Under-21s: City 4 Crewe Alexandra 0
Several first team squad members got a useful Monday night workout at King Power Stadium, as City cruised to their first win in the Under-21 Professional Development League against Crewe Alexandra.
Defender Zak Whitbread, midfielder Matty James and forward Paul Gallagher all completed a full 90 minutes in the Foxes’ first home game of the newly-introduced Under-21 programme, while Richie Wellens also made his return from injury as a second-half substitute.
Aside from the permitted over-age players involved in the game, there were also encouraging displays from some of the Club’s young prospects, with Jeff Schlupp producing a bright first-half performance and Tom Hopper continuing to impress in attack.
Schlupp opened the scoring late in the first half, before second-half strikes from Gallagher, substitute Jacob Blyth and the excellent James sealed a 4-0 win.
Slick in possession as you would expect a Crewe Alexandra side to be, the visitors nearly edged in front inside the first 20 seconds of the contest, but winger Brendan Daniels saw his angled volley acrobatically tipped over by the alert Conrad Logan.
But the hosts were quick to respond with a chance of their own – Gallagher’s left-wing corner flicked on at the near post by Harry Panayiotou and Whitbread’s header pushed over by Ben Garratt.
Schlupp turned neatly on the edge of the box before firing straight at Garratt on 29 minutes, but the Railwaymen continued to fashion chances at the other end. First Harry Clayton curled just wide following a fluent exchange with Ryan Colclough, then defender Adam Dugdale hooked wide from John Guthrie’s knockdown.
The Foxes finished the half the stronger, though, and went on front five minutes before the interval when Schlupp showed great feet to beat a defender on the edge of the box, before firing home via goalkeeper Garratt.
It could have been two moments later when an overlapping Gallagher reeled in a Schlupp pass before drawing an excellent reflex stop from the Alex ‘keeper.
But Garratt couldn’t keep Gallagher out three minutes after the break, as the City forward drove infield from the left and picked out the bottom corner from 20 yards.
The two-goal lead came under threat soon after, but Logan produced an extraordinary save from close-quarters with Clayton primed to convert a low Daniels centre.
But the hosts’ control of proceedings was never in serious danger. Blyth nearly extended the lead when Garratt turned his well-struck shot wide on 67 minutes, and then found the net on 73 – guiding home a diving header at the far post after a powerful break from Tom Hopper down the right.
Wellens, introduced for the final half-hour, began to call the tune as City dominated possession, moving a tiring Crewe side around the pitch as they waited for their chance to strike again.
And James, a driving force from midfield throughout, delivered a beautifully struck fourth – picking his spot from 25 yards to give Garratt no chance.
City (4-3-3): Logan (c); Pearson (Wellens 61), Sesay, Whitbread, Taft; James, Gallagher, Jones; Panayiotou, Schlupp (Blyth 46), Hopper.
Unused subs: Smith, Maduako, Smith.
Goals: Schlupp, Gallagher, Blyth, James.
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