City's Development side completed a double over their Sevenside counterparts on Wednesday evening with a 3-2 win against Bristol City at Ashton Gate.
The crowd of 118 didn’t have to wait long for an opening goal, as Rhys Healey scored his fourth in six games for the development side. Slovenian forward Etien Velikonja broke down the right hand side before cutting infield and trying his luck with a left footed drive. The striker's shot was blocked, but up-stepped Healey to control the ball inside the penalty area and fire home beyond the despairing dive of Dylan Castanheira to give the away side an advantage after thirty five seconds.
The home side levelled the game on six minutes though, as a dangerous corner from Tobi Ajala was finished off by striker Kevin Krans at close range to equalise for the Robins.
Cardiff retook the lead from the penalty spot when Rhys Healey was felled by Pierce Mitchell. Slovakian midfielder Filip Kiss’ penalty smashed into the back of the net off the underside of the crossbar, giving American ‘keeper Castanheira no chance.
Kevin Cooper’s men couldn’t keep their lead going into the break however, as Krans scored a second goal for his side. The forward was released through on goal and kept calm, holding off the Cardiff defence and slotting the ball past Joe Lewis.
In a more subdued second period, the crucial goal came following the match's first substitution. Declan John returned to Cooper’s squad for the first time in a month following injury and the seventeen year old came off the bench to turn the tie in Cardiff’s favour. The home defence struggled to clear a Joe Ralls corner and with his first touch, fired the ball on the volley, through the crowd and into the back of the net to seal a hard fought victory. The Development side returned to the top of Professional Development League 2 South with three points, while a win at Barnet next week will confirm their place in the end of season Play-Offs.
Kevin Cooper made three changes to the side that defeated Ipswich Town at Cardiff City Stadium last time out. After missing the Ipswich game due to a facial injury, Joe Ralls returned to the development side starting eleven, while there were also places for experienced duo Joe Lewis and Simon Lappin. For the first time since the away trip to Charlton Athletic on February 18th, Declan John was included in the development squad following his recent battle with injury.
After falling behind early on in their last away game, City’s young stars came out of the blocks flying against Bristol City and opened the scoring almost immediately. Etien Velikonja broke down the right wing and after cutting inside, the forward shot towards goal. The ball deflecting to the feet of former Welsh Premier League striker Rhys Healey who continued his rich vein of goal-scoring form by lashing the ball into the back of the net from ten yards with just thirty five seconds gone.
GOAL! BRISTOL CITY DVP 0-1 CARDIFF CITY DVP (Rhys Healey, 1 min)
The young home side showed strength and determination despite falling behind so early in the game and they managed to level the score after six minutes. A dangerous corner from Tobi Ajala was finished off by striker Kevin Krans at close range to equalise for the Robins. Ajala went close to giving his side the lead just a minute later but he fired over the bar with just Lewis to beat.
GOAL! BRISTOL CITY DVP 1-1 CARDIFF CITY DVP (Kevin Krans, 6 mins)
Ajala, who recently returned to Bristol after a loan spell with Neil Ardley’s AFC Wimbledon, was testing City’s resolve with his dangerous corners continually troubling the away side and Alex Russell’s side nearly scored again after seventeen minutes. City’s defence failed to clear the forwards set piece and Welshman Miles John’s shot from the edge of the area went just wide of Joe Lewis’ post.
The home side were enjoying possession but the skill of Healey gave Cardiff a chance to regain the lead after thirty three minutes. The forward received the ball inside the area courtesy of a deflection and showed real skill in flicking the ball over Pierce Mitchell, the defender brought Healey down in the box and referee Samuel Oggles pointed to the spot. Slovakian midfielder Filip Kiss clinically despatched the penalty kick for Cooper’s side, the ball cannoning into the net off the underside of the bar to give City a one goal cushion, and give Kiss his fifth goal of the campaign for the development side.
GOAL! BRISTOL CITY DVP 1-2 CARDIFF CITY DVP (Filip Kiss PEN, 33 mins)
Cardiff had Joe Lewis to thank for staying ahead after thirty six minutes when the former Peterborough man was forced to dive the full length of his goal to deny Krans a second goal. The forward drove towards goal and struck a fantastic shot that looked destined for the top corner only for Lewis to tip the ball onto the crossbar at the last moment.
As the first half drew to a close, Velikonja will have felt he should have doubled City’s advantage when he received the ball a couple of yards out. The strong winds that blew through Ashton Gate seemed to take the ball away from the Slovenian’s feet as he went to tap the ball home. This miss was made even more significant two minutes later as Bristol City levelled the game for a second time with the last kick of the first half.
The combination of Krans and twenty one year old Ajala in attack for Bristol City were keeping the away side’s defence fully on their toes and it was Krans who managed to break in behind the back line and despite intense pressure the striker poked the ball past Lewis and into the bottom corner of the goal, the ‘keeper helpless as the ball trickled into the net off the inside post.
GOAL! BRISTOL CITY DVP 2-2 CARDIFF CITY DVP (Kevin Krans, 45 mins)
HALF TIME: BRISTOL CITY DVP 2-2 CARDIFF CITY DVP
The opening chance of the second period fell to Bristol City and forward Elan Gordon. In a 4-3-3 formation for Bristol City, the forward had been somewhat outplayed by fellow forwards Alaja and Krans but he broke towards goal with real intent on forty eight minutes, leaving the Cardiff defence for dead and beating Lewis with a low drive that ricocheted to safety off the post.
Top scorer Etien Velikonja should have given the away side a third goal of the game after fifty six minutes when he was played in on goal, the normally composed forward poked the ball over the crossbar while stretching to reach the opportunity. Velikonja was involved in the move that brought about City’s next goal though when he nodded down a cross for Healey to shoot for goal, the former Gap Connah’s Quay striker’s shot was deflected wide for a corner.
Substitution Cardiff City: Declan John replaces Theo Wharton (67 mins)
Declan John was introduced for Cooper’s men on sixty seven minutes in a somewhat unfamiliar position. Primarily a left back, the speedy seventeen year old was operating on the right wing for City as Kadeem Harris attacked the left hand side. This experimental tactic seemed to work wonders for the away side as with his first touch John gave City the lead again. The corner following Healey’s chance was taken by Ralls, and when the Bristol defence couldn’t clear John struck the ball perfectly on the half volley with his left footed drive parting the crowd and hitting the roof of the net.
GOAL! BRISTOL CITY DVP 2-3 CARDIFF CITY DVP (Declan John, 68 mins)
Substitution Bristol City: Jamie Horgan replaces Miles John (73 mins)
John showed no signs of fatigue during his twenty two minute run out and the Wales U17 international nearly scored a second goal on eighty one minutes in a fine individual move. After breaking down the right hand side, the youngster cut inside, leaving two Bristol City defenders in his wake before striking low towards the bottom right corner of Castanheira’s goal, the American-born ‘keeper just palming John’s shot to safety.
Substitution Bristol City: Jamal Simms replaces Jack Batten (87 mins)
Substitution Cardiff City: Kane Owen replaces Kadeem Harris (90 mins)
City closed out a hard fought win in the final few minutes, keeping control of the ball and looking the more likely side to score again. It was a further three crucial points for Cooper’s men in the race for the play-off spots. A top two spot can be confirmed for the Welsh Capital’s development side with a win over Barnet next Wednesday.
FULL TIME: BRISTOL CITY DVP 2-3 CARDIFF CITY DVP
Cardiff City: Lewis, Coulson, Lappin, Yorwerth, Oshilaja, Kiss, Wharton (John, 67), Ralls, Velikonja, Healey, Harris (Owen, 90). Subs Not Used: Richards (GK), O’Sullivan, Bell.
Bristol City: Castanheira, Battersby, Pegg, Batten (Simms, 87), Mitchell, Jones, Dobbie, John (Horgan, 73), Krans, Ajala, Gordon. Subs Not Used: Perndreu (GK), Abbott, Paice.