Bradford City Youth 2 Colchester Youth 4
City’s double-winning dreams were shot down by a lethal Colchester in front of nearly 3,000 fans at Valley Parade.
The Essex side proved too clinical for Steve Thornber’s youngsters to claim the Football League Youth Alliance Cup in an entertaining encounter.
All six of the night’s goals were scored by strikers with first-team experience – with Colchester hitman Sammie Szmodics taking the honours with a hat-trick.
Macauley Bonne, who already has a League One goal to his name, also netted for the visitors, with Oliver McBurnie inevitably getting both for City – taking his final under-18s tally to a prolific 29 from 17 outings.
Colchester needed only three minutes to expose City’s early nerves.
Right back James Pollard slipped as Michael O’Donoghue brushed past him on the overlap. The defender drew Elliott Barker from his goal and then slipped a pass for Bonne to tap home.
Bonne is Colchester’s answer to McBurnie and burst onto the scene earlier this season when he scored the first-team winner against Peterborough on his 18th birthday.
He also played the last 15 minutes off the bench in City’s win at Colchester in March.
City, to their credit, cleared their heads from that blow and right winger Dylan Mottley-Henry forced a good save from James Bransgrove.
As confidence grew, Niall Heaton’s long throw-in was headed against the post by Sam Wright and the keeper saved Reece Webb-Foster’s follow-up.
But Colchester looked a constant danger going forward and City’s back four struggled to cope with their pace and movement.
Heaton was fortunate after appearing to pull back Bonne when the striker wriggled his way goal-side and then the centre half produced a crucial block from a Szmodics shot with Barker beaten.
But Colchester doubled their lead six minutes before the break – and again fingers were pointed at poor defending.
Jack Curtis swept a pass out to Bonne, whose cross from near the corner flag should have been cut out.
But it found its way right across goal, where Szmodics was in front of Curtis to convert unmarked at the far post.
City nearly got back into it through a defender six minutes after the break. Skipper Jack Stockdill whipped a free-kick into the Colchester goal-mouth, where James King stretched to volley just over.
There was more discomfort from a half-cleared corner as Szmodics dragged a shot across the City six-yard box, where the giant Tariq Moore-Azille was inches away from a decisive touch.
The home side finally brought the large crowd to their feet in the 57th minute as McBurnie was first to react when Nathan Curtis fired a low ball into the Colchester goalmouth.
But the hope was extinguished within nine minutes as the Bonne and Szmodics partnership struck again. Szmodics took his pass with a brilliant first touch to find room to shoot under Barker.
City tempers started to fray as the game got away from them and Webb-Foster was lucky to get away with a late jump into Frankie Kent – especially as referee Jason Knowles then started to flash his yellow card with abandon.
And the mood did not improve as Callum Harrison’s clearance sent Szmodics away on his own from the halfway line. Rhys Jenkinson was in his slipstream but there was no denying the hat-trick goal, finished with a classy shimmy around Barker.
City at least had the final say after McBurnie was denied by a goalline clearance from Moore-Azille. Stockdill’s resulting corner picked him out to head a second.
CITY: Barker, Pollard (Waters 46), Jenkinson (Devine 85), Wright, Heaton, King, Mottley-Henry, Stockdill, McBurnie, Webb-Foster (Brennan 77), N Curtis. Subs (not used): Cissa, Hallwood.
COLCHESTER: Bransgrove, Andrews (Brampton 65), O’Donoghue, Lapslie, Kent, Moore-Azille, J Curtis (Monk 85), Harrison, Bonne, Szmodics, Sembie-Ferris (Smith 79). Subs: Gardiner, Carroll.