Team: Deane, Harriman, Sanderson, Doughty, O’Donnell, Olley, Bewick, Gibbons, Henry-Francis, Graham, Sharif.
The draw for the 3rd Round of the FA Youth Cup was made recently and the U18’s will be up against Nottingham Forest at Loftus Road on Tuesday 7th December, kick-off 7pm. Following his call-up to the Northern Ireland U21 squad, 16-year-old Gareth Deane made it to the bench last week for the match against Scotland, better luck next time Gareth. I noticed that the recently installed gates leading from the Gym/dressing rooms were still missing on Saturday !
Mo Sharif was in lively form again and after 11 minutes, he won a free kick after he was fouled just outside the right-hand corner of the penalty area. Michael Doughty loves to take them from those sort of positions and he swung the ball into the top corner despite the keeper just managing to get his fingers to it. Another superb free kick and a well deserved lead. Mo Sharif cut in and forced the keeper down to push the ball round for a corner. He was involved again when he dropped his shoulder, twisted and turned defenders as he made his way into the box and his low drive was well saved by the keeper’s legs and out for a corner. With this amount of supremacy, the R’s really were looking for that all important second goal. Next it was Jordan Gibbons who pulled the trigger from 25 yards and again the keeper went down to save and push round for another corner.
At the other end, two decisive punches from Gareth Deane in quick succession kept the Hatters at bay. A Luton player was booked and Rangers were awarded a free-kick from an almost identical position as Michael Doughty’s 11th minute goal, but this time the ball strayed just past the post. Rangers were dominating, but it was noticeable that the visitors were gaining more possession. But Mo Sharif was still looking dangerous and another great run down the right flank saw him cut in, but it came to nothing unfortunately. Luton really should of equalised when a free header whizzed just past the post. The referee blew his whistle and we headed up-field to take up our positions for the second half.
A soft but increasingly icy wind blew across the training ground as the temperature began to fall. Jordan Walker replaced Jordan Gibbons and ‘Bags’ Graham took up a wide position. After a lovely run by Michael Doughty down the right flank, he darted inside and laid the ball off into a mass of players which was then cleared for a corner. Still no second goal and the visitors then had the audacity to equalise. The ball was knocked out to the right wing where the Luton player, in loads of space, then headed route one into the box and belted the ball into the net. I think Gareth Deane got his hands to it but it was now 1-1 with around 25 minutes to go. It was getting darker and colder and the floodlights would normally of come on. Mo Sharif burst through three defenders and his shot, hard and low, hit the side netting.
With about 20 minutes remaining, Marcel Henry-Francis went down with what we thought might of been cramp and eventually he was lead from the field, surprisingly he came back on again. Soon after, a shot was lined up for him in the box, but he skied the ball over the bar. He hadn’t managed to run off whatever was niggling him and Adam Francis then replaced him. Michael Doughty is always in the thick of it and he was brought down just outside the penalty area. His free kick smashed against the Luton wall amid appeals for handball.
Michael Harriman is known for his regular sorties upfield and I noticed that our other fullback, Tony Sanderson, was venturing forward more and more. A long cross, deep over from the left, found Michael Doughty in acres of space, but he clipped the ball wide. The chances were still coming and Adam Francis volleyed just wide. Another move started following a lovely meaty interception by Sam Bewick, but it came to nothing unfortunately. Mo Sharif who proved to be a real handful for the opposition, had the ball in the net a few minutes from the end but it was given offside.
So the winning run came to an end despite another very good performance. I was pleased to meet an R’s fan from Thame in Oxfordshire and the rest of the Saturday Morning Crew included, Alan Barnes, Robbie Bennett, Sean, Roger Stokes , Joe English plus Pat and Tom Harrison. Thanks to Joe for the lift back to the Bush.