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Tested By City

This week was one of frustration, but I know now that every week can’t always go perfectly in football. To start with on Monday I was hoping that I may start for the reserves against Sheffield Wednesday after not playing at the weekend for the youth team. However, that morning I was told by the reserve coach that I would be on the bench, so in a way I was pretty disappointed but then again that’s football and just part of what you have to deal with.

We trained that morning and did a bit of technique work and some shape work for just over half an hour before heading back for lunch. We then had time to ourselves before reporting for a 4 o’clock leave for the game at Hillsborough. I had a couple of hours sleep and played a few games of Pro on the PS3 with my brother and won both fortunately – he wasn’t happy.

I went to the ground and got on the coach and the journey should normally take about an hour or so to but we hit traffic and it took over an hour and a half. When we warmed up we had a quick look at the stand where the Hillsborough incident took place twenty years ago, and with it being the anniversary there were flowers, scarves and shirts all laid down on the grass and seats at that end of the ground. It was quite moving being at the actual place where it happened all those years ago because I wasn’t even alive at the time and I’ve only seen videos on the TV of it.

Reserve Match: Sheffield Wednesday v Nottingham Forest

After taking that in we all warmed up like normal. We kicked off and it was a pretty even game, we had a couple of chances and forced their keeper in to a couple of saves. We had most of the possession and were rarely threatened as we controlled the game leaving them to have some counter attacks.

At half time it was 0-0 and the second half opened up quite a bit, Wednesday started attacking us and we’d attack them leaving both teams liable to the counter attack. With about half an hour to go I came off the bench and was given the simple instruction by our coach to try and get the winner.

It was ten minutes before I got my first touch and it was hard to make an impact on the game, but I still tried hard running their defenders down. With about ten minutes to go I got my chance, a ball came in from the right and I controlled it on my chest before volleying it, only to see it go inches past the post. I couldn’t believe it; I thought that was it, my one chance to impress gone. However we kept pushing and trying to get a goal, then with about five minutes to go we got the winner, Reidy did some great work down the right and crossed it in for Hamza to head home, and we’d got the winner which was great. We then saw the game out and won 1-0.

On Tuesday I had to train a double day with me not playing a significant amount on Monday’s game. We had the reserve coach take the morning session – he did some work on defending. After the morning session and lunch we went out to train again at about half one.

We did a passing drill to begin with which was good because it only lasted 5 or 10 minutes, but it was very quick and high tempo which meant you got to work your touch at match pace really well. We then did some transition play where two teams would go in to one goal and when you lost possession you would then have to defend because the other team would be on the attack straight away, it was all about quick decisions and reacting and it was a good session. At the end of it I felt pretty stiff and tired, the sun was shining, muscles were aching and in a way it felt like pre-season all over again!

Wednesday was education day and with us finishing our course, we had a quick meeting with John Barton from LFE to just tie up any loose ends and evaluate how the season’s gone for us. It’s good to have a chat with John because he always gives you re-assurance about your career whether it’s in football or something else.

After that we had lunch and finished for the day because there was no more work for us to do in the afternoon. I caught a bus home and both my brothers weren’t at work, so we decided to go for a kick about down the park like old times. Rej, Phil and me did penalty shoot outs, free kicks, volleys and cross bar challenge. It was good to spend time with my brothers because we rarely get chance to with their work and my football etc. It was my rest day but I made sure I stretched off after the kick about so I’d be alright for training on Thursday.

On Thursday we trained with the reserves so that we could do an 11 v 11 game which enabled us to go through the shape of our team for Saturday’s game. He did a session where he would blow his whistle three times, on his first whistle the back four would be playing against the oppositions strikers, on his second whistle the whole midfield would join in and then on the last whistle the strikers and oppositions defence would join in.

It was a session for us to work on reacting to defending as units and then as a team, it took a few goes to get used to it but by the end everyone understood and it was a good session, every time our team won the ball back we were allowed to attack the opposition so that we could get used to counter attacking. We then had a gym session back at the ground and were done from there.

Friday was just a light session in which we went through our defensive set pieces with to ensure we were organised well for the weekend. We then went through our offensive set pieces and then to finish off with we did some throw in set pieces. So we were pretty well prepared to say the least for the weekend.

We finished off with a penalty shoot out, just what I needed confidence wise following my record of penalties this season… fortunately I scored my first one but in the second round I hit the bar, but I’ve come to expect that by now from my penalties, hopefully next season will be better regarding penalties!

Match: Nottingham Forest v Manchester City

Saturday’s game was always going to be a big test for us with City being unbeaten in their league all season. But to find us two goals down after 10 minutes made it even harder for us to get anything out of the game; it was the worst possible start.

I was annoyed because I didn’t think we started well at all so I was determined to make a difference in the game. I tried running at their full back and tried to chip the goalie from a wide angle, but it just went over. After about twenty minutes we got a goal back when Tom flicked on a throw in and I jumped up for the ball and got a header before the keeper could get to it.

At 2-1 we now grew in confidence as a team and were attacking them more regularly, after about half an hour we got on level terms, one of our corners was headed back in and I struck the ball over the keeper in to the far corner from just inside the penalty area. We went in at half time 2-2, our coach said that he thought we started poorly which was true, but he thought we could get something out of the game if we carried on the momentum from the way we finished the first half.

We didn’t start the second half in that fashion but we still created chances. With about half an hour to go I tracked back one of their players and decided to make a challenge, unfortunately it wasn’t the right decision and I fouled him about 10 yards outside our box. They then scored from the resulting free kick and went on to win 3-2.

At the end of the game I was annoyed and frustrated at myself for giving that free kick away because it proved costly. However we did well to come from 2-0 down against a team as good as Man City at this level. We’ve got Wolves away for our last fixture and hopefully we can finish with a win to end the season after a disappointing result this weekend.

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