Report: Millwall Under-23s 2 Blues Under-23s 3

They showed great character and resilience.

Steve Spooner

Blues Under-23s beat Millwall in the Professional Development League on Tuesday afternoon.

In a topsy-turvy encounter, Blues let slip a two-goal lead before Ryan Burke’s goal 18 minutes from time gave them a hard-fought victory.

Steve Spooner’s team had taken the lead through Burke’s wicked left-footed effort shortly after the half-hour mark, with Keyendrah Simmonds hitting a second before the break thanks to another fine finish.

However, Millwall came out for the second-half re-energised and Arthur Penney pulled one back when he headed home a Sean O’Brien cross.

With an hour played, Blues’ lead was completely wiped out as Jayden Davis equalised and the Lions almost went ahead shortly after when George Alexander was denied by Andres Prieto.

But as the game appeared to be getting away from the visitors, Blues regrouped and found a winner through Burke. His second of the game was equally as spectacular as his first, finding the top-corner from the edge of the area to ensure the three points returned to the West Midlands.

Speaking to following the match, Spooner, whilst pleased with the outcome, feels there is room for improvement when it comes to the performances of his team.

He explained: “We had moments, but they were far too sporadic for me. We didn’t really exert too much control over the game other than the last 15 minutes of the first half, the game really ebbed and flowed too much. We created a few opportunities, but often didn’t select the right pass or retain possession.

“Being in a two-nil lead, the next goal is the most important and three-and-a-half minutes into the second half they pulled one back, that was disappointing and put us on the back foot a bit.

“But they showed great character and resilience after surrendering a two-goal lead. From a mental perspective, that was a massive plus for us that we dealt with the setback.”

What further pleased Spooner was the quality of the finishes that ultimately contributed to the win, something that he hopes to see more of between now and the end of the season.

The Under-23s Head Coach said: “All three goals were really good, Burke’s were from long-distance and Simmonds’ was from the edge of the box after a good move. The goals were the bright spots from the afternoon.

“I have been saying to him [Burke] for a while, I’ve not seen him do it. Both of them [Burke and Simmonds] are left-footed and they have the ability to hit the ball, they can dip it and swerve it. I would like to see them use it more.”

Next up for Blues is a visit from Queens Park Rangers on Friday and the 60-year-old is pleased with the test which the quick turnaround poses.

Spooner said: “It’s good for the players, at times the game programme isn’t challenging enough. We have been organising some friendlies as the players need two games a week because if they are going out on loan or into the First Team there are going to be those demands on them."

Millwall: Wright (Gillmore 60), Muller, Moss, Penney, Ransom (Allen 46), A. Mitchell, Burey, Duncan, Alexander, O'Brien (Abdulmalik 80), Davis. 

Substitutes not used: Strachan, Walker.

Blues: Prieto, Oakley (Bajrami 80), Gordon, Redmond, Burke, Stirk, Boyd-Munce (Chang 75), Campbell, Simmonds, Reid, George.

Substitutes not used: Brooks, Hurst, Dos Reis.

Goalscorers: Burke, 25 and 72 Simmonds 40.