AFC Bournemouth Academy finished runners-up in the Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha Cup in Leicester on Thursday.
The tournament was held at Leicester City’s training ground and consisted of four teams – Leicester City Academy, Fox Hunt (Leicester City Thai Academy), Rugby Town Academy, and AFC Bournemouth Academy.
The Cherries squad was made up of Under-16s and Under-17s players, who were rotated across five 30 minute matches.
Bournemouth won one of their group games and drew the other two, before winning the semi-final and losing the final to eventual winners Leicester.
GROUP MATCH 1: AFC Bournemouth 0-0 Leicester City
A goalless draw saw the Cherries pick up their first point of the day, but the Foxes looked more likely to score.
Leicester’s number nine smashed a shot onto the post from close range, and Cherries ‘keeper Joe Beasant made a good save to deny number seven.
The Leicester man was clean through on goal and looked certain to score, but Beasant made himself look big and saved the shot with his torso. Bournemouth had no notable chances, and got away with the draw.
GROUP MATCH 2: Fox Hunt 1-2 AFC Bournemouth
The Cherries immediately looked more lively in their second game, as Luke Gray played Euan Pollock through on goal, but the forward’s shot went straight at the ‘keeper’s legs with three minutes played.
When Bournemouth did get their first goal of the day, it came by way of Jake Adams. Assisted by Luke Pardoe, Adams went on a mazy run before cutting back onto his left foot and finding the top left corner with power and precision.
Fox Hunt responded immediately, number 14 latching onto a loose ball and smashing it into the roof of the net.
But it didn’t take long for the Cherries to restore their lead either. There was an element of fortune about it, as Pardoe passed to Jack Wadham who, from the edge of the box, looped a shot over the ‘keeper with the help of a deflection for 2-1. Four points out of six and onto game three.
GROUP MATCH 3: Rugby Town 1-1 AFC Bournemouth
The third and final group game saw Bournemouth face Rugby Town, who had entered the competition at short notice in place of Shrewsbury Town.
Bournemouth went ahead through a brilliant counter-attack, as Rafal Danielsson rolled the ball out to Connor Kurran-Browne. He found Pardoe on the left wing, who switched it to Pollock. Pollock released the ball back inside to Kurran-Browne who finished for 1-0.
Moments later, the Cherries were pegged back again, as Rugby’s number 22 was brought down for a penalty. Number nine dispatched it and Bournemouth ended the group with five points out of a possible nine.
That meant they finished the group second, setting up a semi-final tie with the team they had just drawn against – fourth-placed Rugby Town.
SEMI-FINAL: AFC Bournemouth 5-0 Rugby Town
Into the business end of the competition, and Bournemouth looked like they meant it. The Cherries wasted no time getting going, when a Gray dummy sold the Rugby defence, allowing James Oliver to play in Adams to open the scoring,
Bournemouth were finding their stride, and scored a delightful team goal when a long ball from Jordan Murray was received by Adams. He flicked it over the defence to Kurran-Browne, who wrong-footed his opposite number and scored for 2-0.
Nathan Moriah-Welsh had been instrumental to Bournemouth’s attacking prowess, and he too got a goal to show for it 12 minutes in, picking out the bottom right corner after being assisted by Adams.
Murray, who had been playing the game as a deep, holding midfielder, also got his name on the scoresheet, finding the bottom left corner after the ball had been flicked over the top from Kurran-Browne.
But the best was yet to come, and Kurran-Browne wrapped up the big win with an outrageous goal. Controlling a high drop-kick from Danielsson on his first touch with ridiculous ease, Kurran-Browne flicked the ball around his marker, ran in on goal and netted it, much to the amazement of the on-looking staff.
The win secured a place in the final with Leicester, who had beaten Fox Hunt in the other semi-final.
FINAL: AFC Bournemouth 0-1 Leicester City
The Cherries couldn’t carry their groove into the day’s biggest game, and went behind courtesy of an unlucky goal to concede.
Leicester’s number nine received the ball in the Bournemouth box on the 13th minute, and it looked like his heavy touch took it away from him, but a nasty deflection played it back into his path to score.
Bournemouth mounted on the pressure, desperate for an equaliser in the game’s dying embers, but the Foxes back-line stood firm and denied the Cherries any clear-cut opportunities.
As a result, it was Leicester who came away with the win. They were presented their medals by none other than Kolo Toure, before lifting the Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha Cup aloft.
afcb.co.uk spoke to Under-18s manager Alan Connell after the tournament to get his view on the day…
afcb.co.uk: Today gave us the opportunity to make use of some top-class facilities and try out a number of different players to look at for next year. Did it have the desired effect for you?
AC: Yeah, it was a really well organised event by Leicester City and we’re grateful for the invitation to the inaugural competition they’ve done of this type. They want to invite us again next season.
We’ve come to another Category One academy against good types of opposition. Leicester provided quality as you would expect from them. Their Thai Academy, through their late chairman, has been setup here as well. Rugby Town meant we got different types of challenges too.
It was really good to play next year’s youth team all together to get them integrated as a group. As always, at this time of year you can see things that aren’t quite there. There’s lots of work to do but there were some encouraging signs at times.
I started to see a bit more leadership from our first-years. That gave us better indication of where we are for the start of next season. It was definitely a really good day for their development.
afcb.co.uk: And you wanted them to feel disappointed didn’t you, with the fact that we got to the final and didn’t win it in what was a close half an hour?
AC: Yeah, the way the games were, it was non-stop. Like I said to the boys, the expectations were that first of all we wanted to deliver the performances I expect. We got that in some of the games, in a couple we underwhelmed a little bit.
I expected us to compete with Leicester and ideally win the competition. Credit to them, because they won the final. I felt we lacked a bit of guile and quality in those key moments in the final third against them.
We played Leicester twice on the day and I think we had a lot more possession than them which was pleasing because we’re a possession-based academy and club, but of course there’s no point in keeping the ball if you don’t have the end product.
Plenty to work on, and now we look to finish the league campaign off well in our remaining three games.
afcb.co.uk: Speaking of which, Saturday’s home game against Swindon Town Under-18s will be a chance for the players to right some of the wrongs from today.
AC: Swindon will be a really tough test as I think they’re playing a lot of second-years at the moment. We’ll probably only have two or three playing, so a lot of first-years and Under-16s will be involved.
The good thing from my point of view is that, by the time the season ends, all of our players will have had a lot of game-time. That’s difficult to manage sometimes, but as staff I think we’ve handled that quite well.
You can’t beat playing games, and these are opportunities for players to get more minutes under their belts.
The AFC Bournemouth Under-18s side are sponsored by Strategic Solutions.