Bray Wanderers v QPR U21’s

Team: Aaron Lennox, Darnell Furlong, Osman Kakay, Brad Spencer, Harly Wise, Cole Kpekawa, Brandon Comley, Josh Hunt-Laurent (captain), Olamide Shodipo, Reece Grego-Cox, Shpat Ismaji.

Subs: Aaron Mitchell, David Raise, James Harran, George Butler, Ben Pattie.

A day out by the sea they said. A day in the sunshine they said. After all, the country’s been awash with sunshine all week hasn’t it.

So as referee Paula Brady signalled for kick-off in the Carlisle Grounds in Bray, Co. Wicklow, at 2.20pm, we were all sitting in the covered main stand in our coats as the rain lashed down.

I collected my match programme and team sheet and joined the QPR fans in the main stand. I met some old friends – Paul Connolly and his dad John, Kevin Brennan who I met earlier in the week at the Limerick game with Geo. I also met some new friends who I only knew through the Irish R’s facebook page; Graeme McDermott from Belfast via Telford and Jan Age Pettersen and his son Elliott. There were other QPR fans scattered throughout the main stand too. In a crowd of approximately 200 there were 40 QPR supporters.

I told the lads to keep an eye on our No.9, Reece Grego-Cox, as he’s an Ireland U17 international and sub Aaron Mitchell. I had only seen Mitchell play twice before for the U18’s two seasons ago at the Harlington training ground and he really impressed me with his tenacious tackling and overall attitude.

The first time I saw Grego-Cox was in Limerick four days ago. He came on as sub for the second-half and he too impressed me. He harried the defence at every opportunity and wasn’t afraid to get stuck in and could stand his ground, not like a lot of players you see now who would rather go over all too easily instead of staying on their feet. And he wasn’t afraid to shoot from every angle.

Other names I mentioned – as had been mentioned to me by manager Steve Gallen in Limerick were Darnell Furlong – Paul’s son, who made me feel old as I had watched Paul come through the ranks at QPR back in the 80’s! And Harly Wise, Dennis Wise’s cousin’s son – I hope I’ve got that bit of family history right?

Olamide Shadipo was another one to watch, a young Dublin-born player on the left-wing. Also, Brad Spencer, son of John, formerly of QPR and that team that play in blue in SW6, Paul Connolly told me to keep an eye on George Butler, who was named on the bench, as he had met his mum and dad before the game; they were over on a day trip to see their son.
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Back to the game.and the lashing rain did not deter QPR who got off to a lively start as on 5 minutes, Shpat Ismaji and Brandon Comley combined well in the penalty area, Ismaji rounded the keeper, but was too wide to shoot himself so he pulled the ball back for Comley to shoot, but his shot was just wide of the far post.

On 18 minutes Harly Wise gave away a free kick 20 yards out, but luckily the Bray player’s shot was just wide of the near post. Two minutes later, QPR goalkeeper Aaron Lennox was called into action as he pushed a shot around the far post for a corner. The corner was cleared.

During half-time and in typical fashion, the only woman in the group had to organise the new setting of the Telford QPR flag on the far side of the ground. It was all too much for Paul Connolly to walk around the ground to help Graeme McDermott re-locate the flag.

After the break, a QPR corner was cleared, which resulted in the opening goal on 48 minutes. Young Ryan Coombes, a well-known name in a young Bray team this afternoon, ran with the ball from midfield and unleashed an almighty shot from 25 yards that flew in to the top right-hand corner of the net. Lennox had no chance of stopping that one.

Not long after, Reece Grego-Cox – who was being watched by Ireland U17 manager Paul Doolln (who I tipped off during the week would be playing in Bray today) – had a shot from outside the 18-yard area which the keeper pushed over the bar. From the resultant corner Cole Kpekawa saw his header go just wide of the near post on the hour mark.

Ten minutes later, Grego-Cox sized up the keeper and took his time in teeing up his shot which the keeper did well to tip over the bar. Within a minute, sub Ben Pattie had a shot from outside the area pushed around the post for a corner. His effort from the corner was disallowed by the assistant referee.
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QPR were piling on the pressure and two minutes later, sub Aaron Mitchell equalised. I would love to tell you what a beautiful goal it was but I missed it! As Mitchell and his team mates celebrated on the pitch, the band of QPR fans sitting in the main stand broke into song as if we were at Loftus Road. You all know the words – ‘da da da da HOOPS da da da da’!!!

My QPR friends around me informed me that it was a shot from 20 yards. The reason I missed the goal was that the PA announcer chose this moment to announce the winner of a signed Bray shirt and the winner was sitting beside me, young Elliott Age Pettersen.

It finished 1-1 and it was a good game played in the right manner and it was a lovely gesture of the young QPR players to come over to the fans to applaud us at the end of the game.

Both sides were without their favoured selections as Bray’s first team have a re-arranged league fixture to fulfil tomorrow and many of the players Steve Gallen would have taken on this trip were in Germany with the QPR first team squad.

So although this was billed as an under-21 squad it was mainly 17 to 19 year olds and they did themselves proud. We all hope that we see more of this squad over in Ireland again and one day hopefully in the first team. It’s been too long since one of our own has made it through to the first team and really been given a chance.

I had a chat with Reece Grego-Cox, Aaron Mitchell and Darnell Furlong as they boarded the team bus and I grabbed a photo with Grego-Cox and Mitchell. I had to hang around as the bus was blocking my car and I was hardly going to ask the bus driver to move just so I could get out. Though Steve Gallen did take his time getting on the bus once he realised I was blocked in!

The Irish R’s are now looking forward to welcoming the first team squad next week, who knows, Harry might take one or two of these lads back over after the results in Germany this never know!

Sharon Smith – Irish R

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