the game’s only goal late on to send the Cherries into next weekend’s new Merit League season on a high.
In a much-changed setup from the U18s’ 2-0 FA Youth Cup win over Aston Villa last week, Bournemouth found themselves on the back-foot for much of the game’s first half-hour.
Will Dennis reacted strongly, something which would become a theme of the game for the Cherries ‘keeper, early on to deny Fulham’s number seven, who had taken down a cross from number 11 well.
An early change was required when Connor Kurran-Browne went down injured inside 18 minutes. The forward was unable to play on and was replaced by Luke Gray, who had Bournemouth’s first sight of goal on the 29th minute as he smashed a shot from distance just over the bar.
The first half petered out with neither side able to control the game; both giving the ball away sloppily in the middle third of the field.
Fulham went close again early in the second half, number nine dragging a shot wide from a good shooting position, before number 14 put the ball in the net only for his goal to be ruled out for offside.
The scores still level, the Cherries finally went in front on the 74th minute, their midfield trialist charging forward before taking the ball out wide and shooting into the far corner precisely with his left foot.
He had a chance to double his tally with four minutes remaining, presented with time and space after being played through by Gray, but the trialist poked his shot wide.
Fulham, for their lion’s share of possession, never really troubled Bournemouth at the back, and the Cherries held on for another win against highly-regarded opposition.
Speaking to afcb.co.uk after the game, Under-18s manager Alan Connell had this to say on the following topics…
OPPORTUNITIES FOR YOUNGER PLAYERS
“We had a lot of players out on loan today, which is important for their development. We had an Under-16s player start who has signed for next season and Euan Pollock came on at half-time who has played with the Under-16s this season. We only played three second years.
I’m really pleased with the performance, as we showed glimpses of quality despite the wind and the pitch conditions. In the second half, we pressed higher and won the ball back more than in the first and as a result we created more chances.
“There’s always more we can work on, but this was a really good exercise against top quality opposition in Fulham.”
STANDING STRONG AT THE BACK
“Zeno Ibsen Rossi was a man-mountain at the back for us. Tom Dinsmore defended well again in what isn’t his natural position. We dug in and physically the boys really pushed themselves which is what we always demand of them.”
GEARING UP FOR THE NEW MERIT LEAGUE
“We start the new league season away at Southend United next Saturday. It will be a good opportunity for a lot of our first-year players. The league always presents difficult fixtures, especially now we’re going to play the top teams from the South East league as well as those from our South West league.
“It will be a really competitive league and if we play like we did today, hopefully we’ll do well in it.”