Derby County Under-18s suffered their first defeat in five matches at the hands of Middlesbrough in their second group-stage match of the Under-18 Premier League Cup at the Moor Farm Training Centre.
Jaden Charles put Derby in front early on before the visitors scored either side of half-time to take all three points and top spot of Group B in the competition.
Justin Walker’s side couldn’t have started the match any better. Stretton alluded his man on the turn and drove at the away defence with frightening pace before being brought down just as he looked to enter the penalty area. From the resulting free-kick, Charles’ whipped, left-footed attempt nestled into the side of the net which sparked some early celebrations.
From then, Archie Brown continually caused the Middlesbrough defenders trouble down the left-hand side; it was his long-range effort that forced a fantastic diving save from Harry Flatters as the Rams pushed for a second.
Right after, though, the away side took advantage of Derby’s eagerness to attack and levelled the score after 20 minutes. A nice combination on the right side created space for Joe Gibson who poked the ball onto the post and into the net.
The second half started in similar fashion to the first – with Derby on top. First, Festy Ebosele slipped just as he looked to release a shot on the away goal. Then, Stretton found a yard of space in the box but saw his volleyed attempt palmed away by Flatters.
Middlesbrough made Derby pay for all their missed opportunities with just over an hour played. Harry Halwax was caught out by a long-range effort that left Derby ruing their earlier missed chances.
Instantly, Walker’s side responded. Chances fell to Seb Thompson and Charlie Rutt but neither managed to hit the target from close range. Stretton then had Derby’s best chance of the half when he went through on goal with only the keeper to beat, but he couldn’t elevate his chipped attempt high enough over the oncoming Flatters.
Derby pushed but couldn’t break down a resilient Middlesbrough defence in the closing minutes of the match as it ended in defeat.
What’s to come
Walker’s side will be looking to regain their good form when they next host Wolverhampton Wanderers in their second consecutive match in the comfort of Moor Farm.
The fixture, however, is scheduled to appear in two weeks’ time, with yet another UEFA Youth Cup expected to be played.
After that, they head to Aston Villa in their third test of the Under-18 Premier League Cup group stages. The Rams need a win to ensure they prevail to the next round of the competition.
Wolverhampton Wanderers [H] – Saturday 9th November [kick-off: 11am]
Aston Villa [A] – Saturday 23rd November [kick-off: 11am]
Manchester City [A] – Saturday 30th November [kick-off: 12pm]
Liverpool [H] – Saturday 7th December [kick-off: 12pm]
West Bromwich Albion [A] – Saturday 11th January [kick-off: 11am]