A clinical finish from Jean-Pierre Tiehi and a late Jay Stansfield free-kick salvaged a point for Fulham’s under 18s in an entertaining clash with Aston Villa this afternoon.
Ravaged by injuries, Steve Wigley was forced to deploy four centre halves in an unusual line-up. The changes gave sixteen year-old Xavier Benjamin the opportunity to show his capabilities on the right of a diamond, with Scottish youth international Connor McAvoy filling in at right back due to the lack of options. There was also a start for promising keeper George Wickens, who returned after a five month injury lay-off. Young striker Stansfield started again after his impressive brace against Southampton last weekend.
Villa went in front after twenty minutes after forward DJ Campton-Sturridge took a theatrical tumble in the penalty area and earned a spot-kick. Hayden Lindley’s effort came back off the post but Charlie Farr was the quickest to react and fired home the loose ball. Wigley’s young side might have been dispirited but they fought back admirably. Jean-Pierre Tiehi continued his fine run of form, scoring his fourth goal in six games, with a delightful finish six minutes before half-time, but the forward was forced off with an injury after a crunching tackle – which saw him on crutches after the game – before the interval.
The introduction of Imani Lanquedoc saw Mika Biereth deployed as a striker alongside Jay Stansfield, having previously operated behind Stansfield and Tiehi up until the substitution. Villa were certainly physical in their approach, with several heavy challenges aimed at Stansfield in particular, for which the referee issued three yellow cards.
A disappointing lapse in defensive concentration allowed Campton-Sturridge to restore Villa’s lead ten minutes into the second half when he clinically converted Cameron Archer’s clever pass. Fulham looked uncharacteristically lethargic until wonderkid Michael Olakigbe, fresh from a sensational performance against Watford, was summoned from the bench. The winger made an almost immediate impact, waltzing past a couple of defenders and winning a free-kick just outside the area. Stansfield stepped up and found the net with the aid of a massive deflection – earning a point with two minutes to play despite a below-par performance.
FULHAM U18s (4-3-1-2): Wickens (7); McAvoy (6), Murphy (6), Bowat (5, Olakigbe 86, 7), Odutayo (7); Page (6), Benjamin (6), O’Neill (7); Biereth (6); Tiehi (7, Lanquedoc 45, 5); Stansfield (8). Subs (not used): McNally, Araujo
GOALS: Tiehi (39), Stansfield (88).
ASTON VILLA U23s (4-3-3): Onodi; Farr, Sylla, Lindley, Sohna; Goodridge (Reddin 55), Appiah, Raikhy; Archer, Young, Campton-Sturridge (Rowe 84) Subs (not used): Marshall, Sewell, Ealing.
BOOKED: Lindley, Sohna, Sylla, Farr.
GOALS: Farr (20), Campton-Sturridge (53).