U18s grab late Northampton draw
Harvey Bertrand nets late equaliser as U18s secure a point away at Northampton Town.
Bournemouth went into the away game full of confidence, following their first win in Merit League One – a 4-2 victory against Yeovil Town Under-18s – one week prior.
But Northampton, who started the afternoon six places above the Cherries in fifth, had the lion’s share of the chances in the first half.
Hayon Price had the home side’s first effort, volleying wide from distance, before Calub Chukmewenka showed good footwork inside the box and saw his shot blocked by Bertrand.
With both teams trying to find their feet in the final third, Bournemouth had their first chance of the game 26 minutes in, when a sloppy goal-kick fell to Connor Kurran-Browne. He had his shot blocked, before Jake Cope sent a volley wide.
The Cherries showed what they’re capable of going forward on the left wing, when Jack Torniainen’s dart down the flank led to Luke Pardoe firing wide with half an hour played.
It had been a quiet opening period and the majority of the chances had gone off target, until Morgan Roberts looped the ball into the Bournemouth box for Chukmewenka to scissor kick from close range. Will Dennis narrowed the angle and made a strong save.
Bournemouth’s keeper was called into action again moments later, tipping a free-kick around the post from Roberts. But, on the brink of half-time, there was little he could do to prevent Jacob Ballinger from finding the back of the net after a corner had been cleared.
In his half-time team talk, under-18s manager Alan Connell told his players that the second half would be a test of their character, and Bournemouth almost responded immediately. Kurran-Browne was brought down in the penalty area on the 49th minute for what looked like a clear penalty, but the referee remained unmoved.
Michael Harding put a dangerous ball across the face of goal moments later, as Bournemouth left themselves exposed defensively. Fortunately for the Cherries, no Northampton player had read the delivery.
Dennis kept his side in the game with another strong save, reaching high to his right to deny a powerful strike from Price, who had picked up possession from James Oliver.
Just under 20 minutes remaining, Bournemouth’s surge began. An Oliver cross was steered just around the post by Tom Scott, who looked relieved not to be putting the ball in the back of his own net.
Oliver then headed wide from a Kurran-Browne cross, as the wind began to drop and aerial balls into the box became a viable solution in attack.
Northampton were inches away from scoring an own goal again when a Jordan Murray cross was headed toward the roof of the net by Jordan Fowler. Only Lewi Patching’s brilliant tip over the bar, which drew applause from the Bournemouth staff, kept the score at 1-0.
A lively end to the game followed, starting with Jay Williams, Northampton’s captain, being sent off for abusive language.
Bournemouth capitalised on the player advantage instantly, Nathan Moriah-Welsh sending a free-kick from the right wing to the far post. Bertrand was waiting. He chested the ball down and had enough time and space to volley it into the top left corner for 1-1.
The long-awaited equaliser could have counted for nothing had Harding scored the winner in stoppage time, but a great block from Zeno Ibsen Rossi ensured the Cherries went back to the south coast with another precious point.
afcb.co.uk caught up with Under-18s manager Alan Connell after the game…
afcb.co.uk: It looked like a game of two different performances in either half. You said at half-time that you wanted to see more character in the second half. Do you feel you got that response?
AC: Yeah, the first half was difficult, as Northampton made it hard for us to play out, and we didn’t pass the ball well enough. When we got in the final third we looked dangerous but we were lacking that final pass.
Defensively, we had to deal with a lot of balls into our box, which for the first half hour I thought we did really well. Then they started to wear us down a little bit and we switched off.
We needed to be more resilient, but as a result we conceded late in the first half which was disappointing. I felt we were a little bit flat, so at half-time we spoke about needing more quality playing out.
We tweaked the formation slightly in the second half just to try to get more pressure higher up the pitch to stop Northampton’s balls into our half. The reaction was good and we were much more like ourselves, playing with a real tempo.
We created a lot more chances, more forward runs, and made the pitch bigger. As a result, it was a pleasing second half performance and we got a deserved late equaliser.
afcb.co.uk: What was going through your mind in those final minutes? We saw Northampton’s captain get sent off right before Harvey Bertrand scored his first AFC Bournemouth goal!
AC: It’s not my place to comment on other team’s players, and I’m sure Northampton will deal with that internally, but obviously it gave us an extra impetus going into the last few minutes.
We scored straight away and it was a lovely finish from Harvey. I’m really pleased for him because he’s come on a lot this year and he works very hard at his game. It was a really well taken goal.
afcb.co.uk: Is there anyone else who stood out for you in a Bournemouth shirt?
AC: Will Dennis made some good saves and has sharpened up after a few games with us. Jack Torniainen has put in a lot of work recently on certain aspects of his game and I thought that came out today. He competed well and used the ball well. He can be pleased with his work.
When we brought Jordan Murray on, I thought he impacted the game. He’s come into us late so he’s not physically where we want him at the moment. He’s only been with us six weeks so he’s work in progress, but he’s got ability and when we get him one hundred percent match fit we think he’ll be a good player for us.
afcb.co.uk: As for organising fixtures against top teams, we’ve got a tournament on Leicester City’s training ground on Thursday. What are you hoping to get out of that?
AC: I’m looking forward to it. It’s an Under-17s tournament and we will take our Under-16s who will be with us next season, as well as our first years now, so basically next season’s youth team.
It will be a good chance to get everyone together in a competitive tournament against Leicester, Leicester’s Thai academy, and Shrewsbury Town.
That’s 150 minutes worth of football in a day, spread across five 30 minute matches, so we’ll be taking quite a few players. It will be an interesting one for me to rotate and give everyone the right minutes, so that will be a good challenge!
I’m really excited to see what will hopefully be a good year for us again next season. Then, we’ll move onto Swindon Town Under-18s at home on Saturday.
The AFC Bournemouth Under-18s side are sponsored by Strategic Solutions.