I haven’t been to a reserve game in about ten years. The last one was a trip to Elland Road to see City lose 2-0, but living in the middle of Sheffield and being a student, I had ample time to take a trip down to the Don Valley Shithole, sorry, Stadium, to see the massive Yorkshire Derby between City Reserves and Rotherham’s second string. I’ll never turn down something that is free!
I had no idea what to expect; quality wise, effort wise, standard of officiating. But I was pleasantly surprised tonight. The City team was fairly recognisable; Syers, Adeyemi, Threlfall, Bullock all started along with some of the talked about youngsters. Rotherham also had a few names on the team sheet that I recognised, namely Liam Henderson, Paul Warne (He must be 50 by now) and Mark Randall. Having seen the teams, I looked forward to the game.
What a surreal experience it was though. I don’t know what sort of crowds City’s reserves attract – I’ve never been – but I expect they pull in something in the region of 100 to 150 (Though I could be well off). There can’t have been more than 40 there tonight, though. It must be horrible to play a game like that.
On to the game though, and it started quite slowly, but Rotherham soon grew into it, forcing Dave Syers to clear off the line. It was a fairly committed performance from both sets of players, with some strong challenges going in. A fairly quiet first half was livened up towards the end though, when Rotherham went in front with a simple header.
The second half was a much more enjoyable affair though, with four more goals. Three went City’s way ensuring they ran out 3-2 winners in a reasonable enthralling game (Enthralling for a reserve game, anyway). Young striker Darren Stephenson equalised for City with a looping header over the Rotherham keeper and Syers put the team 2-1 up from the penalty spot after Stephenson had been brought down. Rotherham equalised before City’s number 7 finished the scoring from 20 yards out. I had no idea who this was during the game, to come home and find out it was a trialist. I wouldn’t expect to see him signing on with the club; decent goal, but a quiet game.
Having heard reports about youth players before the game, but having seen none of them, I was particularly interested in Dominic Rowe, a speedy winger, and Darren Stephenson up front.
Rowe is most definitely built like Shaun Wright Phillips; tiny but extremely fast. At one point, Rowe beat 3 men over a 20 yard distance and still managed to get himself 5 yards of space – he is that quick. He even has a reasonable end product and put in a few decent crosses. I don’t think he is ready for the first team yet, he clearly needs more experience and to bulk up slightly, but in a year or two City could have a real player on their hands. Stephenson is a fairly big player up front, strong and quite pacey. Not the same potential as Rowe, but could become a decent back up option at this level.