Derry's exit poses fresh test as Canaries loanee gets to grips with physical style of League Two
With so many of Norwich City's young talents out on loan, David Freezer took the opportunity to see how Adam Phillips was getting on at Cambridge.
The technical ability of City prospect Adam Phillips is clear to see within just a few minutes of watching the former Liverpool midfielder in action – it’s the ugly side of the game that he’s learning with Cambridge United in League Two.
Phillips was signed after a trial spell with the Canaries’ under-23 squad last summer and made enough of an impact that he was named captain by coach Matt Gill during the early stages of the season.
He is now one of the 16 players keeping loans manager Neil Adams busy as they gain experience away from Norfolk during the second half of this season.
Phillips made the fourth start of his spell at Cambridge on Friday, playing the first half of a creditable 0-0 draw at home to play-off chasing Lincoln City.
Despite being just 20 years old and a recent signing, U’s boss Shaun Derry had clearly seen enough on the training pitches to make Phillips his designated set-piece taker.
The potential problem for the Canaries youngster now however is that Derry left his job as head coach at Cambridge after the game, bringing an end to a spell of just over two years in charge at the Abbey Stadium.
Friday night’s game was a fine example of how the lower leagues can provide an ideal finishing school for talented players produced by top-level academy systems, who often don’t get enough of the physical and competitive aspects of the game through development football.
Phillips already looks to be adapting to the physicality of League Two, although looked slightly out of place on the right of a midfield diamond, rather than in the middle.
The former three-time British cycle speedway champion, who gave up the sport to focus on his academy education at Liverpool at under-16 level, also captaining the England U16s, is still getting back on track after a small back fracture held up his development with the Reds.
Having featured as an unused substitute for City for two matches during the first half of this season, Phillips now has to put his foot on the pedal to prove his worth to the new Cambridge boss, if he is to force his way into the first-team reckoning with the Canaries next season.
PHILLIPS PLAYER WATCH
2 – Playing on the right of a midfield diamond, whips in a cross from the right but striker Barry Corr can’t quite get his head to the ball.
4 – Gets a big cheer from the home fans after climbing high to win a header above Michael Bostwick and quickly following up with a tackle on Alex Woodyard in the centre circle.
5 – Sends in a corner from the right but Corr can’t muscle his way through to head the ball.
7 – Takes free-kick on the left but his cross doesn’t beat the first man. Reacts quickly to win a header and win back possession, leading to Jeavani Brown firing just wide for Cambridge.
14 – Nice turn and one-two with right-back Brad Halliday allows him to play George Maris into the right channel, who lashes a poor shot well over.
16 – Intercepts a pass on the edge of his own box to stop Lincoln left-back Sam Habergham bursting through.
17 – Quick feet to turn away from Bostwick in midfield but Maris loses possession. Soon after tries to spread a ball to the left but gets it all wrong and plays it straight to a Lincoln player.
26 – Pings a lovely high ball from deep in his own half but Billy Waters can’t quite reach it to go one-on-one with the keeper.
29 – Floats a deep free-kick in from the right but big defender George Taft is outmuscled trying to get his head to the ball.
35 – Sliding tackle prevents Habergham cross coming in.
45 – Can’t stop Habergham’s cross and Matt Rhead heads just wide at the back post for Lincoln.
46 – Whips a corner in from the right but it’s headed away.
52 – Moans as he receives a throw from Halliday but accidentally heads the ball straight back out of play, followed by more groans as a spread pass to Halliday on the right goes out of play soon after.
57 – BOOKED – Loses the ball in midfield, misses a tackle on Woodyard and then kicks through the back of Rhead’s legs in frustration as he tries to get the ball back, pulled away by captain Gary Deegan.
61 – Replaced by David Amoo.
• Phillips was an unused substitute when Cambridge won 3-2 at Chesterfield in League Two last night, with Derry’s former assistant Joe Dunne in caretaker charge