Young Blades Share the Spoils
Updated Wednesday, 18th May 2011
Sheffield United Academy drew 2-2 with Manchester United at Bramall Lane last night in the first leg of the FA Youth Cup Final; deadbat_db reports.
The ground was almost full to capacity when the game kicked off and perhaps the size of the crowd got to the Blades youngsters early as they made a nervous start. Man Utd penned the home side back and gained two quick corners. However, United finally broke out and actually had the first decent chance when good work from Slew led to a chance for Gregory who headed over. The visitors were still shading things with Pogba were influential in the middle of the field and the two wide men Lingard and Van Velzen had the pace to get in and behind the Blades backline.
Pogba’s cross from out wide led to confusion and Long was unable to get there with the ball looping up off LINGARD towards the goal. It appeared that Maguire had cleared the ball via the bar but whilst there seemed like the big defender may have handled the ball it did not seem like it had gone over the line and it was a surprise that the assistant referee flagged to signal a goal. The Blades were shook by this and struggling to get a foothold in the game. Morrison cut in and forced Maguire to clear off the line and then Keane forced Long into a save from close range.
Slew was looking promising on the few occasions United broke out and it seemed as if the Blades had gone to a 4-5-1 in an attempt to stem the flow. Finally a few robust challenges encouraged the crowd and Slew forced a corner. From the resultant kick Whitehouse nodded down and upwards but a Man Utd defender cleared the ball off the line. United were level though just before half time as skipper Whitehouse showed real tenacity as he battled through two challenges before the ball fell to winger MCFADZEAN who hit a ferocious shot from fully 25 yard which arrowed past the keeper, Johnstone, to send the crowd into raptures. It was a great goal and gave United fans hope they could get a result after the early tentative start.
The second half saw the Blades come out strong and seemed to be getting on top of the game with Slew once again running the channels and Whitehouse showing his strength and forward running. Slew had a long range shot tipped over and then the same man crossed for Gregory to nod back at the far post but the visitors kicked Whitehouse’s close range effort off the line again as the keeper was beaten.
However, Man Utd showed their abilities in attacks as Morrison forced Long into a save and then a long range effort from Keane went narrowly wide. On 70 minutes they regained the lead with Pogba’s clever ball feeding Lingard who centered for KEANE to score from inside the 6 yard box. It was a well constructed goal but maybe a tad unfortunate for the Blades who were now well in the game and perhaps shading matters.
Still the home side kept coming and it was only minutes later when they levelled again. Ironside flicked on and SLEW took a touch and then fired a shot that deflected up and over the keeper and into the net. It was a little fortunate due to the deflection but after the controversy of the first goal it maybe evened things out in terms of the fortune stakes.
There were changes for both sides and then centre back Maguire hobbled off as Pemberton was forced to reshuffle for the closing stages. Man Utd finished the game stronger with Long saving from both Morrison and Tunnicliffe. Right at the death Tunnicliffe fired wide when well placed s the Blades back line seemed stretched but they definitely deserved a draw and the final whistle came not long after.
We did really well and definitely competed all night against a club that can pick and choose players from all over the World. We deserved a draw and for most of the game had as many chances as them until the death. Indeed whilst we started poorly and ended in a tired fashion we did really well in between this time and played some good football as well as competing and starting to win a lot of individual battles after the early difficulties in the game. It looked like it was going to be a long night as we went behind early and did not start well but they began to finally compete and slowly got back into the game. We scored a great goal to level and then seemed on top in the second half when they broke and took the lead again. We then deservedly levelled and after this it could have gone either way but Man Utd did finish strongly at the end and Long had to make one or two good saves.
United maybe did not have quite as many technically gifted players as the visitors but they still had a few stand outs with the defender Kennedy, midfielder Whitehouse and forward Slew impressing. The two centre backs, two midfielders and Slew looked good. We looked a little slow and pedestrian down the flanks maybe and that was maybe the difference between the sides. I thought we lacked some pace both defensively and going forward and this meant we often had to play narrow.It seemed like we gave them too much respect early on but when the Blades got amongst Man Utd they finally started to make things happen and forced them to turn over possession and we created chances. It will be very tough to win at Old Trafford after seeing the talent they have particularly going forward but if Pemberton keeps them organised and resolute then they could maybe do it with the pace of Slew on the break.
Hopefully, we can keep some of the young players we have despite their being many, many scouts, Premier League representatives in the directors box and can look at 5 or 6 being in and around the first team pool of 16-20 players next year. Pemberton has certainly done a great job and carried on the work of the likes of Reid and Fogg beforehand. This group does seem a good crop and it seems a few stand a real chance. Hopefully McCabe and the fans won’t pin all their hopes on these being the saviour as we need many experienced players around the 2 or 3 that may be first teamers next season as we cannot play 7 or 8 at the same time in the first team. At least not yet or for a good few years.
Clearly got some real talent and alongside the skills they had some massive players that looked a lot older than 17/18!!! They had a quite a few ‘international players’ in their line up and have clearly taken the best talent from all over the world. The number 8, Pogba was huge and had a lovely touch. Also they had real trickery in the likes of Lingard and Van Velzen down the wings that were both quick, direct and skilled. Morrison up front (again very tall for his age) was always a threat and Will Keane also looked lively and always looked to get on the end of things as evidenced by the goal. They clearly have talent in abundance. They not only have some outstanding technical players but they all seem so strong and fast. The difference is in many other Academy sides there are maybe 2 or 3 or in the better teams like us 5 or 6 stand out players. For Man Utd there are probably 8 or 9. They looked very good going forward and with a better choice of final ball or better finishing could have scored more. However, at the back they looked a little jittery and Slew caused them all sorts of problems.
GK - Long – Did well again as he had in other games I have seen. Maybe a bit hesitant on a few occasions, such as the first goal when he might have thought he could have got there but he made 4 or 5 good saves and a couple of excellent ones too such as the one down to his left early on in the second half. Took crosses when he could and certainly did himself no harm tonight.
RB – Montgomery –Thought he was one of our poorer players and really struggled with his opponent. Seemed to lack pace and mobility and his touch was off all night. At times he could not keep up with the winger for pace and trickery.
CB – Maguire – Did alright defensively making headers and clearances and helped organise the back line. At times tried to do too much with the ball in terms of trying to always play the ‘hollywood ball’ instead of keeping it simple. Also struggled a bit with pace of some of the Man Utd quick forwards at times. Still think he needs to lose a few pounds. Hobbled off at end and might be a doubt for next week.
CB – Kennedy – Excellent. Maybe our best player and got stronger as the game went on. Looked composed on the ball and also attacked the ball well when he needed to. Reads the game well and has decent pace/athleticism and looks a ‘Jagielka type’ in that he is not amazing at anything but good at lots of things and just a good all around footballer. One to keep an eye on
LB – Barry. Like Montgomery felt he struggled with the pace and tricks of the winger and at times just did his best to limit him from getting at him. Did get better as the game went on and stuck to his task well when he was matched up with a difficult opponent much of the night and ended the game at centre back too.
RM – Gregory. Flitted in and out of the game. A few tidy touches/passes and had a few decent knocks backs for chances. Got injured early in the second half and whilst he tried to go on he eventually had to go off.
CM – Harriott – Always looks to keep the football which is good. Maybe at times his passing was not quite as good as it can be and he does have a tendency to always go sideways or backwards but do like his confidence in wanting and receiving the ball (reminded me of Curtis Woodhouse in looks and play)
CM – Whitehouse – Thought he stuck to his game well and although against some very imposing players he kept tackling, fighting and battling. He also had a few good efforts on goal as he got in the box and tried to get on the end of things. A good engine and another one that may be worth watching (reminded me of Paul Rogers in looks and play).
LW – McFadzean – He was ok in the first half and was involved in a few of our attacking moves but of course his goal was superb; a real peach from a long way out. He did fade a bit in the second half I felt.
CF – Ironside – Quiet-ish game. He struggled to hold the ball up or have much of an influence but to be fair to him he ended up playing more withdrawn in more of a midfield role for spells. He did flick on to set up the second goal and had a good 15-20 minutes to begin this half/
CF – Slew – Excellent. Led the line well (often on his own) and always looked to get the ball under control and then either bring others into play or run the channels and turn defenders/put them on their heels. He showed a lot of maturity tonight in the way he ran across the line and was a focal point of balls forward allowing us to build from his hold up/running. He had a bit of luck on the goal but could have scored not long before.
Wilkinson – Tiny compared to some of the other players, especially the Man Utd players in midfield he was up against but he did well and showed some nice touches and always looked to keep the ball.
Martin – Came on for Ironside but did not get involved that much as United were probably defending more in the final 10 minutes or so.
Pomares – Replaced Maguire but played at left back for final few moments and did ok in limited time.
Crowd – Was announced as nearly 30,000 which was hugely impressive and really does show the potential of the club if they can get things right. It was probably not quite full (quite a few empty seats in the BL upper and lower – Man Utd fans only filled about half of this) but was still amazing to see the ground pretty much full for a youth game (even if there were offers on tickets etc) and they backed the team well applauding them at half and full time. The crowd rose to tackles, commitment and also showed patience at the football they tried to play but were also appreciative of some of the talents of the visitors. It was an excellent night and showed the club and its fans in a really good light after the disappointments of much of the season before it.