U18s Lift Midland Youth Cup

The Imps Youth Team showed tremendous resilience and maturity to come from behind twice and overcome an excellent Shrewsbury side to win the 2014 Midland Youth Cup.

The game kicked off at the Greenhous Meadows Stadium in glorious sunshine and it was the hosts who started well, dominating possession in what was a frantic and eventful opening few minutes.

Shrewsbury opened the scoring on nine minutes when a wide free kick was only half-cleared and David Easthope smashed home past Henry Smith, but just two minutes later the Imps were level when Mason Love followed up an Alex Simmons effort to finish from close range. However just one minute later and a mix up in the Imps defence let the ball fall to Easthope who smashed home a brilliant volley from long range.

The game slowly settled down and City began to get a foothold in midfield, and on 20 minutes a slick move found Kegan Everington whose brilliant volley flew just wide. The industrious Rob Smith was causing problems with his movement and link up play with Simmons and Matt Cotton, and Matt Bowles fired just wide at full stretch.

The Imps were forced into a change on the half hour so U16 Cenk Acar replaced goal scorer Love, and the young substitute soon made an impact when he forced the ball home from close range following a goalmouth scramble. There was still time for Simmons to force another save as the Imps finished the half on top, but the scores remained level at the break.

City began the second half brilliantly and within a minute of the restart Simmons flashed a cross into the six yard box and Rob Smith was inches from making contact. Another quick counter attack and Cotton’s perfectly weighted pass found Acar but Callum Burton spread himself to make a brilliant point blank save and show why he is a regular in the England squad.

Cotton and Simmons were now causing Shrewsbury’s back line all sorts of problems and the Imps were rewarded on 55 minutes when another low cross fell to Smith who took his time and smashed City in front from ten yards.

On the hour, the excellent Kieran Walker was replaced by Nick Green as the Imps looked to freshen up the back four which was marshalled superbly once again by skipper Callum Ward alongside first year scholar Jordon Cooke.

Henry Smith was being rarely troubled in the Imps goal but was assured when needed to claim a dangerous free kick under pressure. But it was City’s energy in the attacking half which was dominating the game, and it was another lightning break which led to the fourth when Simmons again found Smith breaking from midfield and he remained the calmest man on the pitch to finish brilliantly first time.

City were now rampant and yet another break found Cotton who was fouled on the edge of the box. A cleverly worked set piece released Simmons who smashed from distance but the brilliant Town goalkeeper tipped it over the bar.

Josh Barr-Rostron replaced man of the match Rob Smith as the Imps looked to see the game out and in the closing stages there was still time for Bowles to fire inches wide after a deflection, before the final whistle brought scenes of jubilation among the Imps youngsters.

A special mention for young full back Marlon Grundy who enjoyed a terrific afternoon against the home side’s very dangerous winger. After a difficult start, Grundy grew in confidence and finished the game on the front foot, and along with everyone else in an Imps shirt he won his own individual battle. And a big thank you too to the many Imps supporters who made the long journey to support the Academy’s youngsters.

Secretary of the Midland Youth Cup committee, Mike Penn, then presented City captain Callum Ward with the trophy as the Imps were crowned Midland Youth Cup champions for the second time in three years.

Imps: Henry Smith, Marlon Grundy, Kieran Walker (Nick Green 58), Kegan Everington, Callum Ward, Jordon Cooke, Alex Simmons, Matthew Bowles, Mason Love (Cenk Acar 35), Matthew Cotton, Rob Smith (Josh Barr-Rostron 84). Subs: Andrew Wright, Richard Walton.