Crystal Palace (Home) – Papa Johns’ Trophy

May 30, 2023 | 2023 A Season in Review

The Memorial Stadium Tuesday 4th October 2022

Bristol Rovers 2 Kilgour (45), Clarke (73)

Crystal Palace U-21’s 0

Referee: James Oldham Attendance 1,058

I, along with many others, am no longer a fan of this competition and haven’t been since it was opened up to include U-21 teams from 16 Premier League clubs.

Still, it’s another opportunity to see some of our fringe players get a run out and although successive Rovers managers have said they care very little about it, I wonder what their reaction would be if we were to reach a Wembley Final?

To date no Premier League U-21 side has reached the final, but I guess it’s only a matter of time before that happens though hopefully the EFL will tinker with the format again soon and bar the Premier League from taking part although the chances of that happening any time soon are a long way off because of the lucrative sponsorship deal signed with Papa John’s hence it currently being known as the pizza cup!

I digress; at least we were handed an opportunity to play one of the most successful Premier League Two sides around. Palace youngsters were, we are told, one of the best U-21 sides around, so it was time to find out.

I have to be honest and say they didn’t look very special at all in the first half, though they were very physical. They seldom ventured out of their own half and the only chance they created came with the last kick of the opening 45 minutes when Anssi Jaakkola was forced to dive to his left to turn John-Kymani Gordon effort around the post.

Prior to that they had kicked Alfie Kilgour in the head as he ventured forward in an attempt to0 reach a corner and almost knocked Sylvester Jasper’s head off in a crude challenge aimed at stopping him causing the Place defenders any further trouble down the left flank.

In spite of all this, Kilgour stayed on the pitch until the break and it was just as well he did as he powered home the game’s opening goal with a header from a corner, taken by Paul Coutts, in first half stoppage time and before Jaakkola’s save.

Palace did come out of their shell a little bit after the break and knocked the ball around well though they posed few problems in the way of goal threats.

Rovers’ scored a deserved second goal 17 minutes from time, with Trevor Clarke firing a 20 yard effort past goalkeeper Joe Whitworth with his right foot and that, we thought, was that.

However we reckoned without the dark arts that Palace seem to be well versed in despite their tender ages (only two of the starting lineup weren’t teenagers).

Five minutes from time Clarke was hauled to the floor by Kofi Balmer, as he again scampered down the left, and then dragged along the floor by the same player.

Quite how he escaped with only a booking is beyond me, but he was more fortunate than Glenn Whelan, who received his marching orders from referee James Oldham in the melee that followed Balmer’s misdemeanour.

The visitors almost pulled a goal back when a ball into the Rovers box hit Clarke and rebounded on to the crossbar before being cleared. To be honest, Palace didn’t deserve a goal and thankfully they went home empty handed.

Manager Joe Barton was scathing in his comments about Palace in his post match press conference and threatened to field a youth team in the final group game against Swindon Town.

However, to say that the match officials were on work experience wasn’t entirely correct as James Oldham appears to have been officiating in the EFL since 2019. Other than that the manager’s comments were spot on!

Bristol Rovers: Jaakkola, Kilgour (Thomas, 46), Hoole (Gibbons, 62), Whelan, Saunders (Loft, 71), Westbrooke, Coutts, McCormick (Gibson, 62), Jasper, Marquis (Coburn, 46), Clarke.

Substitutes: Belshaw, Finley.

Crystal Palace U-21’s: Whitworth, Gordon, Balmer, Grehan, Ola-Adebomi, (Akinwale, 57) Omilabu, Phillips, Watson (Mooney, 73), Cadogan (Raymond (73), Ozoh, Rodney.

Substitutes: Izquierdo, Imray, Bell.


There were no former Rovers players in the Crystal Palace side

Yellow cards were issued to Harvey Saunders, Trevor Clarke and Ryan Loft

Paul Coutts was skipper

A red card was issued to Glenn Whelan

Five substitutes used

(Photos courtesy of JMP)

Keith Brookman