U23s Beaten By Blades in Play-Off Semi-Final
Monday, 17th May 2021 20:58
Town suffered semi-final heartbreak for the third time in six days as the U23s were beaten 4-0 by Sheffield United at Bramall Lane in their Professional Development League Two play-off.
Will Osula netted a hat-trick after Andre Brooks had given the Blades the lead with all the goals coming in the first half.
The Blues’ U18s lost an FA Youth Cup semi-final 2-1 to Liverpool at Portman Road on Wednesday and then their PDL play-off semi-final 2-1 at Wigan after extra-time on Saturday.
There was controversy within the first 30 seconds when Town attacker Tawanda Chirewa was played in on goal and Sheffield United’s left wing-back Harry Boyes pulled him back just outside the area.
Referee Thomas Kirk awarded a free-kick but showed only a yellow card when it looked very much an obvious goalscoring opportunity. Crane curled his effort over the bar.
In the eighth minute, Boyes and Nickseon Gomis interchanged on the left before it was crossed to the near post and Osula’s effort was diverted behind for a corner which came to nothing.
Neither side was able to create a chance until the 25th minute, the Blues having been bright in possession but with too many crosses looping into the keeper’s arms, when Boyes stabbed wide after Femi Seriki had tricked his way in from the right and put it on a plate for the right wing-back.
From the resultant goalkick, Town gifted the Blades a goal. Keeper Bert White exchanged passes with defenders on the edge of the box a few times before midfielder Callum Page, on a long-term trial from Needham Market, played the ball straight to Brooks inside the Blues box from where he had a simple job of slipping home.
In the 31st minute Tyreece Simpson was found on the left of the area and hit a shot which home keeper Jordan Amissah palmed away from goal.
Within a minute, it was 2-0 to the Blades. Osula turned away from Blues skipper Bailey Clements and brought the ball into the area towards the left before hitting an effort which struck the advancing White, looped over the former AFC Wimbledon man and into the net.
In the 36th minute the South Yorkshiremen were gifted another goal. After a spot of head tennis midway inside the Town half, the ball was nodded to Osula inside the Town box and the striker hit a shot which White allowed to squirm under him.
Five minutes later it was 4-0. The Blues had continued to see a lot of the ball but were caught on the counter-attack when Seriki was sent away down the right and crossed low for Osula to slam into the net from close range to complete his hat-trick.
A minute before the break, Chirewa looked to pull a goal back for the shell-shocked Blues but curled his effort from the edge of the area just beyond the angle of bar and post.
Until the first Sheffield United goal there had been little in the game, the Blues perhaps even having shaded it at that stage.
But Town presented Brooks the opening goal on a plate and once Osula had netted the first of his three Town looked a side on the ropes and the Blades made hay - again with the Blues giving the odd helping hand - and had the game won.
The Blades looked to start the second half as they ended with the first and two minutes after the restart Osula was crowded out as he tried to find space to shoot. The ball was subsequently sent back into the box from the left and Seriki headed over from close range when it seemed easier to hit the target.
From the resultant goalkick, Town again played themselves into trouble around the edge of their own area and Hassan Ayari picked it up before crossing low for Osula, who was stopped from getting his fourth by Matt Healy’s sliding block.
In the 54th minute Zak Brunt was teed-up on the edge of the area after another quick Blades break and his shot hit the top of the bar. Soon afterwards, Healy was booked for a foul.
The home side, who are coached by ex-Bristol Rovers manager Graham Coughlan and former Town winger Darren Currie, threatened again three minutes later, Boyes crossing from the left to Osula, whose header was saved down to his left by White. On 58 U18s skipper Fraser Alexander replaced Chirewa.
The Blades introduced Antwoine Hackford from the bench in the 70th minute and almost immediately, again after the Blues had surrendered possession in their own half, was played in on goal by Osula, however, Alexander slid in to make a vital challenge as the sub prepared to shoot.
Boyes shot wide in the 75th minute, then two minutes later Town swapped Page for Jesse Nwabueze.
Eight minutes from time Boyes stumbled his way through challenges on the left of the box and hit a low shot which Clements cleared off the line.
The game was won before the break with the Blades making Town pay for their errors in and around their area.
The South Yorkshiremen, who will face Birmingham in the final, created further chances in the second half and would have added to their lead but for one or two vital last-ditch tackles, a couple of White saves, the woodwork and finishing less clinical than in the first period.
To Town’s credit, after a difficult first half, they didn’t collapse in the second despite the home side very much having the upper hand.
A disappointing way to end 2020/21 for Kieron Dyer and Terry Butcher’s U23s, who overall, like the U18s, can be very pleased with their season having finished second in PDL2 South.
Sheffield United: Amissah, Seriki (Hall 61), Gordon, Graham, Gomis, Boyes, Brunt (Maguire 61), Neal (c), Brooks, Osula, Ayari (Hackford 70). Unused: Dewhurst, Cappello.
U23s: White, Andoh, Clements (c), Smith, Crane, Page (Nwabueze 77), Healy, Chirewa (Alexander 58), Ward, Simpson, Oppong. Unused: Ridd, Bradshaw, Agbaje.
Photo: Matchday Images
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