Our U18 side drew 2-2 against Pete Haines’ Cheltenham Town side at Quat Goose Lane, with a late goal from Lewis Johnson ensuring that Byron Anthony’s side continued their unbeaten start to 2018.
County started the game well, and Owura Edwards had a good chance with only three minutes gone; the winger found space brilliantly on the left after causing problems for Cheltenham’s defence, but he couldn’t direct his shot on target.
The hosts continued to struggle with the Young Exiles, and in the 11th minute Callum Beckett had a massive chance to break the deadlock. Owen Taylor delivered a brilliant ball into the direction of Beckett, but the angle was tight, and the defender headed wide.
Cheltenham striker George Lloyd did cause problems for Byron Anthony’s side, and he was presented with a massive chance 27 minutes into the game, after finding space from 10 yards-out before his shot fortunately went over.
Two minutes later, Liam Bishop put a brilliant ball into the direction of Lewis Collins, but before the Wales U17 international could get on the end of Bishop’s ball, Cheltenham ‘keeper Freddie Lapworth came out to intercept the danger and collect.
Tom Hillman had a massive chance for the Young Exiles in the 40th minute, the winger made a brilliant run from the halfway line into the Cheltenham box, but Lapworth produced a good save from Hillman’s shot.
The Robins had the last chance of the half, with Camden Duncan wasting a golden chance for Pete Haines’ side in the 42nd minute, shooting over from inside the County box; this meant County went into the break level.
Byron Anthony’s side made one substitution at half-time, with Josh Williams coming off for Ioan Evans as County looked to break the deadlock in the second-half.
County ‘keeper Matt Mayor was forced into a routine save in the 50th minute catching Lloyd’s header easily. Three minutes later, the hosts should’ve been a goal down. Captain Lewis Collins played a brilliant ball from the right into the path of Liam Bishop, who couldn’t get any contact on the ball in the air, had he even got a touch on it, the Young Exiles would’ve been ahead.
Owura Edwards might have had a penalty four minutes later after being brought down in the box, but the referee decided it was a fair challenge. Only a minute later, Lewis Collins was through on the far right byline, but was ruled offside.
Matt Mayor made a brilliant stop in the 60th minute, intercepting a cross which seemed destined to land on the head of Archie Brennan, but the County keeper bravely punched the cross away.
Cheltenham made a double substitution with 64 minutes gone, as Charlie Stanton and Ollie Price came on for Aaron Bastord and Tom Chamberlain. Only a minute later, County’s Logan Bowkett came off for Callum Jones.
Matt Mayor made another brilliant save in the 67th minute, when he produced a phenomenal point-blank save to keep the scores level. Lewis Collins played a brilliant ball into Hillman, but it was blocked by Cheltenham’s Tom Handley and went out for a corner.
Hillman would get his chance from the resulting corner, when he put the ball past Lapworth in the 71st minute, taking advantage of a hectic Cheltenham box, putting County 1-0 up.
Shay Snell came on for Liam Bishop as the Young Exiles made their third substitution of the afternoon, looking to hold on for their second win of 2018.
The Robins kept putting pressure on the County backline, and in the 82nd minute, substitute Callum Jones had to make a brilliant clearance off the line to keep County’s lead intact, but then soon enogh Cheltenham were level through Ryan New with 83 minutes played.
Pete Haines’ side continued to search for another goal, and only a minute later, an in-swinging delivery into the box caused chaos, before substitute Charlie Stanton scored his first of the game to put his side ahead 2-1.
Lewis Johnson came on for Owen Taylor in the 88th minute, and it looked to be a vital change. The midfielder received a pass from Tom Hillman in stoppage time from about 30 yards-out, before he produced a brilliant strike which went over Lapworth and into the back of the net maintaining County’s unbeaten start to 2018.
After the game, Academy Manager Byron Anthony had this to say on the match: “The game was a very hard-fought encounter, with both sides having limited chances throughout.
If we had a little bit more quality in the final-third, we would have walked away with a comfortable win, but the players showed great character and effort to pick up a point in the final minutes.”
County Starting XI: Mayor, George, Bowkett (Jones 65’), Murray, Beckett, Williams (Evans 45’), Taylor (Johnson 88’), Hillman, Collins (c), Edwards, Bishop (Snell 80’).
Subs Not Used: Callum Brain.