Yesterday afternoon saw Conquest take another huge step to realising their full academy programme by travelling up to The Colney Training Centre in Norwich in order to pit our U16 side against theirs. It must be noted that the hospitality of Norwich was outstanding and their facilities are top notch - coaches were hospitable and particularly helpful - evidently another environment that allows players to really develop through the unique people they have working there.
Playing their fourth competitive fixture ever as a group against a Category 1 Academy side meant that the boys were always going to have their work cut out during this fixture. Category 1 status is reserved for only 24 clubs in the whole country and Norwich are the only U18 academy side other than Chelsea to win the FA Youth Cup in the last 6 years. Nonetheless the boys were valiant in their display and showed really positive signs of things to come despite their 2-0 loss.
It should be noted here again our congratulations to our previous captain Cadell Fraser-Robinson who obviously is no longer playing for us given his signing at Chelsea FC. Charlie Tivey will take the captains armband for the rest of the season and will be helped in his duties by Vice-Captain Matthew Attipoe. Abbas Mirza was drafted in to replace Cadell.
1. Matthew Attipoe*
3. Jason Fernandes*
4. Troy Ferguson*
4. Jide Olaogun*
5. Abbas Mirza*
6. Charlie Tivey*
7. Blessing Tshibikubula*
8. Jared Myers*
9. Kacper Nozka*
10. Obinna Ogbonna*
11. Jayde Crotty
12. Eddy Coulibaly
13. Bilal Saddique*
14. Saran Sutharsan
15. Seth Botchey
*Denotes a player that started the fixture
Upon arriving at the training ground the coaches were quick to note how different a challenge this would present to the QPR game given that the pitch was huge. The opposition were evidently going to try and exploit the large spaces from a non-professional side and attempt to isolate the full backs and cross the ball.
The game in the first half started similarly to the QPR fixture whereby we were a bit slow to get into it and allowed Norwich to move the ball round. It seemed to lack a bit of urgency and intensity from either side. Norwich were content to keep the ball in the middle of the pitch and Conquest were happy to stand off and wait for a reasonable opportunity to win the ball back. The Norwich boys were, as expected, looking for their wingers and attempting to get one vs one in wide areas and open up crossing opportunities.
Mid-way through the first half Norwich took a deserved lead as their consistent balls finally fell to someone in the box who managed to smash home from 12 yards. This was unfortunate given that although Norwich had enjoyed the lion's share of possession they were being kept quiet enough by some resolute Conquest defending.
The goal seemed to take a weight of pressure off of the boys' shoulders, having conceded they felt a responsibility to now respond in kind and the last 10 minutes of the first half showed real promise as Blessing managed to break the line well on a number of occasions whilst Bilal, Saran and Obinna all saw breaks that drew either good saves or excellent tackles inside the box.
HT: Norwich 1-0 Conquest
The second half began as the first one ended, Conquest whilst still with less possession had settled into the game, worked out how Norwich had wanted to play and were keen to thwart their build up at key moments before building into their own attacks. The use of Jayde up front made a difference as his physical presence was causing their defenders to make quicker decisions and giving the Conquest attackers more opportunity to break higher up the pitch.
A number of chances went begging as headers were missed and close range shots were excellently blocked. Conquest had began to get a foothold in the game and genuinely looked as if they could convert may take control and go on to win. Unfortunately against the run of play Norwich broke quickly in the other direction and a sweeping move that saw the winger cross to a man in the box who converted well into the top of the net.
Following the second goal, the game became more scrappy, both sides were giving the ball away more than they would like and the Norwich No.10 really came into his own, using his physique and technique to control the middle of the pitch and show why he was the lynchpin in a Cat 1 Academy side.
The game continued much in that fashion until its end, Norwich will have been aggrieved not to have scored at least one more as they had a couple of clear cut chances that they couldn't convert whilst Conquest will be frustrated that they didn't score in a game that they will feel they could've won. A number of factors contributed to the final score but the most obvious ones were that Conquest had allowed themselves to fall behind first and that they must take their chances. Category 1 academy sides will not make as many mistakes as other sides and you must capitalise when they do.
FT: Norwich 2-0 Conquest
Manager's MoTM: Blessing Tshibikubula
Captain's MoTM: Troy Ferguson
This was a game that presented a lot of questions and a lot of answers for Conquest U16s. They were beaten by a top rated U16 side and despite this they could leave the training ground with their heads held high. There will be low moments for the boys this season as they acclimatise to playing academy groups on a regular basis and certainly this will be one of them but they will learn a great deal from this and obviously come back much stronger later in the season. A big thank you to Norwich who were excellent all day.
Keep posted for the next academy fixture which will be in the coming weeks.