U18s: Sheff Utd 1 United 1 – Blades battle back to earn a point
Posted by nickogs20 on September 18, 2010
September 18th 2010, 11am
Sheffield United Academy, Shirecliffe
|Sheffield United U18s||1-1||Manchester United U18s|
|Ironside 55||–||Cole 47|
United’s U18s continued their unbeaten start to the season with a hard-earned draw against Sheffield United at Shirecliffe.
Second best to a useful Blades outfit for much of the first half, United slowly came into the game and took the lead shortly after the break thanks to a brilliant Larnell Cole free-kick. Joe Ironside soon put the hosts back on level terms however, and despite both sides pushing for a winner in an entertaining contest, the Reds had to settle for a second successive 1-1 draw.
Paul McGuinness made three changes to the side that drew 1-1 with Middlesbrough at Carrington last week with the most significant coming at right-back, where Alberto Massacci returned from nearly seven months out injured in place of Michael Keane. The Italian last took to the field in a 1-0 defeat to Liverpool back on January 30th and his inclusion in the starting lineup ended a miserable spell on the sidelines for the summer 2009 arrival from Empoli. Elsewhere Joe Coll replaced Liam Jacob in goal as McGuinness continued to rotate his three available keepers, while Charni Ekangamene came in for the previously ever-present Tom Lawrence on the left of midfield.
The home side started much the brighter and there were early scares for United as the Blades wasted both a great three-on-two opening on the counter-attack and a free header at the back post from the subsequent corner. Coll was then forced into action to deny Jordan Slew, and there will have been concern in the visiting dugout at just how much the Reds were on the back foot in the opening stages.
Sheffield United continued to keep the ball well and frustrate United for much of the first half-hour, but the Reds at least threatened on the counter and, with John Cofie and Ryan Tunnicliffe – two of the stars of the season so far – coming to the fore, they eventually started to take the upper hand in the fifteen minutes before the break. Cofie served warning of his particular threat when using his pace and strength to work an opening on the right and firing a dangerous low ball across the face of goal that just eluded Ekangamene and Jesse Lingard, and moments later he forced the first meaningful save from Blades keeper George Long.
Long was left rooted to the spot the next time Cofie took aim at goal, the big striker’s 20-yard effort deflecting wickedly and thudding against the post, before Tunnicliffe stepped up with a typically driving run into the box from deep, Long foiling his first attempt before a combination of keeper and defender somehow denied the United midfielder as he looked certain to slot home the rebound from a tight angle. Tunnicliffe also slashed a volley just wide with his weaker left foot, and when half-time arrived shortly afterwards, it will have been much to the Reds’ disappointment.
Nevertheless, after a shortened interval they picked up pretty much where they left off, and it took less than two minutes before McGuinness’ side grabbed the lead. Lingard latched onto a Cofie knockdown and looked to be clean through on goal, only to be brought down by a recovering defender right on the edge of the box. The free-kick was given but the referee deemed that no further action was required, a decision that almost beggared belief – a red card may have been slightly harsh with other defenders getting back to help out but the offence was undoubtedly worthy of at least a caution. Oh well, no matter: United dished out their own punishment, Larnell Cole curling the set-piece delightfully into the top corner with Long well beaten.
Given their superiority over the preceding twenty minutes and the boost of going a goal in front, you’d have expected the Reds to push on and seize control of the game. Quite the contrary – if anything they seemed to ease off slightly, while the Blades, far from being rattled by United’s flying start to the second 45, responded by raising their game and causing immediate problems at the back for McGuinness’ men. Coll denied Joe Ironside with a stunningly agile stop from close range, while Massacci had to head off the line from the ensuing corner. The pressure was building and United’s rearguard couldn’t hold firm, Ironside poaching an equaliser for the hosts after his initial shot from a pull-back by Slew had been parried by Coll.
The scores once again level, both sides set about finding a winner, which made for an entertaining last half-hour. Slew had the best chances for the Blades, toe-poking an Anderson cross against the near post before failing to capitalise when presented with a real sight of goal after Coll unwisely elected to punch clear when under no pressure. Cole and Lingard both went close with shots from distance for United, while the best chance for the Reds to snatch it fell to Cofie, who couldn’t quite keep up his record of scoring in every game so far this season after his powerful header from Cole’s right-wing cross was well saved by Long.
Both sides used their full quota of substitutes (mostly injury-enforced in the home side’s case), Tom Lawrence, Tyler Blackett and Michele Fornasier entering the fray for United, with Massacci among those to make way after getting an encouraging hour of football under his belt on his comeback. The changes had little effect however, only – as so often happens – serving to disrupt the flow of the game, and things petered out with both sides still seeking a winner but ultimately content with a draw that was just about the right result on the balance of play. United move on to the derby with City next week still unbeaten after their first five games, and hopefully a return to Platt Lane – scene of one of last season’s most memorable victories – can inspire the Reds to a return to winning ways.
1. Joe Coll
2. Alberto Massacci (12. Michele Fornasier 63)
3. Zeki Fryers
4. Tom Thorpe (c)
5. Sean McGinty
6. Etzaz Hussain
7. Larnell Cole
8. Ryan Tunnicliffe
9. John Cofie
10. Jesse Lingard (15. Tyler Blackett 77)
11. Charni Ekangamene (14. Tom Lawrence 60)
Subs not used
13. Sam Johnstone
16. Luke Hendrie
Ref: M Chester
Sheff Utd: TBC