The three Bristol City U23s players who caught our eye as Swansea City U23s beaten at Failand

The players that caught our eye in latest Professional Development League 2 clash
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With Bristol City manager Nigel Pearson bemoaning a lack of defensive midfielders at the club at the weekend, the former Leicester City boss may like what he sees in the development set-up.

Bristol City U23s took on their Swansea City counterparts at their High Performance Centre training ground on Tuesday afternoon, with a fiery encounter played out against Jon Grey’s Swansea team.

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And a good start from the hosts - fielding a young side; with no senior involvement - saw several good displays, especially from the destructive midfielders in the middle of the pitch, and also in central defence too.

The South West outfit won 1-0, as Dylan Khadji threatened early on with a lofted ball into the box, before Prince Henry threatened to close down the Swans’ trialist keeper and force an early score in the first few minutes.

With former Bristol City and Swansea striker Lee Trundle watching on from the stands, as well as several Wales youth coaching staff, the Robins started brightly, although the visitors were not without impact.

Bristol City U23s vs Swansea City U23s at the HPC.Bristol City U23s vs Swansea City U23s at the HPC.
Bristol City U23s vs Swansea City U23s at the HPC.

Centre-back Tivonge Rushesha’s long ball forward almost caught the home side sleeping as a visiting trialist ran in on goal, only for the City defence to recover at the last. With Jamie Knight-Lebel loud at the back and cleverly winning a free-kick early on, the match was in the balance after 20 minutes.

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Swansea skipper Ben Erickson picked up a knock in a duel with the tenacious Zak Bell after 25 minutes, and the side in red almost took advantage: the corner from Omar Taylor-Clarke met by Seb Palmer-Houlden to volley straight at the keeper.

The pace from the young Robins was relentless even if Swansea showed good technical ability, in this Professional Development League 2 encounter. There was no let-up.

A good run forward from Lebel-Knight almost kickstarted an attack after 30 minutes before Rushesha shut down a Henry burst down the flank, and the first period fizzled out.

A closely contested first-half ended with City almost winning the ball high for the umpteenth time and Josh Owers dropping deep to prompt play. Swansea had more of the ball but a lot of the game was played in their half, with Bristol City pressing ferociously.

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After the break Bristol City took the lead as Henry broke away down the left, before beating Rushesa and crossing low to Owers for the opening goal. Duncan Idehen then intercepted seconds later to deny an instant riposte from the South Wales team (with the centre-back told to “play it quicker” by the senior coaching staff on the sidelines).

A superb double-save by Wiles-Richards before the hour mark kept the hosts in the lead before Idehen’s clearance was charged down to almost lead to an opening for Swansea.

Wiles-Richards dived to stop a Morgan low shot on 69 minutes, that looked destined for the net, but the Swansea attacks were becoming few and far between, as Bell conceded a late dangerous free-kick on the edge of the box with five minutes to go.

And when Idehen cleared from inside the area to thwart a late three on two counter-punch the job was almost done, as Knight-Lebel robbed possession inside the area to stop Davies again with seconds left.

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City held on to record a PDL2 win that sees only Ipswich Town ahead of them, with the Tractor Boys to visit the HPC at the end of March.

The players who caught our eye

Dylan Khadji

The marauding central midfielder closed down several loose balls and shut down avenues early on, with a lofted through-ball almost setting up an early chance. Pouncing on a bad first touch after half an hour, Khadji ran at goal but Azeem Abdulai put in a great tackle to stop a dribble into the box.

Owers released Khadji to find Palmer-Houlden’s charge down the left channel after 35 minutes. But despite a two-on-two break, the cross from the forward was too near to the goalkeeper.

A neat outside of the foot ball before 80 minutes enabled a shooting chance to arise for substitute Hutton, but the ball went out for a corner.

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Recalled from Bath City recently, Khadji was pushed forward in the final stages as his leggy work in the middle of the pitch was ushered forward to stop the side in black creating from deep.

Continues to look a very good prospect for the West Country men.

Callum Wood

A good interception in the opening minutes and again after half an hour as he thwarted Rio Campbell advancing on a counter-attack.

Returning after injury against Cardiff City U23s the week before, it was Wood’s vital interception seconds after the restart that stopped Cotterill’s low cross creating for the Swans, that then saw Bristol City breakaway seconds later, with Wood’s clearance again playing a vital role.

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Though Morgan outsprinted him before 70 minutes to shoot low at goal, the former Bath City man was looking the most assured defender for the home side, assisted as he was by some advice from academy director Brian Tinnion from the sidelines, aiding the 18-year-old’s positioning.

A late loose clearance almost allowed sub Reuben Davies a sight of goal but the young defender got away with it, as Curtis Fleming and Kalifa Cisse watched on. Also failed to cut out a late knock down the line as he suffered with cramp in the final stages, but a good showing overall.

Crunching challenge to clear in the final seconds to mark his display and keep the clean sheet intact.

Josh Owers

The central midfielder snapped into challenges throughout to deny the dangerous Campbell and Morgan making forays forward.

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And some crisp passes off his left foot enabled the Robins to move forward, none more so than when he found Khadji in the first half to attack goal.

Owers scored on 48 minutes, as the Robins broke following a Swansea corner. Henry crossed low and Owers was the man in the right place to capitalise, after Owers pass initially released the forward.

Meanwhile, his hoovering up of loose balls led to Thomas crossing dangerously on 77 minutes, as the home side looked for a second goal.

Skippered the side and this complete performance included him dropping into defence in the final seconds as Wood went off temporarily. With a work-rate second to none, and leadership shown, this showing may well stand him in good stead to make a senior appearance before the end of the Championship campaign.

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Bristol City (3-5-2): Wiles-Richards; Wood, Idehen, Knight Lebel; Soady (Thomas, 67’), Taylor Clarke, Khadji, Bell; Henry, Palmer-Houlden (Hutton, 70)

Swansea City (3-5-2): Trialist, Rushesa, Trialist, Abdulai, Evans, Erickson, Lloyd, Cotterill, Morgan, Campbell, McFayden

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