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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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midastouch added 21:31 - May 17
At half time I was hoping the score would be kept to under 23!

midastouch added 21:32 - May 17
Still a decent season overall for the U23s finishing 2nd.

blueboy1981 added 21:32 - May 17
What did I say after the first game against Liverpool ? - the defence was awful in conceding the two goals, same in the second, followed now by the third ... !!!
People waxing lyrical after the first game, praise unjustified is unhelpful - it needs to be seen as it really is ..... !!!
Last three matches takes the shine off the season for the lads, that’s for sure !!

dirtydingusmagee added 21:51 - May 17
oh well , its go again lads,

algarvefan added 22:58 - May 17
Shame but there you go, can't argue with 4-0 but they did well to finish 2nd.

runningout added 00:35 - May 18
I’m no body language expert, but they looked like they’d lost before kicking a ball. Something very wrong in preparation. Might be worth looking into to avoid again

Bluefox added 08:13 - May 18
Not surprising really given that half the squad has already been released and most of the rest know what they have coming...

Nottsboy added 09:03 - May 18
Watching the game last night was painful I lost count of the amount of times the lads gave the ball away, they looked deflated after 5 minutes and did not fight for the second ball. But what I saw was that to be eligible to get into the 1st team is that you have to pass the ball across the back for 12 passes then hoof it up the pitch to the opposing side then lose the ball. Or is there another reason given the fact what's been happening at Town with players getting their marching orders, has Dyer taken the same stance as PC, there is no evidence of man management. When I managed personnel in the military and Civilian life you have to manage people as individuals as well as a collective to get the best out of them. ???

borge added 09:15 - May 18
What a totally cr@p thing to say blueboy1981. Do you ever focus on the positives? Unfortunately I managed to give you an uppie when I would have liked to have given you ten down votes to match your negativity!

Great effort by the lads across the course of the season!

Linkboy13 added 09:28 - May 18
Possibly one game too many for a very young side who looked very tired. Sheffield United looked much bigger and physically stronger than our lads and we got out muscled a lot of the time, very much like the first team. But all in all a great season for the young lads at the club and the future looks bright just need to develop physically.

Marinersnose added 09:47 - May 18
Nottsboy you make a very interesting point about managing people. I’ve heard that a certain blues favourite is upsetting too many at the club. No names but PC has clearly nailed his colours to the mast . Are others trying to emulate him.

Nottsboy added 11:35 - May 18
Hi Marinesnose its a possibility but unless it comes out from the horses mouth we will never know, but as a manager they will make their own mark, for myself the jury's out on PC if it works then a good job done if not then its another season in L1 personally I would have gone for the Cowley brothers like I said to Bluefox opinions are like A"£$holes everybody's got one but its good to debate and share thoughts.

Europablue added 11:39 - May 18
The way to improve the results in the younger categories is for the first team to get promoted at least to the Championship. We are at a severe disadvantage as to who we can attract and retain in League One.
Good effort from the lads and well done to the coaches of both the U23s and U18s.

Europablue added 11:50 - May 18
Nottsboy, I also wanted the Cowley brothers, but I guess with our profile of a complete rebuild being necessary Cook is probably the right man. It is very difficult to tell if he was a good appointment. I don't like some of the things I'm hearing like everyone can leave, unless that means if they aren't up for it. We will wait and see how it goes with signing players and who moves on. Most contracts run until June and I think that is when the transfer window opens, so it is a little early to be judging yet.

Nottsboy added 13:26 - May 18
Hi Europablue I agree with you it will take time to rebuild a team I think there's a big hill to climb to get promotion next season, but as a Town fan I can only wish them well. I remember when my good lady and I went to Peterborough a few season ago and lost 7-1 but we still follow the town home and away when we can its just infuriating when the team selection doesn't work and the manager doesn't react, any manager worth his or her salt will have to adapt to the circumstances they are presented with. In a way it's a healthy love hate relationship

Kickingblock added 13:33 - May 18
Well done those lads.
They didn't loose the 2nd half!

blues1 added 16:56 - May 18
Blueboy1981. Such a good fan, you dont even know the difference between the u18s team, who it was played liverpool, and the u23s team who played this match. At least talk about the right team. And why criticise anyway? Both teams have had good seasons. And everyone knows anything can happen in playoff/cup games. So rather than critìcise, why not just say well done to them for getting there in the 1st place.

Oldboy added 18:40 - May 18
They are, were a Prem club, so decent kids on their books. Fantastic effort for these youngsters to finish 2nd in such a competitive league. Great season lads and hope for a double promotion next season. Congrats again on a fantastic season, you did your club and fans proud.

abandon_hope1978 added 20:49 - May 18
Can’t agree with Linkboy13. How can these boys be too tired? The U23’s finished their league on 3rd May, and only 2 of our U18’s started yesterday, and 1 on the bench.
Why are we getting bullied and not causing problems for opposition defenders? Simpson and Oppong are very big lads, but neither seem to create anything and have only a handful of goals between them this season which is disappointing and far from the form you’d expect at this level.
That said, decent season overall.

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