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Academy action steps up as new season looms large

Our development squad continued their pre-season preparations with a thrilling friendly at non-league Woking on Saturday afternoon.

The young Blues made the short eight-mile trip from Cobham to Kingfield Stadium for their third summer outing, with just over a fortnight to go until the season opener away at Tottenham.

Andy Myers included Matt Miazga, Kenedy and Armando Broja among his starters, alongside more regular faces such as Thierno Ballo, Bashir Humphreys and Harvey Vale.

For those in attendance on a rainy day in Surrey, there was plenty of entertainment to compensate for the unseasonal conditions. Teenager Jayden Wareham opened the scoring against his former club inside 30 seconds, before Ballo and Broja added to the tally before the break.

While 3-0 up, the visitors had been fortunate on more than one occasion, with Woking having hit the woodwork twice in the first period and missed a great headed opportunity. Those warning signs went unheeded as the Cards mounted a comeback after the restart, with Moussa Diarra, Tahvon Campbell and a penalty from Max Kretzschmar levelling the scores with 15 minutes to play.

The turnaround was completed with eight minutes remaining when Inih Effiong fired past Lucas Bergstrom via the inside of the post. Nevertheless, Myers was able to get important minutes into the legs of his players, with most involved for an hour or more, and he reflected afterwards on a tale of two halves.

‘It was a really good test for us because we were a lot younger than we have been so far in pre-season,’ he told us after the game.

‘We had a couple of loan players in the first half and you could see the difference in the result with us being 3-0 up at half-time.

‘It was a good reflection of what will come for these boys in the EFL Trophy, which starts for us in a couple of weeks at Exeter, in that you’ve got to be good on the ball, tactically understand, physically press, and maybe we’re not quite there yet but it was good for them to experience that.

‘They can answer the questions and then we have to rebuild because we go again on Tuesday against Boreham Wood, another National League team. It will be good to see what they learn from this game, to see what they can try to correct against another strong opponent, but the more these boys have these experiences, the better they will be for it.’

The Blues had previously beaten Stoke City and Portsmouth in pre-season, with Malik Mothersille netting a brace against the latter and Wareham scoring the only goal of the game in the Potteries. Tickets are still available for the midweek fixture against Boreham Wood, with the home side also providing a live stream of the game for those supporters not able to attend.

Further north in Manchester, our youth team were involved in a four-way tournament at United’s training centre featuring the Red Devils, Tottenham and Wolves. Ed Brand’s boys were ultimately triumphant, winning a penalty shootout following a 3-3 draw with Wolves in the final, during which Mothersille and Louis Flower netted in normal time. 

They face Fulham in a Cobham friendly next weekend before the Under-18 Premier League opener against West Brom on Saturday 14 August.

In other Academy news, Jack Mesure has become development squad assistant coach following the departure of Eric Ramsay to Man United. Andy Ross has stepped up to the same role with the Under-18s.

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