In the first international fixture of the season, our Under-21s battled torrential rain and a well-drilled Feyenoord side to finish with a point on Tuesday evening at Meadow Park.
With several of our usual starters now on loan or with the first-team squad, Mehmet Ali included the likes of Bradley Ibrahim, Ethan Nwaneri and Luis Brown in his youthful side.
We started the game strongly, dominant in possession for the opening 20 minutes and continually challenging the Feyenoord defence. On our fifth corner in the first 10 minutes, a long delivery from Jack Henry-Francis found Zach Awe in the six-yard box, whose header just whizzed over the bar.
Down the wings, Joel Ideho looked especially dangerous as he took on Feyenoord's right back, and Kido Taylor-Hart repeatedly cut inside to cause the Dutch side problems. Taylor-Hart showed a lovely bit of skill to dance his way into the box, but the danger was diffused before he had the chance to get a shot away.
Our relentless pressing was rewarded just before the half-hour mark, as Nathan Butler-Oyedeji pounced on a loose ball from the Feyenoord keeper to break the deadlock. This marked Butler-Oyedeji's fourth goal in five games.
Tasked with defending our lead, our backline rose to the challenge. James Sweet made several important, last-ditch tackles, and Zach Awe used his vision to intercept Feyenoord’s long, diagonal balls that threatened to carve open our defence. Heading into the break, keeper Hubert Graczyk pulled off the first of many spectacular blocks to keep us ahead.
The opponents came out on the front foot in the second half, but our defence held firm in the wake of periods of intense pressure from Feyenoord. We continued to threaten on the counter, aided by the addition of Charles Sagoe Jr 68 minutes in, yet we struggled to fully regain our rhythm.
In the dying minutes, Feyenoord upped their tempo once more and Graczyk somehow got his fingertips to a powerful shot and pushed it over the bar.
Heartbreak struck just before the final whistle as Feyenoord put the ball in the net after minutes of sustained pressure. While the lineman held his flag up for offside as the Dutch side celebrated, our hope for the three points was snuffed out when the referee eventually gave the goal.
Charles Sagoe Jr was hacked down as he sped off on the counter, but we couldn’t convert the ensuing free kick and the final whistle blew shortly after.
Our next challenge comes from a little closer to home. We head to Motspur Park to face Fulham in the Premier League 2 at the weekend. The action kicks off at midday UK time on Sunday, October 11.
Starting XI: Graczyk, Sweet, Foran, Awe, Jeffcott, Ibrahim, Bandeira, Henry-Francis (C), Taylor-Hart, Ideho, Butler-Oyedeji
Substitutes: Hillson, Brown, Robinson, Nwaneri, Lewis, Sagoe Jr
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