Sheffield United and Oldham Athletic got their FA Youth Cup campaign under way on Wednesday night and it turned into a battle between two number 10s as Otis Khan and Jordan Bove both scored twice in an entertaining contest at Boundary Park with drama aplenty.
The rain was pouring down as the Blades kicked the game off and Oldham winger Danny Byrnes looked to capitalise on the slippery surface early on, as his shot from distance fizzed past Eastwood’s right hand post. Mike Brewster also had an effort from distance but he also failed to test the keeper in the opening stages.
This would be an early downfall for them as the Blades took their first chance of the game just 5 minutes in. Jake Eastwood’s goal kick was flicked on by towering centre forward Dan Cockerline into the path of OTIS KHAN, who cut inside the Oldham defender onto his stronger right foot before curling it expertly into the bottom corner despite the best efforts of Latics’ stopper Joel Coleman.
Oldham reacted well to the early setback and put the Blades’ defence under plenty of pressure as they looked to get an equaliser. Eastwood was forced into a good punch after Evans and Reed had failed to clear a corner, before Bove looked to create an opportunity for himself and was dealt with by the visiting captain, Ioan Evans.
Byrnes and Jordache Walters seemed to be causing the Blades problems on either wing, and good runs from both players forced Eastwood into action. Firstly, it was Byrnes with some excellent work cutting in from the left wing to beat two United defenders before firing a shot straight at Eastwood’s chest. Walters then stepped up to the plate with a mazy run of his own, beating 3 players before the Blades keeper bravely dived at his feet, taking a boot to the face in the process.
Eastwood received some treatment and was declared fit to continue, and this break in play seemed to help the away side by taking away Oldham’s momentum since going behind. The Blades started to get the ball down and keep good possession, and after a nice 18 pass move Khan had drifted to the right and crossed for Calvert-Lewin’s head, only to see it overhit by a yard.
Oldham came forward again but were denied by an excellent tackle on Walters by Elliot Ptak for a corner. From this, Thai winger Kler Heh was the man with a chance after a devastating counter attack but his shot from the angle was dragged wide from eight yards out. Diminutive midfielder Louis Reed also looked to add to the lead as he intercepted a stray pass on the halfway line, forcing a three on two break with Cockerline to his left and Khan to his right. Intelligent running from those two split the defensive duo and granted Reed a shooting opportunity, but he was unfortunate to see Coleman in top form to tip over the bar.
Coleman was to be outdone by Eastwood, however. After the ever threatening Byrnes’ run was unfairly halted by an Evans body check, a free kick was whipped in and fell to Walters, whose powerful volley from 12 yards out was spectacularly saved by the young Blades ‘keeper diving low to his left, leaving Walters clutching his head and a round of applause from the crowd.
As the rain got heavier, the game slowed down somewhat with neither side able to create a clear chance before half time. Goalscorer Khan was booked as he tried to challenge Coleman who was trying to kick out of is hands, a foul on powerful centre half Banton was missed, leading to an overhit cross before referee Luke Watson blew his whistle for half time.
The heavy rain eased off for the second half, leaving a slick Boundary Park surface. Walters was causing Ptak problems once again early on and he set up Jack Tuohy for a good chance, only for him to shoot straight into Eastwood’s midriff. Tuohy would force Eastwood into action again shortly after, but the goalkeeper wasn’t going to be beaten at his near post.
Inbetween those chances, Cockerline showed his strength and ability to hold the ball up brilliantly to set up Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who was unfortunate to see his left footed effort curl just wide of the far post. That would be his last action of the game as Travis Binnion looked to freshen up his attacking options by replacing him and Kler Heh with Jake Wright and pacey Irishman Joel Coustrain.
Just moments after the double substitution, the home side were awarded a penalty. Ryan Ellison picked the ball up and went on a powerful run through midfield. As Julian Banton came across to clear the danger, he slipped at the vital second and Ellison was bundled over, giving the referee no option but to point to the spot. JORDAN BOVE made no mistake, sending Eastwood the wrong way as he fired home in the 63rd minute. Ioan Evans was booked in the aftermath of the goal for his protests over a dubious throw-in awarded to the hosts in the build up to the goal.
The visitors looked to restore their lead quickly and Coustrain came close after a quick one-two with Khan on the edge of the area, forcing Coleman to tip wide of his left post. Dimaio then had an effort blocked from the resulting corner and Coustrain was looking dangerous again not long after, utilising his pace to get inbetween two Latics defenders before forcing another decent save out of Coleman.
Oldham responded with a change of their own as Jack Tuohy was sacrificed in place of Emil Tansinda. His first action was to be fouled by Dimaio, who picked up a yellow card for his troubles. Dimaio was becoming more involved in the game and his run down the right wing was halted by a slip as he attempted to cross, only to recover quickly and get a shot away with his left which Coleman had an answer to once again.
United were really pressing for a late winner and had several attempts in the closing stages. Jake Wright managed to push his way past Kyle Hardman before shooting wide, and Wright had another chance but couldn’t get his shot away after a good run by Paling from right back. Coustrain and Cockerline both had shots of their own but neither of them could find a way past Coleman, before Wright again had the goal bearing down on him 10 yards out and shot over thanks to good pressure from Latics captain Tom Clarke.
Ioan Evans must have thought he’d won the game in the 88th minute as he met a Khan corner beautifully, only to see his header cleared off the line by Eddie Fulwood. This didn’t stop the away side’s late momentum and just before injury time, and after a brilliant cross-field ball from Coustrain found Khan behind the full back before Coleman again saved well low down.
The home side almost managed to snatch a winner of their own, though. As a corner was only half cleared by United, Tansinda hit a sweet volley which hit a couple of bodies before finding it’s way to Ryan Ellison, who couldn’t divert the ball into the net from close range in injury time. Sheffield United still found time for another chance after this after Coustrain was fouled 20 yards out, but Dimaio’s free kick was deflected over and the whistle was blown to signal the end of 90 minutes.
Into extra time the game went, and it was the home side who were looking much more dangerous. Jordache Walters forced Jake Eastwood into an excellent save in the opening minute as his long distance effort looked destined for the corner of the net, and he hit the post with a wicked left footed shot from 20 yards two minutes later. Tansinda had previously done well to deliver a cross from the left, which nobody could get on the end of.
Most of the ground thought Otis Khan had grabbed his second goal of the game in the 98th minute, but his lob after Coleman’s error was just the wrong side of the post, despite cheers coming from the visiting supporters.
Coleman took the goal kick, and it evaded everyone except JORDAN BOVE who latched onto it before calmly slotting past Eastwood into the bottom corner to grab his 14th goal in only his 12th appearance this season.
90 seconds later, OTIS KHAN continued an impressive goalscoring record of his own with his 6th goal of the season from midfield. Coustrain had won a free kick 20 yards out, before Khan fired it low across the wet surface, past the despairing dive of Coleman and in off the post to end a frenetic first period of extra time.
Both teams made changes at the short interval, Dan Cockerline made way for Ben Whiteman for United and Jordache Walters was replaced by Will Kinder, as the Latics looked to spring a surprise.
Khan had a lively start to the second half of extra time, he almost grabbed a hat-trick as his looping effort was deflected just wide for a corner before Tansinda was guilty of tripping him to win United a free kick. As he was on the floor, Bove kicked the ball into his head, causing a retaliation that led to Khan’s second booking of the game, leaving ten men to see out the remaining 8 minutes.
They did so brilliantly, too. George Edmundson was brought on to replace the impressive Byrnes, who was having problems with cramp, and Edmundson had the only half chance of the closing stages as he volleyed well wide from 12 yards out with his left foot, leaving the game to end with the drama of a penalty shootout.
Oldham took the first penalty, and after Clarke and Whiteman scored, Ryan Ellison was the first to see Eastwood guess correctly and give the Blades the advantage. Wright, Bove, Coustrain, Kinder and Dimaio all despatched their efforts with little trouble before late substitute George Edmundson’s tame penalty was saved to Eastwood’s left, much to the delight of the Blades players who piled on the keeper in celebration.
Sheffield United will now have a second round tie at home to either Worcester City or Rugby Town, but their next game is a local derby at home to Barnsley on Saturday 2nd November.
Blades: Eastwood, Paling, Evans, Banton, Ptak, Reed, Dimaio, Calvert-Lewin (Wright), Khan, Heh (Coustrain), Cockerline (Whiteman)
Unused: Owen, Scarisbrick
Latics: Coleman, Fulwood, Clarke, Brewster, Hardman, Walters (Kinder), Ellison, Grant, Byrnes (Edmundson), Tuohy (Tansinda), Bove
Unused: Tyson, Benourad