Salford U-18s vs Accrington Stanley U18s. Credit: Salford City FC. Permission given by club.

The future of football was on show yesterday evening as Salford City U-18s took on Accrington Stanley U-18s in the FA Youth Cup.

The match took place at the floodlit Peninsula for the first round of the competition with the young players walking out to ‘Dirty Old Town’ as tradition dictates.

Going into the game, the Salford names to look out for included captain Matthew Cucos, Kamoy McNair, Ethan Smith and Kyrell Malcolm who made his first-team debut against Stockport in the EFL Trophy.

Accrington started the game the stronger enforcing early pressure that required strong defending from the young Ammies to keep them out.

Whether intentional or not, the U-18s employed a playing style familiar to that of the men’s squad attempting to play out the back and hold possession, but similarly being forced to resort to long balls.

This was not the worst plan in the world with plenty of strength and pace in the strike force, with Malcolm and McNair.

Salford forced the first save of the night in the 12th minute after Malcolm was brought down on the left wing permitting a swinging ball in to be met by the head of McNair, but subsequently straight into the Accrington keeper Riva’s hands.

In the 15th minute, Salford put on show their fight and grit with crunching tackles from Manrique, who looked composed and strong in the middle, then by O’Gara keeping Accrington at bay.

Meanwhile, in the stands, the young Salford fan club was out in force supporting their side by berating the opposition to the tune of “You’re just a bus stop to Morecombe.”

The Accrington youngsters did not let this get to their heads, however, continuing to apply the pressure as striker Anjola Popoola steered a header wide after a good ball in from right-back Kelly whose crosses looked dangerous all night.

Salford keeper Jackson-Peat was then called into action for the first time of the night, comfortably diving to his left to stop a low-driven shot from outside the box.

Unfortunately for the U-18 Ammies, the pressure eventually paid off in the 24th minute when another sweet Kelly delivery from a corner was met by the number four, Jake Young.

Left completely unmarked in the box, the defender headed the ball back across goal and past Jackon-Peat who could do nothing but watch.

Kamoy McNair against a wall of Accrington defenders. Credit: Salford City FC. Permission given by Salford City
Kamoy McNair against a wall of Accrington defenders. Credit: Salford City FC.

Salford responded by showing sparks of promise, linking up play in the final third with their strike force showing signs of danger.

One of these included Padovani who had three long shots during the last fifteen minutes of the first half, the best of which crashed off the outside of the post, finally threatening the Accrington net.

As half-time beckoned the young Ammies were lucky not to be two down when another teasing corner skimmed off a Salford head onto the far post only to be eventually cleared.

With the whistle sounding Lead Coach Gary Sampson’s team had work to do in the second half to find a way into the game.

To the certain displeasure of the Salford youngsters, Accrington continued to threaten from corners, with another deep cross in from the right causing chaos in the box and going just wide.

The misery was doubled in the 56th minute when Max Leeson brought down the ever-dangerous Popoola in the box with a lunging tackle resulting in a penalty and a yellow card for the Salford number five.

Popoola calmly converted the penalty to make the score 2-0, rolling the ball down the middle as Jackson-Peat dived to his right.

Confidence was evidently flowing through the Accrington U-18s as the standout players so far Kelly and Popoola linked up again for the latter to curl a shot towards the far post, only to be well caught by Jackson-Peat.

As the second half drew on, one of the few positives for Salford was Kyrell Malcolm who started to grow into the game looking dangerous with his pace and finding the ball at feet more often.

A few close offside calls and runs in behind showed fight in the Ammies yet, until the 75th minute when all hope of a comeback on the freezing cold night was killed off, unsurprisingly again, by Accrington’s Popoola.

The Accrington number 10 hit a firm strike into the far corner to make the score 3-0 and end any chance of a Salford revival.

Bruno Padovani. Credit: Salford City FC. Permission given by Salford City.
Bruno Padovani came closest to scoring for the Ammies with a shot that smashed the outside of the post. Credit: Salford City FC.

Salford looked to lack sharpness and proceeded through the motions as the game petered out to a disappointing end for the young Ammies only marked by a couple of substitutions and a late yellow card for McNair.

Ultimately it was a tough evening for Gary Sampson’s lads and nor was it their night, falling short against a good Accrington Stanley side that did well in the competition last season.

After the game Sampson gave his thoughts on the match.

The Lead Coach said: “We were up against an Accrington team that have got some really good individuals and big, strong, physical, players with good game understanding.

“We found it difficult to cope with them so a difficult evening for us, but there’s definitely learning and development to take from it.”

He added: “There’ll be no change from us, we’ll keep them on task with that, keep them on their learning plans, and hopefully try to keep pushing these lads from now until Christmas, then the end of the season, and keep trying to push them towards the B-team.”

The young Ammies will be looking to get back to winning ways in the North West Youth Alliance League.

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