Burton Albion 0-3 Bradford CityDespite the score line Saturday was a fairly even game played between two relatively young sides keen to give their younger players some pitch time in the Youth Alliance. Within 60 seconds Bradford City were allowed to carry the ball into the box and a shot from 8 yards went narrowly over only for them to score from a similar run into the box soon after. Bradford doubled the lead from a corner to go 2-0 up within 20 minutes. The visitors added a third in the second half with a through ball and near post finish to end a 6 game unbeaten run for the Brewer's. The young Brewers side played well in spells but were unable to score for only the second time this season despite creating a number of good chances.
Despite defeat, Saturday's game highlighted many positives for Burton Albion u18s going into next season. With a total of 6 second year scholars currently out on loan at Evo-stik Northern Premier League Premier Division and First Division South sides, the current u18s playing group proves a mix of current first year scholars and u16 players, with Saturdays squad including all but 1 of next season's intake. Since the turn of the year u16 players that will be joining the Youth Team next season have had the opportunity to gain playing experience in the Youth Alliance in order make the transition from u16 to u18 football at the earliest point to further aid their development and experience as young players. Reece Hutchinson and Charlie Dowd have played a part in the recent run of 6 games unbeaten as has Tristan Thompson-Matthews, scoring 2 in 2 games. Jake Davies, Max Smith, Jake Saville and Joe Brown have also featured in a positive season to date with James Harrison, Luke Tandy and Callum Hawkins having also benefited from being involved in match squads. It's a testament to these young Academy players that they are able to compete and contribute against often older players in the Youth Alliance competition with the experiences they gain from doing so helping challenge them as players.
It's also a testament to the standard and ability of the aforementioned second year scholars that have earned playing time at step 3 and step 4 of the non-league pyramid at 18 years of age. Marcus Dinanga (Mickleover Sports), Jack O'Brien (Belper Town), Charlie Hornby (Loughborough Dynamo), Mirza Sejdić, Michael Pearson and Brad Smith (Gresley) have all played active roles at their respective lone clubs and are gaining further valuable playing experience.
The u18s group are looking forward to the last 3 games of the season against Lincoln City, Doncaster Rovers and Scunthorpe United and will be striving to finish a positive season to date strongly with more individual and team performances.