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The Under 20s dance with Wolves to send themselves top of the league.

The Under-20s reached the summit of the FAWNL Midland Division table for the first time this season following a 1-1 draw against Wolverhampton Wanderers in their game in hand over title rivals Nottingham Forest.

The Ewe Ram's were without head coach Dan Dobrzycki due to illness but battled hard under the circumstances against a tough side to take a point in an end-to-end fixture.

Both sides battled evenly in the opening five minutes but a moment of brilliance from a set piece set the tempo of the first half when the Wolves player struck the dead ball from just ahead of the halfway line and it glided past Lola Smith in the net to make it 1-0 to the visitors.

Derby responded well to the setback by forcing a number of corners out of the opposition but none of them could result in a breakthrough for the Ewes with an Isabel Sheridan header at the back post going agonisingly wide of the post the nearest the ball came to hitting the back of the net.

A lack of quality chances were falling to the Ewes as the first half progressed as Wolves stopped them from playing their usual free-flowing football with Derby looking to force Isabel Sheridan through with balls over the top to get back into the game.

Smith was forced into a fantastic save from range when Alex Owens lost possession on the left with the Wolves winger looking up and setting sight on goal only for the rocketing effort to be superbly tipped over by the goalkeeper for a corner kick.

The hosts finally got the goal they deserved in the 40th minute when a corner was sweetly whipped in by Sarah Newton, the corner evaded the goalkeeper with its curve allowing Sheridan to play poacher on the goalline and hit the ball into the back of the net to equalise for the Ewe Rams.

Leila Abadi had the first chance of the second half for the Ewes when some brilliant hold-up play by Rosie Hunt on the edge of the area allowed her to lay the ball off to the midfielder but her powerful shot could only sail over the bar.

Molly Towers almost had a spectacular free-kick goal when she stood over the ball from out wide but her 25-yard effort could only sting the palms of the Wolves goalkeeper and go out for a corner.

The opposition shot-stopper pulled out another good save when Amelia Towers, fresh off the bench, ran onto a long ball but her curling shot that looked destined for the bottom corner was held superbly to keep the score level for the West Midlands outfit.

Wolves started to turn the heat up further into the second period when they looked to create chances by cutting in from the right-hand side but some great last-ditch tackling from Molly Towers and Sasha Brassington prevented any clear-cut efforts being put on goal in the period of pressure.

Despite a thrilling final ten minutes with a number of chances for both sides, neither team could come away with all three points as the spoils were shared come the final whistle.

Coach Franco Buonaguro, stepping in for Dobrzycki, had nothing but praise for his team's performance against Wolves which puts the Ewe Rams top-of-the-table despite a tough week for the young side.

He said: "I thought the players did exceptionally well.

"It's been a difficult week in training and this morning we lost our coach [Dobrzycki] who was ill so our preparations were interrupted, but the girls did us proud today, especially in the first half where for large parts we dominated but unfortunately we went a goal down and they managed to claw that back.

"Second half was honours even but overall we have to be satisfied with a point which takes us top of the league."

It's not often the U20s are in a losing position in the opening stages of a match, conceding from a set piece, but Buonoguro was pleased by how the girls responded with the setback to get a goal and earn a point.

He said: "These are all new tests for us.

"We don't usually go down a goal to nil but we did today and our response was superb," Buonguro emphasised. "When we went one goal down that's when we started to play our best football and we gradually grew into the game.

"Wolves had the first ten minutes but from then we took over and we controlled the rest of the game for large parts and were unlucky to go into the second half at 1-1.

"It was a scrappy affair in the second half and overall we have to be satisfied with the point."

The game was a feisty affair with a number of crunching challenges from both sides and the coach was happy with how the squad reacted to the physicality of the game and praised both sides' quality.

He said: "I used to play the game hard but, from the sidelines, I winced a few times at some of the challenges.

"They were fair challenges but very, very hard.

"Both teams gave 100% commitment today so there are no arguments from me but you're gonna get games like that.

"Today you saw two of the best teams in the league on show.

Despite going the league campaign unbeaten so far, the Under-20s only reached the first position in the table after today's result and Buonaguro was thrilled to see the hard work his team has put in over the season pay off:

"It's great!" the coach made clear. "It's taken us a bit of time to get there even though we're still unbeaten in the league but we've managed to claw ourselves to the top and now the job is to stay there.

"If we play as we can and we continue to win games and gain points where we need to get points there'll be no reason why we can't go all the way in a very competitive league."

Rosie Hunt stepped up to the plate to discuss her performance in what was a hard-fought game for the entire eleven in black and white and Hunt was quick to put the praise on her teammates in the circumstances.

She said: "It's a good result with us now being top of the league by a point.

"The girls put in a lot of effort when we went down 1-0.

"The second half was a bit scrappy and we didn't play as well as we could but I think all things considered it was a good result."

Hunt also put forward how on-the-field it was like dealing with the physicality of the Wolves side in front of them.

"It was a challenging game," The midfielder put forward. "As a team, we had to keep our heads and make sure we didn't give away any stupid fouls but we did which ultimately cost us going down a goal to a free-kick.

"We like games like this though because we can get stuck in a bit more and flow a bit better with everyone working hard for the three points.

"It was a very enjoyable game."

The Under 20s next fixture is at home to West Bromwich Albion as the Ewe Rams look to maintain their position at the top of the FAWNL Midland Division table.

Words By Riley Somerville


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