Birmingham City




Watford's Under-23s closed their Premier League Cup campaign with a 3-0 defeat to Birmingham City at the Wast Hills Training Ground.

A Kieran Wakefield double and a solitary Oriol Soldevila strike in the first half was the difference in the Midlands, despite a spirited response from the Hornets after the break.

Under-23 Lead Coach Omer Riza was disappointed in the level of performance from his side against the Blues.

“When you come up against teams like that, you either match it or you get punished - which I felt was the case today,” Riza said.

“There were elements of our game that were good at times. We built quite well considering the windy conditions, but Birmingham were far superior in respect of possession and the way they kept the ball, and the way they dominated in their movements.

“It caused us some issues and we didn’t grab hold of them in the midfield the way we need to, and we allowed them to cause problems.

“In the first half we lacked aggression and bite to want to stay in the game. Credit to Birmingham, they had quite a young side as well and there are a couple of players there that are in my England Under-17s team. Jobe Bellingham played today who played quite well in the midfield, and their team played with good spirit and intensity.”

Riza believed there was an improvement in the second period, but it wasn’t enough to make an impact on the scoresheet.

“We definitely improved second half and that is something we need to take going forwards,” he said.

“In the second half we changed the system and we managed to get Ryan Andrews back on the pitch and play a back four which we haven’t been able to do due to lack of personnel. [Jack] Burchell sat in the single-pivot for the first part of the second half with Manning and [Maurizio] Pochettino just inside. It gave us a little more and we got on the ball a bit more with a couple of opportunities.

“We brought Jack Grieves on, we brought Kyreece Lisbie on – they were willing to work hard because they want to impress, and that was what I wanted to see from some of the older players.

“We improved in respect of work rate, endeavour and quality because our quality was poor in the first half. Although it was better after the break - we didn’t concede, and we could’ve scored a couple - we’re still looking for more.”

In addition to the improved performance after the interval, Riza was pleased to see some important players back from injury alongside more Under-18s making the step-up into the Under-23s.

“We had Kwadwo Baah playing, who has come back from a long-term injury, and we had Jack Burchell who got through 60 minutes after being out for over a year,” Riza said.

“We had a lot of youngsters playing today. Adrian Blake started, which was nice for him, and Adian Manning played from the Under-18s. Ryan Andrews has come back as well from injury, and we managed to get him on during the second half.

“To see these guys back was great and that’s what we're here for – to make sure that these boys are fit and getting themselves to the levels they know they can play at. It was nice to see them back on the pitch.

“There are certainly positives to take from the game in respect of getting people back fit, and we have our Under-18s and Under-17s playing again, but in general it wasn’t really what I was looking for in respect of team spirit and work rate.”


Starting XI: Angelini (GK), Pochettino (C), Morris, Janjeva (Andrews 47'), Agyakwa, Langston, Baah (Kyreece Lisbie 60'), Burchell (Grieves 70'), Cukur, Blake, Manning

Unused Subs: Baptiste (GK), Broom

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