Result: Manchester City EDS 1-3 Derby County u23 (Premier League Cup)
Venue: AJ Bell Stadium (Wednesday 25th January 2017, 7pm)
Att: 200 (approx.)
After experiencing the bonus of a free League 1 game at Oldham the previous evening, Wednesday night threw up the opportunity to double up. Yes that’s right, two free games in two nights! Crazy scenes all over the shop. Following the late move of the game to the AJ Bell, home of the Salford Red Devils & Sale Sharks, Man City announced it would be free admission and I’m not one to miss out on such an offer!
I decided to walk the three-plus miles to the ground and was soon to discover this was a great choice. The reason? The traffic. The traffic was awful, so much so that blog regular Dan, who’d set off an hour earlier than me, didn’t even make the game due to the backlog of public transport. No such issues for me luckily and I arrived at the ground with around 20 minutes to kick-off. As such, I took advantage of the Barley Farm pub on the lane leading to the stadium itself for a quick pint of Strongbow (£3.50).
The Barley farm is a nice, carvery-style pub and has a more than comfortable feel to it. Alas, I had to move on swiftly and after a further few minutes walk finally arrived at the turnstiles where I was granted entry along with a complimentary team-sheet. Nice.
This was to be the second time I was to witness a football match at the ground, following a u21 game a few years back between United and Fulham’s up and comers. I have also been there for my one and only (so far) club rugby game as I visited for a Sale Sharks game around a year ago. The ground itself is a new-build, but one I feel has a bit of character to it. It’s large main stand (the only one in use this evening) is all seater, with a smaller seated stand facing it. This also houses the scoreboard. Both ends are covered terracing.
I exited the other side of the gate to find the players out on the pitch and set to get underway. I quickly headed up into the sparsely populated stand and soon saw misfortune, with City’s left-back Erik Sarmiento going down on the far side without contact from another player. You could immediately see he was in strife and the Spaniard was sadly stretchered from the field.
City were the dominant force in the first-half, with sub Joe Hardy going close after entering the fray, forcing a save from Henrich Ravas in the County net before he soon made amends by slotting an effort into the far corner. It did, however, take around 20 minutes for the scoreboard to record this moment!
To be honest, though, chances were at a premium for both sides, despite City looking comfortable and the game being a decent watch. However, towards the end of the half, Derby should have been level when Alex Babos got his head on a fine Jayden Bogle cross but only found the woodwork. Bogle looked a really good player by the way, always posing a threat down the right and defending well when called upon too. Half-Time, 1-0.
The break meant a chance to finally test the food on offer here in Salford. A Chicken Balti pukka-pie was the taken option (£3.30) and it was the standard issue as you might expect. One thing to point out is, if you want to keep a bottled drink for later, don’t buy one here. Your lid will be removed as one woman found out, much to her chagrin. Anyway, no such worries for me and the second half was soon underway as the air around Barton got steadily chillier.
Derby came out for the second half and looked a completely different side to the team who’d contested the first period. Taking the attack to City and showing bags of confidence, it was little surprise when the Rams levelled. Following a swift attack a left-wing ball in found the head of the impressive Emil Jakobsen, whose effort was well kept out by Daniel Grimshaw, only for the loose ball to fall at the grateful feet of Kellan Gordon and he slotted home.
Derby were now well and truly in the ascendancy and soon went ahead through Jakobsen. The striker got on the end of a chipped through-ball and flicked it beyond Grimshaw, the ball slowly rolling into the bottom corner. Surprisingly, on the evening’s evidence, that was his first of the season!
City just couldn’t get a foothold back in the game and their chances of a result were killed off with ten minutes remaining when Babos was hauled down in the area and Mason Bennett stepped up to confidently smash his spot-kick beyond the City stopper and complete a fine showing from the Rams. Full-time 1-3 to the visitors, which surely sent their one fan with the flag home happy.
As for me, it was another hour’s walk home and the end of something that hadn’t truly been seen yet this season. Multiple mid-week games! Needless to say, it won’t be a common theme. As it is, I always enjoy a visit to the AJ Bell, especially with Barton Bridge towering above in the background giving it something a bit different. Just the Reds to go to complete the set…
Value For Money: 7