U18s boss proud of young Canaries after Fulham tieAN extremely youthful Norwich City Under-18s side produced an excellent performance on Saturday as they drew 1-1 with a vastly more experienced Fulham at Motspur Park.
The Canaries handed starts to five players eligible at Under-16s level, with Under-15s representative Glen Middleton also coming off the bench in the closing stages.
City were the better side for much of the contest against a physical Fulham outfit, and could consider themselves unfortunate not to win after creating numerous chances across the 90 minutes.
The Cottagers tested the defensive resolve of Jerry Gill's young team with a direct approach during the early stages, but were reduced to half-chances in a competitive first half played at a high-tempo.
However, the hosts took the lead almost immediately after the restart when Tayo Edun rounded off a tidy team move involving Luca De La Torre and Aaron Redford with an emphatic finish.
To go behind so early in the second period seemed likely to provide a clear measure of City's character, but they showed their collective mental strength to level within a minute.
Good work on the byline from Louis McIntosh gave the forward time to place a cut-back into the path of George Couzens, who confidently struck a left-footed effort first-time beyond the goalkeeper to bring his team level.
Buoyed by that goal, the Canaries quickly moved to establish themselves as the dominant force in the game, and had two firm calls for penalties waved away by the officials.
They continued to put significant pressure on the Fulham goal in search of all three points, and were only denied what would have been a deserved victory by the woodwork as McIntosh's attempt came off the post.
Speaking after the game, manager Gill outlined his pride at the display as he told canaries.co.uk: "It’s not just the result, but the performance.
"We were fantastic, and the lads carried out the work on what we wanted to do really well. It was a really good football match against an older team in Fulham, and to have five Under-16s make their debuts is a really positive sign for future development of next year's youth team.
"They were physically able to go and press Fulham, but also had the technical ability to make things happen when we did win the ball back."
The involvement of so many young players was particularly pleasing for the academy coach, who added: "It's a real positive for the Club to have youngsters fielded in the Under-18s, and to have them performing really well.
"Most of the second-year scholars have stepped up into Paul Wilkinson's Under-21s group, which allows me to play the younger boys. It's a pathway through, and the way we do things here.
"Results haven’t been great, but it’s not what we’re after. As a coach, it's nice when you’ve seen the week go well for the lads, and for them to then go and carry out their objective on a Saturday."
FULL-TIME: Fulham 1-1 Norwich City
NORWICH CITY: Oxborough (GK); Wallis (Sambu, 80), Crowe, Ellesley (Boateng, 67), Lewis; Pollock; Black, Aransibia; Cantwell; Couzens, McIntosh (Middleton, 87).