City U21s edged into second place in Trophy group by defeat at Cheltenham
- Credit: Archant
Norwich City Under-21s were edged out 1-0 by League Two side Cheltenham Town in the Papa John’s Trophy this evening - but the young Canaries will be in the hat for the first knockout round.
Both teams had won their opening two games so knew victory would seal top spot and a home draw against one of the southern group runners-up in the second round, with George Lloyd’s calm finish in the 67th minute proving the difference at Whaddon Road.
The City youngsters were without three of the players who started their impressive 5-0 win at Newport in their last group game, with Jon McCracken replacing Daniel Barden in goal.
Bali Mumba and Josh Martin were also not involved, having played for the first team against Swansea on Saturday, with Mumba replaced at right-back by Ethen Vaughan and Martin in attacking midfield by Josh Giurgi.
The hat-trick hero of that game did start though, with Tyrese Omotoye looking to add to his tally of seven goals in nine games.
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Cheltenham made eight changes from their 3-1 home win over non-league South Shields in the FA Cup first round and also started just three of the players who had started their last League Two game, a 2-1 loss at Oldham.
It was Omotoye making a lively start to a hard fought first half but the City striker was offside on three occasions, thumping a nice finish into the bottom-left corner in frustration after the second decision.
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He also saw a shot deflected through to 34-year-old keeper Scott Flinders but it was a half of few chances, with Lloyd close to turning home from close range after experienced striker Reuben Reid had headed down a cross from the left in the 32nd minute.
McCracken just about kept hold of an Alex Addai cross from the left with Lloyd closing him down five minutes later and Lloyd also lashed low beyond the far post just before the break, with a few Cheltenham calls for a penalty as well before half-time, for what looked to be a tame foul on Addai.
Norwich emerged from the break looking energetic again and Omotoye was denied by a fine Flinders save in the 54th minute, after being flicked clean through by Josh Giurgi, driving left footed towards the top-left corner after charging into the left channel.
There was a goal-saving block from Grant Horton in the 76th minute, preventing William Hondermarck from turning a Giurgi cross in from the right at the back post - and it proved crucial.
Within two a minutes a classy flick from Reid sent Lloyd clean through, McCracken spread himself but the forward calmly slotted past the Scot to open the scoring.
McCracken did well to tip over a shot from Robins substitute Tom Chamberlain five minutes later and at the other end Flinders denied Matthew Dennis an equaliser in the 74th minute, after cutting in from the left and lashing a low shot towards the near post.
With strikers Tom Dickson-Peters and Shae Hutchinson both brought on, McCracken went forward for a late corner but the visitors couldn’t force their way back into the game, with a composed performance lacking some cutting edge.
The regionalised draw for the second round has not yet been made, with ties due to be played on Tuesday, December 8 or Wednesday, December 9, with City now set for an away tie against one of the southern group winners in the last 32.
Last season nine academy teams progressed to the knockout stages but only Manchester United U21s won all three of their group games and Leicester’s youngsters were the only U21 side to make it as far as the quarter-finals, where they lost 1-0 at Newport.
The U21s of Manchester City and Chelsea have also made it to the quarter-finals since academy sides were invited into the revamped competition in 2016, with Norwich not competing in the previous two seasons but winning all three of their group games in 2016-17, beating Peterborough, Barnet and MK Dons comfortably.
City then suffered a disappointing 1-0 defeat to Swansea’s U21s at Carrow Road in the first knockout round, with Ben Godfrey, Josh Murphy and Sergi Canos among the players involved - although Godfrey was sent off in the first half.
Cheltenham (4-3-3): Flinders; Horton, Bowry, Raglan (C), Freestone; Sang, Clements, Chapman (Chamberlain 61); Addai, Reid (Ebanks 76), Lloyd (Blair 80). Unused subs: Harris (GK), Williams, Boyle, Sercombe
Booked: Addai (dissent, 67), Freeston (foul on Giurgi, 82), Ebanks (foul on McAlear, 87)
Goal: Lloyd (67)
Norwich U21s (4-2-3-1): McCracken (C); Vaughan, Omobamidele, Tomkinson, Nizet; Dronfield, McAlear; Giurgi, Dennis (Dickson-Peters 78), Hondermarck (Hutchinson 87); Omotoye. Unused subs: Blair (GK), Jackson, Khumbeni
Booked: Omotoye (unclear, 73)
Referee: Ollie Yates