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Crystal Palace U23’s vs Derby County U23’s 21/22

Updated: Aug 4, 2023

Hi everyone,

Hope you’re all well.

On Monday 9th of May Crystal Palace Under 23’s hosted Derby County Under 23’s in the final Premier League 2 game of the season. As it was the last game of the season it was held at Selhurst Park allowing fans to come watch the boys for the first time. It was pretty disappointing how poorly advertised the game was as it could have had a much larger crowd if people were aware it was at Selhurst.

Derby came into this game rock bottom of PL2 with no chance of survival having only picked up 15 points this campaign. They’re last result was a 5-0 loss to West Ham. In contrast Crystal Palace were coming into this game off the back of a 3-2 win over Leicester just last week. If you read my post or watched that game you would know there were 2 red cards for our team as Tayo Adaramola and Luke Dreher were dismissed. With the Adaramola suspension Palace were very smart and as he was still registered to play in the Under 18 squad used the game against Brighton on Saturday as his suspension, this meant he was able to return to the squad for this final game; Dreher however still missed the game to serve his suspension. The starting team was unchanged with Fionn Mooney making it onto the bench for the first time in this team.

I had an exam in the day which ended up being just under 4 hours, my mind was definitely more focused on if we would make the game in time but thankfully we did! 😅

The game started with some early dominance from Derby. The first chance of the game fell to Louie Watson, older brother of Crystal Palace centre back Noah Watson, the ball was clipped behind over our defenders leaving Louie through to have a shot forcing a strong save from Joe Whitworth. This was the only real chance for a lengthy period of time as both teams hunted for the opening goal. Derby had large quantities of the ball early on with Palace having to try hurt them on the counterattacks. Tayo Adaramola (who picked up the under 18 player of the season award the following evening) is the prime example of how all the Palace teams use the wing backs to get up the pitch, he showed great pace and strength down the left but just lacked the final ball. A free kick was awarded to Palace after a handball, Noah Watson got round the back away from his defender but couldn’t get any contact, first time us Palace fans had something to shout about. A great ball was played up field from Whitworth to Jesurun Rak-Sakyi, after a fantastic take down he cut inside but kept hold of the ball too long leading to the chance being lost. The first corner of the game fell to us as we started to get more into the game, disappointingly Banks played it straight to the Derby keeper. A week on from scoring a fantastic free kick against Leicester, Scott Banks whipped in a perfectly weighted ball out of reach of the keeper finding Rak-Sakyi who was waiting freely at the back post ready to head it into the back of the net for 1-0! This lit a spark for us, a free kick was whipped in by Banks and headed into Jes’ path, but a wall of derby players stopped him having a first time shot. He didn’t have to wait long for his next chance, within minutes we had our second goal, a long ball up field from Noah Watson was initially cut out of the path of Rak-Sakyi, he was the quickest to react to the looping ball securing his 2nd goal of the game with a half volley attempt. A great way to bring the half to a close as we went into the break 2-0 up!

For a team right at the bottom of the league and being relegated it was very surprising how much of the ball Derby had. 2 goals against the tide for us and even after that Derby continued to have large portions of the ball, they were probably unlucky not to get an early goal.

The second half began with an early chance for Banks, Rak-Sakyi linked up wonderfully with John-Kymani Gordon and Killian Phillips who could finally play the ball to an unmarked Scott Banks whose shot was straight at the keeper, if it were aimed to either side I think it was 3-0. The following corner was whipped into the back post; the initial header forced a save into the path of Rak-Sakyi whose attempt hit the post! There was some Brother V Brother action right in front of us with the younger sibling Noah Watson coming out on top as he was able to clear the ball from his defensive quarter. The second half was better from us as we created more chance and continued to contain the Derby’s attacks. Louie Watson blocked Whitworth’s clearance almost sending the ball over the top of the keeper and into the net; Joe managed to backtrack effectively and get a hand to it preventing it crossing the line! The closing down from us went a bit sloppy as Derby started to grow onto the game, they managed to get a goal back to give them a sprinkle of hope, Josh Shonibare’s shot went straight across the face of goal and into the far netting, not much the Whitworth could have done to stop it going in. Pretty sure the cheer for this goal was louder than the ones for the Palace goals! The momentum was sudden back with Derby. Kaden Rodney went down for a lengthy period of time with an injury, he was thankfully fine to continue as after coming back on he performed a great last ditch tackle to prevent the Derby player getting their shot off. Paddy McCarthy resulted to the bench bringing on Victor Akinwale and David Omilabu to replace John-Kymani Gordon and David Ozoh with just over 15 minutes left to play. After minutes of being on the pitch Akinwale was too quick in behind the defenders, the keeper out and ended up taken the striker down leading to a penalty being awarded! Rak-Sakyi buried the ball in the back of the net to secure his hat trick! That was the 3rd penalty I’d seen converted in the past week throughout all the age groups. I have a feeling Akinwale may be moved into the u23 team more next season! Derby’s Shonibare was their danger man once again, showing a rapid burst of pace towards the byline and into the box forcing Dan Quick to be extra cautions not to take him down, he cut back inside for a shot leading to Whitworth needing to make a share. At the other end of the pitch Akinwale was causing problems for the Derby defence, outrunning the derby defence and once again he went down in the box but this time the ref wasn’t interested. We were getting all our luck and chances down the right hand side with their defenders struggling to handle the pace and power presented. Joe Whitworth was definitely the motivator of the team with his constant communication and praise. I’ve said this so many times recently but again the final balls just lacked quality. Our last substitution came in stoppage time and saw Cardo Siddik replace Dan Quick. The last chance and piece of action of the game fell to Killian Phillips, the ball was whipped into the box he was unable to direct it into the back of the net and instead went straight over the bar. Final score 3-1 to Crystal Palace.

Great result and great way to end the season! This result meant that we leapfrogged Manchester United to finish 5th in the league, for our first season playing at this level it was a fantastic finish and we couldn’t have asked for much more! Huge congratulations to Jes Rak-Sakyi for not only getting a hat trick in this game but he also got joint top goal scorer in the league with 18 goals and picked up the Under 23 player of the season award at the Palace award night. Hopefully next season there are more games accessible for the fans to go down and show our support! Most of the players will now get a well-deserved rest, I’m hoping Jes and Tayo get some chances in the first team with only 3 games left, but if they don’t I’m sure we will be seeing a lot of them next season!

The next game I’m attending is the Under 18’s final game of the season on Saturday, I was in debate whether to go there or to the first team open training session at Selhurst, but my stepdad (thankfully) ended up making the decision for me!

Thank you for reading

Ellie Xx


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