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Sheffield Wednesday U23s 1 Town U23s 2
Written by SheffieldTractor on Saturday, 2nd Sep 2017 19:32

Living in Sheffield, I was lucky enough to be able to take in a reasonably entertaining 'local' U23 game at Hillsborough this afternoon.

An impressive first-half display, capped by an exquisite Bersant Celina freekick, gave Town a half-time lead, which was re-established at the death after the young Owls had equalised in the seconnd period.

I wasn’t taking notes to make a full report but I thought I'd give readers an overview of the match and a review of the individual performances.

Town started in a 4-4-1-1 formation. In front of Harry Wright’s goal Luke Woolfenden and Chris Smith formed a centre-back partnership with Pat Webber and Dylan Crowe the left and right full-backs.

Shane McLoughlin was the deepest of a midfield four, Tom Adeyemi, also playing centrally, generally slightly more advanced. Danny Rowe hugged the right touchline and Ben Morris was asked to provide width of the other wing. Bersant Celina began in the number 10 slot behind Ben Folami.

Although territory and possession was fairly evenly shared in the first half it was Town who made all the better chances. Midway through the half a sharp break involving good work by Rowe set up Folami whose glancing effort was impressively stopped by Dawson, the Wednesday keeper.

A few minutes later Folami again went close, this time after good work down the left by Webber. Unlike Folami’s chances, Rowe was perhaps odds-on to score when his clever run was found by a slide rule pass by the dynamic McLoughlin, only for the former Macclesfield winger to drag the ball back across goal with his favoured left foot.

At the other end, Wednesday’s Portuguese striker, Lucas Joao, who made 40 first team appearances for the Owls last season (six goals), was proving a handful for the Town centre-backs with his excellent close control and quick feet (think Paulo Wanchope). However, despite his skill, the home team were restricted to efforts from range.

Town were awarded a freekick just out from the corner of the Wednesday box when Celina was adjudged to have been impeded off the ball. He took the kick himself, curling the ball with pace beyond the outstretched Dawson, high into the far inside-netting. A moment of great class to break the deadlock and certainly enough to merit Town a lead at half-time.

The Blues started the second half very poorly with the home team enjoying a significant majority of possession and going close several times amid scrappy and slow reaction defending.

Town had just begun to steady the ship when the impressive Joao was kindly awarded a penalty after a tangle with Smith. Smith may have been the victim of a 50-50 decision but was erroneous in his willingness to engage in a wrestling match in his own six-yard box when he had his opponent facing away from goal. Joao’s kick gave Wright, watched by his father and Ipswich legend, Richard from the stands, no chance.

Although Wednesday continued to look the better team their hold on the game deteriorated in a stagger coinciding with the gradual removal of their best three players. First, new Dutch signing, centre-back Joost Van Aken, came off in readiness for a first-team debut no doubt, followed by man-of-the-match Joao and then his compatriot Frederico Venancio who had, like Van Aken, shown authority at the heart of the home defence.

Blues coach Gerard Nash in turn altered the Town’s construction. Following the equaliser Morris was switched to a central striking role and McLoughlin took his place on the left of midfield with Celina dropping back to a central midfield slot as the visitors adopted a more conventional 4-4-2 formation.

James Blanchfield later replaced Morris as Celina was once again moved further forward; Blanchfield playing in centre midfield where, shortly before the end he was partnered with Corey Ndaba, who replaced Adeyemi.

Although Ipswich had put together some longer periods of passing, the late Town winner was still a little against the run of play. My memory is that Blanchfield had set away Rowe, who attacked the full-back with the ball eventually running to Folami near the edge of the box. There may have been a couple of unintentional deflections off defenders before the industrious Australian slid the ball accurately into the far corner to secure a young Ipswich team a very creditable win against a rival Championship outfit that contained a handful of aforementioned first teamers as well as several impressive younger players.

James Murphy came largely won his duel with Adeyemi, the keeper Dawson made several decent saves and Kirby and Clarke also looked good prospects for Wednesday.

I’ll now give a more detailed summary of individual Town performances.

1. Harry Wright – Had few saves to make. Good distribution throughout and decisive when coming along way out to punch clear a freekick in the first half. Less convincing at times in the second period at corners and could be more vocal however should be happy with a generally sound showing.

2. Dylan Crowe – Making his debut at this level, Crowe grew as the game went on after a very shaky start when was twice caught slightly out of position and was out-muscled and out-run by the difficult Clarke. To his credit he never stopped looking for the ball and while it may be argued that he played with his head down a little too much he gradually got the measure of his opponent and finished strongly with some nice tackles.

3. Pat Webber – Did his best work going forward early on before becoming the victim of a bad challenge which required treatment. Just about withstood the tests given to him after the break.

4. Tom Adeyemi – A mixed game. Started heavily looking like he was finding running back a test on his fitness but then grew more into the game without ever stamping authority over his junior opponents. Was booked for initiating an off the ball scuffle in the second half but was winning more challenges before being replaced late on.

5. Luke Woolfenden – Generally impressive with his calmness on the ball but struggled at times to handle the trickery and awkwardness of Joao. Showed potential of a footballing centre-half but his distribution can be further improved. I would have liked him to be more vocal but generally read the game well and hopefully will benefit from today’s challenge.

6. Chris Smith (c) – Like Woolfenden was too often bettered by Joao and made a couple of poor decisions. However, several committed challenges including throwing himself in front of a powerfully hit shot in the first half. Looked less composed than his defensive partner.

7. Danny Rowe – Demonstrated lots of nice balance, several times beating opponents with drops of shoulder, changes in direction or quick feet in tight, touchline situations. He did look like a senior player although he will be disappointed not have scored or been able to run more at the Owls penalty area.

8. Shane McLoughlin – Read the game well throughout making a number of interceptions and tackles in front of the back four. He probably would have preferred his central role to the switch to left midfield in the second half but still looked aggressive and more experienced than most on the field.

9. Ben Morris – Quiet in the first period but looked happier with a central striking role where his control and play with his back to goal elongated Town’s possession. Was unlucky not have more game-time in this position.

10. Bersant Celina – The pick of Town’s players with the constant suggestion of extra class nearly every time he was near the ball. However, was not able to impose himself on the game enough with some quiet periods despite a good work ethic. A fantastic dead ball strike for his goal, worthy of any first team.

11. Ben Folami – Hard-working performance and doing a lot of things right much of the time. Took up some good positions, made several intelligent runs and showed mature decision making when he had the ball at his feet. Would be exaggerating to say he caused a constant threat against a strong centre-back pairing but was always Town’s most likely goalscorer and arguably earned his late goal.

12. James Blanchfield – Possibly Town’s best passer of the ball whether along the ground or over distance. Came on when the game may have slowed slightly but his ability to play with his head up made this more apparent. Perhaps out-muscled a little too easily a couple of times but an impressive 20 minutes.

13. Corey Ndaba – Had little game time but just about held his own in a combative midfield.

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kiwiblue added 21:14 - Sep 2
Thanks for a great review, sounds promising and like a well coached group of youngsters.
Onwards and upwards


dusth added 22:24 - Sep 2
Nice one, STractor! Good to get a perceptive reading of the game and our fringe players. thanks.

dusth added 22:29 - Sep 2
Sheffield Tractor, just to add, the first Town game I ever saw was at Hillsborough in September 1961. Wednesday 1, Town 4. Been a supporter ever since,. Still in my sixties so you can guess how young I was!

bluearmy78 added 08:45 - Sep 3
Great match report SheffieldTractor. I see that Luke Hyam wasn't in the squad, I wonder if this game was too much for him after the midweek game against Sheffield Utd??

Pilgrimblue added 10:11 - Sep 3
Superb blog, good to hear about future stars. Looking forward to more

Binner added 18:45 - Sep 3
As others have said, an excellent report; much appreciated.


Butcherboy added 11:43 - Sep 4
We were at the game as we were visiting friends so decided to pop along.

Think you're being very harsh on the two CBs for ITFC who handled Joao well to the point he got frustrated and stroppy - they both looked composed so not sure why you would say Smith didn't. The penalty was very soft.
It was an entertaining game but second half was something of a smash and grab with Wednesday having all the possession. Blanchfield was stand out when he came on and was very unlucky to miss out on the Palace game.
Good that the lads have won 3 out of 4 now. Be interesting to see how the season goes when players come in and out.

WednesdayJon added 05:20 - Sep 13
Wednesday fan also at the game. A well balanced, accurate summary I'd say. Thanks.

* A minor point on Lucas Joao: He in fact made only 12 appearances for The Owls last season, scoring just a single goal! He went out on loan to Blackburn toward the end of the season.
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