* Please note: unfortunately we were asked not to take any photographs today at the Academy. Therefore, as surprising as it may seem, the above is actually a Playmobil reconstruction of Jordan Hodder’s goal rather than the real thing… Sorry Jordan!
Sheffield United and Huddersfield Town met at Shirecliffe with both teams looking to continue their perfect start to the season after winning both of their opening games, so at least one winning start was due to be ended on Saturday morning. It wasn’t just one team though, as a 2-2 draw meant the Yorkshire clubs both remained unbeaten in the league after three games.
John Pemberton made two changes to the starting line up and they were once again in defence, with Kyle Scarisbrick and Elliot Ptak starting at centre half and left back respectively. Chris Salt and Tyler Williams made way, with Salt on the bench and Williams not in the 16 as both players were given a break in anticipation of the under 21 fixture on Tuesday afternoon.
It was the home side who kicked off, and it was a quiet start to the game with both sides getting into decent positions without really getting a real chance. Diego DeGirolamo had the first potentially dangerous moment, but his first touch let him down as the ball came off his knee giving the ball enough momentum to get away from him and allowing the Huddersfield keeper to rush out and clear from the edge of the box. At the other end, the Huddersfield right winger would cause the Blades problems all day and it was his run and cross that caused Josh Williams to head away before Ptak cleared to safety.
The first real chance of the game came 11 minutes in, and it was for the visitors. It was down the right hand side again as the left footed winger beat two men before cutting back and delivering a perfect cross, but the visitors couldn’t take advantage as the centre forward headed wide from 10 yards when he should have really done better. The right winger would be heavily involved throughout the game, and their next two attacks came from the right wing. First, it was a bullet long throw from the right back that caused havoc in the United area but as the ball landed it was fired across goal and went safely wide.
That wouldn’t be the end of the danger though, as the Terriers attacked down the right again moments later. It was the left footed winger asking all the questions as he turned Ptak before cutting inside and unleashing a ferocious effort from the corner of the box which cannoned back of the post to safety with Willis being able to do nothing other than watch. It really was a terrific effort and he was extremely unlucky not to give the away side what would have been a deserved lead after 16 minutes of the game.
The Blades looked to take advantage of that fortune as they immediately looked to break away. This time, it would be Jahmal Smith who was in behind the defence as he brilliantly charged down a pass from the Huddersfield centre half and looked to be through one on one with the keeper. Sadly, his touch let him down and just gave the keeper a chance to beat him to the ball and keep the game goalless. From this, the keeper threw it out the right and once again the visitors looked dangerous. In a similar move to earlier in the game, the Huddersfield winger cut back onto his left foot before delivering an excellent cross, but again it wasn’t to be as it was headed wide when the striker should have scored.
The first goal of the game 26 minutes in, and it was that man on the right hand side for the visitors who opened the scoring. He again cut inside his man onto his left foot, before hitting a low shot from the corner of the box that saw a rare mistake from George Willis as it somehow managed to go under his body and squirm into the bottom corner. The young keeper was absolutely livid with himself, but did manage to redeem the error a couple of minutes later as he made a fantastic save from a close range effort. Unfortunately for him it turned out to be meaningless as the on-rushing left winger was ruled offside by the linesman on the far side.
United struggled to find their game in the first half, but did give a couple of warning signs in the closing stages of it. Smith showed great strength and intelligence as he held the ball up well before laying off to striker partner DeGirolamo, but he didn’t quite catch his shot right as he attempted a left footed shot from 25 yards out which was saved comfortably by the Huddersfield keeper. Elliot Ptak was the next to pose a threat, as the ever adventurous full back went on a good run down the left hand side before delivering a cross to the back post which nobody in a red and white shirt could get on the end of as the ball went out for a goal kick.
Another dangerous moment came from an Otis Khan free kick from the left hand side. He delivered a great in-swinging ball with his right foot, and was very unfortunate as the Huddersfield defender somehow managed to head over his own bar whilst running towards goal. Khan would take the resulting corner but the referee blew for a free kick to stop any chance of United taking advantage.
It would remain 1-0 to the visitors at half time, but it was them who had another excellent chance just before the whistle. A corner was delivered from their left, and as Willis attempted to punch the ball he was just beaten to it by the centre half and it was headed goalwards, and somehow it was cleared off the line before a mad scramble followed in the United six yard box but Huddersfield were unable to force the ball over the line and the referee blew to signal the end of the first half.
It was a second half of relatively few chances, even though there was actually three goals that came from them. Huddersfield tried to start on the front foot again, as the right winger looked to run at the United midfield and defence, but he was wiped out by a strong challenge from Pemberton early in the second half as he approached the 18 yard box, and the Blades captain was perhaps fortunate to escape without a booking.
United took their first chance of the second half to level the scores on 58 minutes. In what seemed a pretty comfortable position for the away side, Ben Whiteman picked out a stunning 50 yard cross field pass from his own half to find JORDAN HODDER, who had bombed forward from his right back position, and he latched onto the ball with an excellent first touch on the corner of the 18 yard box, before cutting inside his man easily and delightfully chipping it over the Huddersfield keeper as he rushed out to try and take away the lower half of the net. It was a great ball to set up the goal and it was a finish that any striker would have been proud of, never mind a full back!
The Blades looked to be in the ascendancy now and were pushing to take the lead. Josh Williams played a long, accurate pass towards Smith who chested the ball down perfectly into the path of Pemberton who attempted a half volley with his left foot from around 25 yards but he didn’t catch it as cleanly as he would have liked and just dragged the ball a couple of yards wide, but it was promising signs for the home side.
Hodder was getting forward once again in the 69th minute, and his cross was met at the back post by the other Blades full back Elliot Ptak on the volley. He was extremely unlucky not to give United the lead as it deflected off the Huddersfield defender towards goal but the keeper got down excellently to his left to parry the ball away and ensure his side stayed level.
After that, the visitors should have rewarded their keeper by taking the lead for the second time in the game. A free kick was won on the right hand side, the ball was whipped in left footed by the right winger and was met at the back post by a substitute who had came on at that set piece and managed to find plenty of space. He headed straight across the six yard box and there was the Huddersfield centre half five yards out to put his side in front, only to see his header somehow go wide of the post.
Five minutes later, the Blades made them pay for that miss. Ptak had the ball on the left and played it inside to Pemberton, he took a touch, looked up and delivered an inch perfect cross for OWEN HEATHER to meet on the penalty spot as he headed in to the bottom corner and give the home side a 2-1 lead in the 82nd minute and a really good chance of maintaining their perfect start to the season. During the celebrations, Diego DeGirolamo was replaced by former Everton trainee Jake Eyre.
Huddersfield looked to get back on level terms immediately, and had a very good chance to do that less than a minute after Heather’s goal. The Huddersfield striker looked to be in behind the defence and broke into the penalty area, but just as he was about to pull the trigger there was Ben Whiteman who slid in brilliantly to win the ball and maintain the lead. This led to a corner for the visitors, which was cleared by the Blades defence and out for a throw in.
Sadly, it was this throw in that would lead to the equalising goal. The Huddersfield right back came over to take it, and he launched the ball into the United box where it was flicked on at the near post before finding it’s way to the back post allowing the attacker to pounce and fire the ball home in the 85th minute to the sheer delight of the visiting bench. They could perhaps consider themselves fortunate to have the goal however, as it did appear to be a foul throw as the player’s foot left the ground, but this wasn’t spotted by the officials.
After the goal, Ben Whiteman was substituted after a solid performance and replace by Chris Salt. He moved to centre half and Kyle Scarisbrick moved into midfield for the last five minutes of the game.
The Blades were desperate to win the game and forced a corner in injury time, but it was actually the visitors who almost won the game from that corner. The ball was cleared and they looked to break down the right, but a good challenge from Hodder stopped the break on the half way line as he forced the ball out for a throw. The throw in was taken quickly and the counter attack looked to have worked as the ball was fired across the face of the goal but the Huddersfield striker just couldn’t quite get on the end of it and the Blades defence could breathe again.
That would be the end of the action and both teams would feel they had chances to win the game as it ended in a stalemate.
Sheffield United U18: Willis, Hodder, Scarisbrick, J Williams, Ptak, Khan, Whiteman (Salt), Pemberton, Heather, DeGirolamo (Eyre), Smith
Unused Substitutes: Lynch, Paling, Coustrain