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U23s Defeat Blades to Claim PDL2 South Title
Tuesday, 3rd May 2022 14:56

Town’s U23s were crowned Professional Development League Two South champions after comfortably beating Sheffield United, winners of League Two North, 3-0 at Portman Road. Tommy Hughes (pictured) scored twice after Gerrard Buabo had given the Blues, who had already secured a place in the end-of-season play-offs, the lead.

The Blues went into their final game of their regular league campaign needing to win or match or better second-placed Bristol City's result in their match against Coventry City this afternoon.

Trialist left-back Max Hudson again started for the U23s, having also played in the previous two games.

The 17-year-old was with Tottenham’s academy as a schoolboy and was with an England training camp at U15 level but wasn’t offered a scholarship last summer and subsequently joined Southern League Division One Central Hertford.

Town boss Kieran McKenna is likely to be familiar with Hudson having been the U18s coach at Spurs while Hudson was playing for younger age groups.

It’s believed a number of EFL clubs have been keeping tabs on Hudson in addition to the Blues, who we understand are keen to sign him.

Cameron Humphreys, who made his home league debut in Saturday’s 4-0 win against Charlton and laid on the fourth goal, was in midfield with centre-half Albie Armin skippering having worn the armband and scored for the U18s as they hammered Coventry 7-0 to carry off the PDL Cup last Wednesday.

There was no place in the team for wantaway striker Tyreece Simpson, who as previously reported is interesting Luton, Peterborough and Barnsley, while Tawanda Chirewa has been suffering with tonsillitis.

The Blades, who had already secured the PDL North title, were first to threaten, Leo Gaxha shooting across the face from the right of the box.

On five, Matt Ward was sent away on the right but his low cross was too far in front of Zanda Siziba. The ball was sent back in from the left by Siziba and Gerrard Buabo headed goalwards but visitors’ keeper Callum Hiddleston saved to his right. Moments later, Ward scuffed an effort through to Hiddleston from the edge of the box.

Town went close to going in front on 14, Hiddleston just getting enough on Buabo’s goal-bound effort to turn it round his post right post after a strong run from the striker, a scorer in the U18s’ cup win last week.

A minute later, Ward almost made the most of some hesitancy between Hiddleston and his defence as a high ball looped to the right of the box but couldn’t divert his volley towards goal.

In the 20th minute an excellent Blues move down the right ended with Ward sending in a low ball which was cut out ahead of Siziba.

Three minutes later, Town should have gone in front when a corner was half-cleared to Tommy Hughes on the edge of the area. His shot was saved by Hiddleston but central midfielder Zak Bradshaw was first to the rebound and looked certain to score but fired over from close range with the referee giving a corner suggesting a Sheffield United player may have got a touch.

The Blues continued the pressure and on 28 Siziba beat his man on the left of the box but his cutback failed to find a blue shirt.

Town finally got the goal they deserved in the 36th minute. As the Blades sought to play out following a Blues attack, one of their midfielders knocked it straight to Buabo inside the area, the frontman gratefully accepting the opportunity and beating Hiddleston confidently.

Within two minutes it was 2-0. Ward was sent away on the right and crossed to Siziba on the edge of the box, who knocked it to Hughes to his right and the midfielder hit a shot past the keeper to his right and into the corner of the net.

Blades skipper Sydney Peck struck a powerful shot from 25 yards which Town keeper Lewis Ridd stopped but didn’t hold onto, then at the other end Siziba shot over from a little further out.

Town were well worth their lead at half-time having been knocking on the door prior to their quick-fire double from Buabo and Hughes, who took their chances confidently.

The Blues started the second half positively, winning an early corner after good work from the impressive Ward on the right.

Sheffield United started to come more into it and on 55 Andre Brooks shot wide from the edge of the box after Town had repeatedly failed to clear their lines.

Two minutes later, Siziba worked himself space just outside the box before hitting a shot which Hiddleston caught above his head. Two minutes later the Blues’ number 11 sliced another effort wide from a similar area having been played in on the left by Hughes.

As the game reached the hour mark, big centre-half Brooklyn Kabongolo’s looping header from Hughes’s corner was palmed over by Hiddleston. Soon after, Blades sub Theo Williams was booked for a foul on Ward.

In the 63rd minute, Blades sub Finley Potter, who had only just come on, tried to catch Ridd off his line from inside his own half and was only a foot or so too high.

Three minutes later, Town swapped the Siziba, as ever very lively and causing the visitors’ backline plenty of problems, for Jesse Nwabueze.

And moments later it was 3-0. Hughes lifted the ball over a defender on the edge of the area before hitting a low shot into the corner of the net.

Buabo was replaced by Nico Valentine for the final 10 minutes, shortly before Will Lankshear scraped wide for the Blades when well-placed in the Town area.

On 83 Nwabueze made a pacy run down the left before cutting in and hitting a shot from a tight angle which the keeper saved.

There was an uncomfortable moment for Ridd soon after when the keeper missed his kick when well out of his area but Armin cleared the danger. In the 85th minute Hughes and Brooks clashed off the ball and were both booked.

Blues right-back Edwin Agbaje shot over from an angle on the right having been played in by Hughes, who was switched for Jack Manly for the last couple of minutes.

A thoroughly deserved victory for Town and a great way to end their regular league season. They finish top of the division, a point ahead of Bristol City.

The result was never in any real doubt after they had established their 2-0 first-half lead but Hughes, among the standout performers along with Ward, settled any nerves there might have been with his very well-taken second to make it 3-0.

Town will face Coventry City, second in League Two North, at home in the one-legged PDL play-off semi-final on a date yet to be set, while the Blades will host the Robins, who beat the Sky Blues 4-2 this afternoon, in the other match.

U23s: Ridd, Agbaje, Hudson, Bradshaw, Kabongolo, Armin (c), Ward, Humphreys, Buabo (Valentine 81), Hughes (Manly 88), Siziba (Nwabueze 66). Unused: H Barbrook, White.

Sheffield United: Hiddleston, Sachdev, Buyabu, Earl, L Williams (Potter 60), Freckleton, Peck (c), Hampson (Smith 66), Lankshear, Gaxha (T Williams 46), Brooks, Unused: Angell, Faxon.

Photo: Matchday Images

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Millsey added 15:03 - May 3
Well done lads 💙💙

Steve_ITFC_Sweden added 15:09 - May 3
Success at U16, U18, and now U23. We must be doing something right! This is the Ipswich way. I look forward to seeing some of these players in the first team in the future.

brassy added 15:24 - May 3
well done lads

Help added 15:31 - May 3
Coventry again?.

ArnieM added 15:40 - May 3
Just need the senior first team to get their act together now !

Churchman added 16:10 - May 3
Well done lads!

Westy added 16:10 - May 3
What a great end of Season treble - League Cup wins for the Under 16s and Under 18s and now the Under 23s win their Division. A potty the latter two couldn't receive the acocolade the Under 16s did due to the timing of the last match of each, but well done all.

Linkboy13 added 16:52 - May 3
Yes just got back from the game another solid professional display from the young u23s team. Very difficult to pick a outstanding performer but if i had too I'd go for Tommy Hughes for his outstanding second goal nice first touch flicks it over the defenders head followed by a cool finish a touch of class. Ive always been an admirer of Matt Ward quick with good feet but now has added more defensive qualities to his game.

WhoisJimmyJuan added 17:06 - May 3
Great news! Well done lads. Forgive my ignorance but I'm confused as to this league's structure. We've beaten the League 2 North winners to win the South title but now in a play off? I would have thought winning our league and beating the North winners would make us overall winners. I'm blatantly ignorant on this. But happy.

Reecec196 added 18:03 - May 3
Who needs Liam Gibbs.

blueboy1981 added 19:54 - May 3
Well Done Lads - there’s more to a Football Club than just a First Team.
Look after these lads ITFC and the future has to be bright … !!!
And with the Under 18’s Winning their League Cup - about time the Furst Team stepped up to the mark again … !!!

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