City u18s went down 1-0 to a lively Rhyl side as pre-season continues apace back on UK shores.
An early first half strike was enough to see the boy Blues record a second pre-season defeat on their trip to the Welsh seaside.
After two fixtures against Scottish opposition north of the border it was time to head west for City’s young hopefuls, who were aiming to bounce back from a first loss of pre-season sustained against a strong Celtic side last time out.
However, comprehensive victories over NK Novigrad and FC Cukaricki in Croatia, and a late winner against Duns FC’s first team ensured this young squad travelled to Rhyl with a hat-trick of triumphs already under their collective belts.
This fixture is becoming something of an annual tradition, and there was no shortage of City fans at the Corbett Sports Stadium who had taken advantage of a trip to Wales and eschewed icecreams on the beach to go and cheer on the boys in blue.
Last year, Jason Wilcox’s men ran out 3-1 winners in what turned out to be the curtain-raiser for a fantastic season that ended with the u18s crowned Premier League North Division Champions.
Without skipper Tosin Adarabioyo, Sam Tattum and James Hardy, who all travelled to Germany as part of Patrick Vieira’s u21 squad, Wilcox selected a young and inexperienced XI as he continues to give every member of his squad that chance to impress and accrue valuable pre-season minutes.
Nathaniel Oseni partnered Charlie Oliver at the centre of defence, while Callum Bullock and Aaron Nemane aimed to provide City’s attacking threat from the wide areas.
Unfortunately, it was a bit of a sluggish start from the young Blues, who struggled to garner momentum in attack or hold onto the ball for any prolonged periods.
The hosts were quick to take advantage and were ahead inside ten minutes, when Rob Hughes fired a well-placed shot into the top corner from just outside the box.
More physically mature and powerful than their City counterparts, Rhyl had two good chances to double their lead in quick succession, with Liam Dawson twice slightly misdirecting his shot the wrong side of the post.
City grew into the game as time went on, and had a decent opportunity themselves to level the scores almost on the stroke of half time, but this time it was Callum Bullock who couldn’t quite get his effort on target after being set up by Martin Samuelsen.
Although Wilcox’s men emerged stronger after the break, it was the Lilywhites who created the first decent chance of the second period – but Ryan Astles powered his header straight into the arms of the City trialist keeper.
Bullock came closest to opening the scoring for City with a long range effort shortly after the hour mark, before Wilcox made five changes which led to a significant increase in tempo from those in blue.
Nemane was desperately unlucky to see his shot skim the top of the bar, while substitute Isaac Buckley just failed to meet a cross when free on the penalty spot.
City grew in confidence and quality in the latter stages, and Nemane, who deputised as a makeshift central midfielder after the substitutions, made an excellent tackle before feeding Buckley, but the Rhyl keeper did well to smother the ball.
With time running out, David Brooks could only find the goalkeeper’s gloves with his late effort, while Rodney Kongolo had an excellent chance to snatch a draw in stoppage time but blasted over when he perhaps should have done better.
In the end, Rhyl held on to the delight of their supporters and City were left disappointed after a strong end to the game.
A young squad continues to mature under the guidance of Wilcox and Assistant Coach Gareth Whalley, and will look forward to the clash away at Wrexham on Tuesday.