Gareth Taylor paid tribute to the heart and desire shown by Manchester City’s Under-18s after Thursday night’s battling 2-1 FA Youth Cup fifth round win away at Derby County.
In a feisty affair that saw three players sent off, the Blues lost Jayden Braaf to injury and then Felix Nmecha to a red card for dissent after falling behind on the stroke of half-time.
Despite having to play the last 35 minutes with 10-men, the young Blues showed character and commitment to stage a storming fightback with two goals in two minutes from Taylor Harwood-Bellis and Jeremie Frimpong securing victory.
In a charged finale, Derby had two players dismissed in added time as they sought to rattle City but Taylor’s charges stood strong to secure our place in the hat for the last eight draw.
“Massive respect to the lads for the way they responded,” said the Under-18s manager.
“We always question the lads given the how well they are looked after at this football club. We question their resilience and I think they came through that in the second half.
“There was a lot that happened: losing Jayden, the red card for Felix and then what happened at the end where we had the numerical advantage with them down to nine men.
“We’ve got to learn from it because there is going to be tough competition ahead.
“Sometimes you lose a game like that and that would have been a double disappointment as I was disappointed with the performance.
“I thought we showed grit and determination in the second period particularly with 10 men but the first half I thought were off it.
“It was a proper game that had a bit of everything and here’re certainly a few more grey hairs now that’s for sure.
The victory capped a memorable few days for the Under-18s following last weekend’s progress through to the semi-finals of the Premier League Under-18 Cup where we will play Manchester United in the last four.
But with both holders Chelsea and United already out of this Youth Cup, Taylor said it was a reminder for his players that reputations alone counted for nothing in the blue ribbon event.
“A lot of big teams have gone out and it shows what this competition is about. If you are not right and at it, you can be dumped out,” Taylor added.
At half-time the message was simply stay in the game - Ww will come through this and it actually worked out well in that respect, even with losing Felix.
“Now we’ve got an FA Youth Cup quarter-final to look forward and we are through to a Premier League Under-18 Cup semi-final against Manchester United.
“It’s exciting times and we just want to keep it going.”