Striker Conor Falls nets brace in Youth Alliance victory
- Harrogate Town 1-2 Huddersfield Town Under-19s
- Northern Irish striker Conor Falls scores both goals
- Important minutes for several returning players
The Under-19 group got a lot of use out of the latest EFL Youth Alliance game of the season on Saturday morning, beating hosts Harrogate Town 2-1.
With the game coming just two days after the FA Youth Cup tie against Ipswich Town on Thursday, coaches George Danaher and Michael Tonge shuffled their pack for the fixture, using the game to get important minutes in the legs of several players.
One of those was Northern Ireland Under-19 international striker Conor Falls (pictured above), who showed real class during his hour on the pitch to score both goals.
Alongside Falls, Aaron Ojungu made his first start following his own injury, managing just over an hour on the right wing.
Town started in a 4-2-3-1 formation, but built on the ball in a back three with central midfielder Dylan Helliwell dropping between the two centre backs. However, the Young Terriers found the going difficult in the opening 20 minutes on a sticky pitch at York St John University.
Harrogate made the running early on, testing Town stopper Francis Hurl with a 20-yard drive inside the seventh minute before striker Elijah Samuels headed another effort wide of Town’s goal moments later.
Hurl made a good, full-length save to his right to deny Samuels again two minutes later, but was powerless to stop the opener in the 12th minute. Town centre back Archie Sheppard – who was one of Town’s best players on the day – misplaced a defensive header to a Harrogate man, and his pass found teammate Finn O’Boyle as he pulled off the back of our trialist Isaac Acquah. O’Boyle took one touch before firing past Hurl at close range.
Falls was needed to clear two efforts from corners off the line as Harrogate continued to make the running - and then the flow of the game changed after the 20-minute mark.
Coach Danaher switched midfielders Michael Stone and Temi Okuwa, with captain Stone dropping into a deeper position, and he immediately sparked our best attacking move of the game to date. His pass to left back Ajay Weston allowed the defender to find the run of winger Hakeem Sandah down the left, and Sandah went past the full back before crossing to the penalty spot, where Falls swept the ball inches over the crossbar.
Town did even better a minute later, finding the equaliser. The move came down the left again, with Helliwell finding Sandah and the winger returning the favour, playing Weston into space down the left. Ajay took one touch before sending a perfect cross towards the back post, where Falls cushioned a volley across the goalkeeper expertly and into the far corner.
That goal gave Town a foothold in the game, and they scored the second minutes before the half time interval. Sheppard did brilliantly initially, securing the ball and working his way out of an intense Harrogate press before passing to Helliwell. He fired it across to the right for trialist full back Acquah – younger brother of our goalkeeper Michael – who carried the ball past the first defender before jinking past a second down the dead ball line and pulling back to Falls, who sent another delicate finish into the corner!
Town finished the half strongly, with Okuwa seeing a good-looking shot blocked 20 yards out after a fantastic dummy from Falls. The striker had a chance to secure a first half hat-trick in added time when he latched onto a ball over the top from Weston, but his attempted clip over the goalkeeper drifted wide of target.
The second half had far fewer chances as both sides made substitutions and took fewer chances with the surface.
Harrogate’s staff grew frustrated with the referee as they saw two penalty shouts waved away – one after a collision between Hurl and an attacker and the second surrounding a challenge from Omari Mrisho.
At the other end, substitute Michael Parker got his head to a fantastic cross from the right from Stone, forcing goalkeeper Mooney to claw the ball away acrobatically, and fellow sub Tyree Sanusi forced the custodian into a low save with a late drive.
The home side’s best chance came right at the death after sub Freddie Fletcher missed his clearance completely. That allowed a forward to drive towards the penalty area before slipping a pass to a teammate, but Francis Hurl came to the rescue – pushing the ball against the post.
Town’s team (4-2-3-1)
Francis Hurl; Isaac Acquah, Omari Mrisho, Archie Sheppard, Ajay Weston; Dylan Helliwell, Temi Okuwa (Freddie Fletcher, 54’); Aaron Ojungu (Hazeem Bakre, 49’), Michael Stone (c), Hakeem Sandah (Tyree Sanusi, 49’); Conor Falls (Michael Parker, 59’)
Conor Falls (22’, 42’)
Michael Stone (73’), Isaac Acquah (90+3’)