Our Under-21s opened their Barclays Under-21 Premier League season on Sunday with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Manchester City.
Kit Symons’ team travelled to Hyde FC where they faced Patrick Viera’s City counterparts, and impressed with Cauley Woodrow’s double edging the Whites to all three points following an entertaining encounter.
A bright start from City saw Albert Rusnak flash a powerful effort narrowly wide and Marcos Lopes also go close. Jordy Hiwula forced a good stop from Neil Etheridge, while on 28 minutes Seko Fofana got the better of Stephen Arthurworrey before striking a post.
At the other end City captain Mathias Bossaerts had to be alert to beat Woodrow to the ball with one exceptional intervention, before Josh Passley whipped in a dangerous cross from the right that just evaded a stretching Woodrow.
But with the game opening up, Fulham were dealt a blow when Fofana broke and crossed for Hiwula, with the England youth international slotting home a confident finish beyond Etheridge on 31 minutes.
The Whites went in search of a leveller, but City repelled. Although, they did find a breakthrough following a clever run and delivery from Alex Brister, but his cross was lashed over by Passley on the stroke of half-time.
It was City that came out of the blocks quickest in the second-half, and could well have doubled their lead only for Lopes to scuff his shot from close range.
But Lopes’ effort served as a warning, as Symons’ side hit back and started to enjoy some momentum. Playing further forward than usual, Passley went close to drawing Fulham level on 53 minutes, hitting a fierce strike to force a fine save from Angus Gunn.
Fulham’s positive play was rewarded five minutes later when Woodrow took an excellent touch before firing a low strike past a diving Gunn. The talented striker then put Fulham ahead on 73 minutes, heading in from Sean Kavanagh's well-taken corner.
As the game approached the final 10 minutes, the home team responded with Emyr Huws picking out Greg Leigh, fortunately for the Whites the City left-back couldn’t convert when running in at the back post. But with Fulham’s defence expertly marshalled by Jack Grimmer and Arthurworrey, the Whites held firm to claim an impressive opening victory.
"We're pleased with the win, it's always good to open the season with three points," said Under-21 Manager Symons. "We didn't play particularly well in the first-half, and probably gave City too much respect at times. They [City] created a few chances and went in front.
"I had a chat with the boys at the break, and talked two or three things through with them. Again, they showed great character to turn it around and in the second-half they played much better. There was a lot more urgency and energy to their play and in the end, for me, we were worthy winners.
"We always knew that it was going to be a tough game, and we had to work for it today. The boys will have learned a few things from this, and moving forwards we'll build on the performance. We have another game in five days and we'll go back, train hard and look forward to going again."
Fulham return to action on Friday for their first home fixture of the 2013/14 season; playing host to Middlesbrough at Craven Cottage (7pm). So get behind the boys, with free entrance for Season Ticket Holders and Members.
Manchester City U21s: Gunn; Facey (Drury 87), Bossaerts, Denayer, Leigh; Huws, Fofana, Rusnak, Bytyqi; Lopes (Ntcham 67), Hiwula (Cole 67).
Fulham U21s: Etheridge; Brister, Grimmer, Arthurworrey, Kavanagh; Passley, Minkwitz, Christensen, Banya (Richards 63); Tankovic (Della Verde 70); Woodrow.
Photos courtesy of James Lobley @ kickoffmemorabilia