Puma Youth Alliance Cup 2nd Round (last 16)
Team: Goodchild, Coyne, Ford, Harris, Brown, O’Brien, Vanterpool, Arthur, German, Rose, Balanta.
Subs used: Cox for Vanterpool, Morgan-Cummings for Rose and Massey for Balanta
Rangers deserved to win this Cup tie on the weight of chances created but Luton were still in the game right up until the second goal in the closing stages which finally confirmed victory. Youth Team boss Steve Brown continued with his preferred 4-3-3 formation. The line-up had a very settled look and the team has really pushed on in recent weeks, including gaining experience at Reserve Team level. What really catches the eye though, are the strikers – they are scoring at will (9 out of the 12 scored in the previous two Youth Team games) and has taken their combined tally to 24 goals in 12 matches before the game on Saturday.
Despite this, Luton started well and might have been ahead early on without the fine save from Chris Goodchild. It wasn’t long though before Rangers started to pose a threat and the main action was happening close to the ‘Harlington regulars’ who were watching from their usual spot near the corner flag. Cyrus Vanterpool, Chris Arthur and the overlapping Lee Brown were combining superbly down the left hand side, creating chances for Angelo Balanta to shoot just over and for Arthur to see his low cross scrambled behind for a corner. More left wing crosses were contested by the powerful Antonio German coming in from the right and Romone Rose was working hard to press the ball as usual.
Unfortunately during this period, the final ball was often disappointing and most of the shots were not testing the Luton keeper as the boys were choosing power over accuracy. There were a couple of lucky escapes too, firstly when the Luton striker could not connect properly from 8 yards out when left unmarked and another when an attack down the R’s left hand side finished with a cross shot going just wide. In the last 20 minutes of the half though, Rangers started to dominate even more. Arthur and Rose were delivering teasing crosses from each flank and Balanta’s close control and dribbling skills were much in evidence. One move saw Balanta release Brown and his low cross just eluded a sliding German in the centre. Another started when Goodchild punched clear for Arthur and Balanta to combine well, travelling the full length of the pitch to finally set up German who turned smartly in the area and toe-poked a shot just wide. Despite this strong attacking play, Rangers almost conceded on the stroke of half time with a dangerous cross from the right causing some panic before the ball was finally cleared. Half Time: 0-0
Elliot Cox replaced Vanterpool at half time and slotted in at right back with the captain, Billy Coyne,moving into the centre of midfield. Robbie informed us all that this was Elliot’s debut for the U18’s. The visitors had the first chance of the 2nd half (QPR can be slow to get going at the start of each half) but before long Rangers were attacking again. 5 minutes into the half, Matt O’Brien tried to force his way past a couple of players on the right hand side but was tripped. From the resulting free-kick, Arthur swung in an excellent in-swinging cross and Antonio German rose the highest to divert a firm header into the top corner. The home side piled forward after this and created plenty of chances in an effort to wrap the game up. Rose broke free and rounded the keeper but chose to shoot from a wide angle when a cross to the supporting striker may have been the better option.
Brown, overlapping again, fired in a great cross and a firm header from German brought the best out of the Luton stopper who had to be at full stretch to tip his effort round the post. Rose and German had swapped positions by now and another good run and cross from Rose down the right was superbly turned in by Balanta but the goal was ruled out for offside, a decision which was hotly disputed by Robbie ! Another Brown cross from the left was hacked clear and then Rose used his speed to outpace the left back and drive into the penalty area but his low cross was blocked away for a corner. Steve Brown made another substitution, replacing Rose with Aaron Morgan-Cummings on the right. Rose was playing well but perhaps he was being rested with further Reserve Team duties in mind ?
The change didn’t disrupt Rangers at all though with Arthur and Coyne (twice) testing the Luton keeper with shots from long range before Morgan powered through the middle and saw his shot parried by the keeper. The rebound fell just behind Balanta who could only hook his effort into the keeper’s arms. More attacking play followed and another flowing move starting with Coyne and O’Brien set Morgan away down the right. His ball in was dummied by Balanta in a classic ‘over’ and ran on to German whose first time pass put Balanta clear but his shot was blocked away for another corner. This was outstanding football from the lads ! From the left wing, Coyne fired in an excellent pacy in-swinging corner and the Luton sub could only deflect the ball past his own keeper into the top corner as he tried to clear, under pressure from German. 2-0 and ‘game over’. Rangers saw out the remainder of the game relatively untroubled. Balanta was replaced by Massey for the final couple of minutes.
So Rangers had made it through to the last eight of the Youth Alliance Cup with this win. The QPR strikers are proving a real handful for any team at this level and I’m looking forward to seeing if they can provide such a threat (if selected again) at Reserve level. I’m especially looking forward to the FA Youth Cup game against what will undoubtedly be a strong Ipswich Town side at Loftus Road on 5th December. An U17’s team kicked off later in a friendly against Northampton Town on the adjacent pitch. I think the final score was 5-0 to the R’s. Turning out this cold morning were, Alan Barnes, Rob Bennett, Steve, Clive snr, Roger Stokes, Joe English was 33 minutes late and Pat and Tom Harrison arrived later.