Rekeil Pyke's goal settles the game
- Town’s U21s move to top after beating Birmingham City
- Rekeil Pyke grabs his seventh goal of the U21 season to seal 1-0 win
- First-year scholar Lewis O’Brien shines on full Under-21 debut
Huddersfield Town’s Under-21s picked up a third win in four matches thanks to striker Rekeil Pyke’s second-half header.
That goal from the Academy scholar ensured a 1-0 victory over visitors Birmingham City at the John Smith’s Stadium, moving the Terriers back to the summit of the Professional Development League 2 North.
Frankie Bunn named five Under-18 scholars in his starting line-up, while Duane Holmes and Flo Bojaj were both unavailable for selection as they trained with David Wagner’s First Team squad.
19-year-old goalkeeper Andy Firth, on trial from Liverpool, was included, whilst there was a first start in the Development Squad for 17 year-old Lewis O’Brien.
The Terriers got off to a fine start and had the first opportunity of the contest through Regan Booty, who rifled inches over the bar from approximately 25 yards out. The Blues responded in fashion as Kyle McFarlane nearly turned home a cross from wide.
Soon after, Jack Senior strode forward purposefully and delivered a peach onto the head of Rekeil Pyke, who couldn’t muster enough contact on to the flighted ball and it drifted past the post.
As the entertaining open exchanges continued, Birmingham’s George O’Neill drew a fantastic tipped stop from Firth after a quick snapshot.
Huddersfield then had a spate of chances to take the lead, but were denied by a brave Birmingham defence. Pyke got an effort away which was saved, before Ronan Coughlan followed up with a sizzling drive that was blocked away from danger on the line by centre back Josh Martin.
The game would go through a quieter period until the 25th minute, when Jake Charles collected the ball from distance and powerfully shot goal-bound, but was thwarted by the heavily-involved visiting goalkeeper.
O’Brien almost made his full U21 debut even more memorable with a great moment on the half-hour mark. The energetic winger unleashed a volley from another Senior cross that cannoned off the crossbar and the visitors were let off the hook once more.
Not content with seeing his teammate nearly grab the headlines with a corking effort, Senior uncorked a spectacular try of his own as he ventured forward, but it blazed just wide of the mark.
And it was the busy left-back’s attacking play that was the route of Town’s next opening, as he teed it up nicely for Coughlan who saw his shot blocked by Steve Seddon.
Despite the West Midlands outfit showing flair in attack, they were struggling to carve out many clear-cut opportunities as the Terriers’ backline remained firm, with captain Joe Wilkinson and Fraser Horsfall winning the aerial challenges competitively at the back.
Huddersfield began the second period in fantastic style as they broke the deadlock. Ronan Coughlan sent in a ferocious corner for the head of Pyke who rose above his marker and power home for his seventh goal of the campaign.
After that, Town carried on producing offensive moves, forcing the away side back as they tried to get the ball wide and get crosses in. Regan Booty tried to match Coughlan’s set-piece exploits with crosses of his own which Horsfall latched on to the end of, but he couldn’t connect fully with two efforts.
The visitors looked to ease into the encounter but were finding it difficult to out-muscle, out-fight and out-run the Huddersfield defence who were standing up to the test of their physical opposition.
Sam Warde was introduced in Jamie Spencer’s place in the middle of midfield, while Callum Charlton was brought on for Jake Charles on the left-wing as Under-21s’ Coach Frankie Bunn attempted to freshen his side up. Both players were making their competitive debut at the level.
Buoyed by his goal, Pyke was proving to be a useful presence up top for the Terriers, running into the channels and holding up the ball successfully, frustrating the Blues.
Birmingham, who entered the game at the bottom of the Professional Development League Two North table, did try to get back into the match but couldn’t make the most of a number of set pieces they had.
In the last action of the game, they nearly did take advantage. Firth pushed the ball over the bar from Alex Jones before Town escaped punishment after a scramble in the box ensued before the ball hit the woodwork and bounced out fortuitously, much to Birmingham’s annoyance.
Referee Lee Freeman then called time on proceedings, to ensure Town recorded their 19th win of an outstanding season so far.
Highlights of the game will appear on HTTV
Town’s team (4-2-3-1):
Andy Firth; Jack Senior, Fraser Horsfall, Joe Wilkinson (c), Jacob Hanson; Regan Booty, Jamie Spencer (Sam Warde, 77’); Jake Charles (Callum Charlton, 87’), Ronan Coughlan (Jack Boyle, 90’), Lewis O’Brien; Rekeil Pyke
Ryan Schofield, Danny Kane