City's Under-21s got our Leasing.com Trophy campaign off to perfect start with an impressive opening Northern Group F win away at Rochdale.

Paul Harsley's side produced a superb all-round display against our League One rivals and secured all three points thanks to goals either side of half time through Jayden Braaf and Adrian Bernabe.

It was the ideal way to kick-off a busy September and sets us up ideally ahead of our second group clash away at Bradford later this month.

What happened

Dale showed commendable commitment to a passing-based game and their approach helped make for a hugely entertaining spectacle

But it was Harsley’s side who enjoyed the bulk of possession, territory and chances in a terrific opening 45 minutes, with Braaf in particular proving a potent threat with his pace and trickery.

With just two minutes gone, a Tommy Doyle corner found Harwood-Bellis unmarked at the far post but the central defender misdirected his header back across goal.

In an action-packed start Dale’s Fabio Tavares then went tumbling in the City area but referee Michael Salisbury was unmoved despite the home pleas for a penalty.

On nine minutes a deft Nabil Touaizi back flick bamboozled Dale’s midfield and Iker Pozo’s sliderule pass split the home defence but Doyle’s touch was a shade too strong as raced in on goal.

On 24 minutes City should have opened the scoring. Doyle dinked a deft ball over the heart of the Dale defence, Braaf ran through with only the keeper to beat but his shot struck the foot of the post

But after another slick City attack had seen Touaizi’s goalbound shot charged down by Aaron Morley, Harsley’s side finally got a 32nd minute breakthrough.

The ball fizzed across the box to Braaf who drifted inside before then curling a superb shot inside the far post.

It wasn’t all one-way traffic. Rochdale’s Jimmy Ryan let fly from 30 yards before Calvin Andrew’s low shot drew a smart save from Grimshaw.

But City almost cut open the hosts again on 45 minutes only for Knight’s shot to ping inches wide.

City maintained our tempo and drive after the restart and that relentless pressure eventually yielded another reward on 58 minutes.

Dale initially thought they had cleared the danger with some neat fearless footwork on their line but City’s relentless harrying forced an error.

Touazi and Doyle then neatly combined to supply Bernabe who cut inside in the box before finishing with aplomb.

City should have sealed the deal on 85 minutes after another sweeping counter-attack only for Ben Knight's shot to be parried by keeper Lynch.

How we lined up

Daniel Grimshaw was in goal, shielded by a back four of Alpha Diounkou, Yeboah Amankwah, Taylor Harwood-Bellis and Nat Ogbeta, Iker Pozo was the deep lying midfielder with skipper Tommy Doyle and wingers Ben Knight and Jayden Braff also in the engine room.

Adrian Bernabe and Nabil Touaizi were deployed up-front.

What’s next

Paul Harsley’s side return to Premier League 2 action on Saturday when we play host to Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Under-23s. Kick-off at the Academy is 1pm.