City’s Under 21s made it two wins out of two in our Leasing.com Trophy campaign by securing a hard-fought but deserved victory away at League Two Bradford City

Despite falling behind to an early Hope Akpan header, Paul Harsley’s young charges showed their character and resilience to overturn the deficit through goals from Morgan Rogers and skipper Tommy Doyle.

The victory leaves us top of Northern Group F with six points ahead of our final group clash away to Bolton next month and means we are already assured of a place in the knockout stages.

What happened

It proved to be a cagey opening 15 minutes at the Utilita Energy Stadium with both sides probing for space and openings.

Gradually City’s crisp passing found its range and on 17 minutes winger Jayden Braaf jinked free on the tight before cutting inside only to hit the side netting.

That prompted an immediate response from Bradford with Shay McCartan charging at the Blues’ defence before a curling 20-yard shot clipped the far post and bobbled to safety.

And on 21 minutes Bradford drew first blood. The ever-dangerous Zeli Ismail evaded his marker before whipping in a pin-point cross which was headed home from close range by skipper Hope Akpan.

However, within six minutes we were back on level terms thanks to a wonderful strike by Morgan Rogers.

Skipper Doyle was the architect; his lung bursting run splitting open the Bantams defence.

The midfielder spotted Rogers free on the left though there was still work to do for the wide man. But showing exemplary skill and vision, the teenager cut inside two challenges before sliding home a superb shot into the far corner of the net.

Braaf then had a golden chance to fire City ahead just before the break after robbing Bradford’s McCartan and then sprinting 30 yards upfield with just the keeper to beat.

The shot was hit with venom, but Braaf’s radar was askew as his effort skidded around the wrong side of the post.


                        LEVEL BEST: Morgan Rogers fired home a wonderful equaliser
LEVEL BEST: Morgan Rogers fired home a wonderful equaliser

More brilliance from Braaf early after the restart almost earned a just reward. An instant touch and swivel bamboozled Bradford’s Staunton and his fizzing cross found Rogers who cushioned the ball down to Fisayo Dele-Bashiru.

But just as the midfielder was about to press the trigger, Richards-Everton made a crucial last-ditch block.

At the other end, City were grateful for our defensive wall which deflected a goal-bound McCartan free-kick over the bar.

The action was now end to end with Dele-Bashiru drawing a smart save from Bradford keeper Sykes-Kenworthy with Ben Knight unable to steer the rebound home.

Just after the hour our patience was finally rewarded with Doyle capping a fine individual display with a deserved goal.

Rogers saw Nat Ogbeta on the overlap and timed his pass to perfection. The full-back spotted Doyle charging into the box and timed the pass to perfection leaving the skipper the easiest of tasks to finish.

With the momentum behind us, City sought to finish the game off with Braaf and Doyle both coming close.

Bradford were still a threat going forward and Omari Patrick was within an ace of drawing the hosts level with a vicious 76th minute drive but the young Blues held on to secure a deserved victory and stay top of our group.

How we lined up

Daniel Grimshaw was in goal shielded by a back four of Yeboah Amankwah, Nat Ogbeta, Rowan McDonald, and Sammy Robinson. Iker Pozo was the midfield shield with Fisayo Dele-Bashiru and skipper Tommy Doyle also playing through the middle. Ben Knight, Morgan Rogers and Jayden Braaf were deployed upfront.

What it means

City remain top of Northern Group F with two wins out of two and are now assured of finishing in the top two and progressing through to the knockout stages

Next up

We are back in PL 2 action on Friday night when we travel to Merseyside to take on Everton.

Kick-off at Southport’s Merseyrail Stadium is 7pm.