U23s Still Without a Point After Forest Defeat
Monday, 9th Sep 2019 21:55 by James Ager
Town's U23s suffered the fourth consecutive defeat of their Professional Development League Two South season as they were well beaten 3-1 by Nottingham Forest at Portman Road on Monday evening. Idris El Mizouni pulled a goal back for the Blues just before the break after Yassine En-Neyah and Will Swan had put the visitors in control, before Zach Clough sealed the win midway through the second half.
Trialist George Heaven lined-up on the right side of a three-man backline with Toto Nsiala - playing his first game after his pre-season hamstring injury - in the middle, while Will Keane and Ben Folami both started up front and continued their return from injuries.
El Mizouni had been due to be with the Tunisia U23s squad but the 18-year-old ultimately wasn’t able to make the trip to Cameroon for their first leg match, which they lost 1-0, as he hadn’t undergone the required vaccinations and it was subsequently decided that he wouldn’t fly out for the second leg on Tuesday.
Boss Paul Lambert was watching the game, as was, perhaps surprisingly, his former Norwich striker Grant Holt, also a former Forest frontman, sitting with Blues first-team coach Matt Gill, a one-time team-mate at Carrow Road. Holt played and scored for Wroxham at Woodbridge Town on Saturday afternoon.
After a five-minute delay to kick-off while Harry Wright changed from a light grey to a green strip, with the visitors playing in all white, Folami saw an early shot go wide but the visitors then took the lead after just four minutes.
Danny Preston's corner from the left was met by the head of En-Neyah and he powered his header beyond the helpless Wright.
Keith Asare then played a fine ball through to release Swan but he curled an effort just wide of the far top corner, before Nsiala did well to block a goalbound effort from Asare with his head after Corrie Ndaba had given the ball away just outside the Town box.
On the half-hour mark, Keane did well to hold off a Forest defender as he carried the ball towards the danger area and he found strike partner Folami with a good pass, but the Australian could only hit the top of the side netting from a tight angle.
And five minutes later Town found themselves two goals behind when a low ball into the box was missed by both Heaven and Nsiala, and although Wright did well to block Swan's initial effort, the striker had little problem in toe-poking the rebound over the line and into the far bottom corner.
Folami and Keane then combined to bring the young Blues back into the game a minute before the break - the former ran onto the ball and played it into Keane's feet and the ex-Manchester United frontman played a neat first time pass into El Mizouni, who took a touch and turned before firing a low right-foot shot beyond George Shelvey.
Despite being on the back foot for much of the half, Town came close to levelling the scores on the stroke of half-time when El Mizouni picked up a loose ball and hit a 25-yard effort that Shelvey had to tip over the bar.
Two minutes after the restart Heaven headed Brett McGavin's corner onto the roof of the net, shortly before Wright tipped the ball round his post at the other end after it had inadvertently been directed towards his own goal by Heaven following a dangerous cross from En-Neyah.
On 57 Nsiala was booked for dissent and was then substituted a few minutes later in what appeared a planned move, although it looked as though he may not have been far away from receiving a second yellow as he continued to argue with the referee. Barry Cotter came on and played on the right-side of the back three, with Heaven moving to the centre.
Ten minutes later, Forest wrapped up the win when a fine low ball across the six-yard box from left-back Preston was tapped in at the back post by the unmarked Clough.
Although Town created a couple of half-chances they didn't really manage to test Shelvey, although centre-back Jordan Lawrence-Gabriel was lucky not to be shown a straight red card for a cynical pull back on Kai Brown's shirt as the substitute latched onto a ball over the top from Cotter and was approaching the penalty area. The resultant freekick on the edge of the D was blazed well over by El Mizouni.
In the last few minutes of the game, Lawrence-Gabriel dived in the way of a snap-shot from El Mizouni and did well to block it after McGavin's freekick hadn't been cleared, before another fine pass from Preston released Swan, but the striker saw his effort land just wide of Wright's far post.
Although neither of them saw too much of the ball, both Keane and Folami showed some neat touches and will have been pleased to get just over an hour under their belts.
Nsiala looked fairly comfortable but will have been disappointed with Forest's second goal in particular, as will his defensive partner Heaven. The former Leicester academy defender won most of his aerial battles and was often able to find a pass out of defence, and it would be no surprise if Gerard Nash took another look at the trialist in the coming weeks.
U23s: Wright, Crowe, Clements, Heaven, Nsiala (Cotter 60), Ndaba, El Mizouni, Scott, Keane (K Brown 63), McGavin, Folami (Simpson 63). Unused: Alley, Foudil.
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