U18 Professional Development League Play Off Semi Final
Sunday 15 May 2022
SUFC 2021/22 Game #74
(I'll begin with an apology, particularly to SubStack email subscribers & those who clicked the Blog soon after publication. In the last Blog, I announced that Forest had beaten us 1-0. It was in fact 2-1. Amateur Hour. That's now been corrected in online versions)
So, the Blades U18 remarkable season continues. Unbeaten (W15, D8) in the regular season. Won this semi final. Now through to a one off National Final against Charlton Athletic. (I'm always obliged to point out at this stage this is U18 Academy Division 3. Don't get too carried away. But - Win What You're In).
It's worth explaining that three of today's U18 starters (Sachdev, Peck & Arblaster) had also started the U23 play off last Monday. And four U18 starters (Hiddleston, Potter, Lankshear & Theo Williams) were on the U23 bench on Monday. (As it happens, I think that says more about where the U23s are).
This was a kick up the arse reminder about U18 football. Things change quickly during games. There's a lot of ebb and flow. I thought United had been disappointing in the first half. A ridiculous amount of play was over the top into Theo Williams channel. Hoping he would be able to get a steal on the left back and work something. It wasn't not working, but it wasn't producing either. Don't get me wrong, we had chances, you always do at U18. But, so did Colchester. Indeed, they scored just before half time.
Owen Hampson was subbed by Charlie Staniland for the second half. That put a burst of energy in it. Willing to try & get forward with the ball at his feet. And, Del Geary started to take more of a role in the tech area. Getting quite ratty he was. Both with his own team & the officials. Remember, Del is now Academy Manager. I feel some "coaches" are more suited to the whiteboard & strategy documents needed at management level. Some are more suited to the tracksuit, cones & shouting needed when working with players. I worry about Del - very much a hands on coach, rather than a CEO.
That point does give me a chance to shout out former U23 hands on coach and former Academy Manager Travis Binnion. In case you hadn't heard, I've got an inappropriate man crush on Trav. His Manchester United U18s (he's hands on coach with them) won the FA Youth Cup in the week.
Anyway. Rewind. Chaz Staniland driving forward. Del shouting & bawling. A bit of refocus. And the Young Blades really started to get back into it. After a period of sustained pressure, Josh Smith scored a great goal from a tight angle on the left. Great inside the defender ball from Sydie Peck. And I think the keeper will be a little pissed off. It seemed to go through him. I felt a bit for young Smith. All these rapscallions know where the Club Photographer is. Score. Run over. Hold the pose. Update your Insta after the game.
Josh, poor fucker, he's got the equaliser. He knows the drill. Pick the ball out of the net. Run with it. Place it on the centre circle spot. Get the game going. Get the winner. No photo op there lad.
No drama. The Go Ahead Goal came just two minutes later. The thing I remember most is the back to goal, deep in his own half, flick & turn to set the move up from Theo Williams. He feeds Lankshear. He takes it deep. Squares it & a slight deflection puts in in Peck's stride and he bundles it home.
Run to the camera now. Everybody.
On 72 minutes, I swear to Didzy, Josh Smith scored his second & The Blades third from the exact same spot as his first. This time, it's more of an individual effort. Some neat work from Peck & Williams on the left corner of the penalty area released the ball back to Josh. He weaves & a'waggles into the box and scores hard and low across the keeper.
Potter & Williams added the fourth & fifth. And there were a few substitutions to preserve players for the final. One down at HT. Five goals in twenty minutes & cruise the last ten. Gotta love that.
As this was "only" an U18 game. And as it was Sunday. And as key Carrier Bag Firm luminaries do the Sunday Session in Fanny's every week, I asked for, and was granted a one match trial.
166 Arundel St, Sheffield City Centre, Sheffield S1 4RE
Ossett Brewery, White Rat, Pale Ale on Cask at 4%
A great beer. In excellent condition. Suited the weather. And the mood. Plough in. Bitter hop burst hits you first. Further down, you get a bit more of "golden ale" sugar before that kicks. But, those lovely hops predominate.
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