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U18s 4-3 Birmingham - report

22 February 2016

United's U18s made six consecutive league victories by edging a seven-goal thriller against Birmingham City at the SteelPhalt Academy on Saturday.

Jordan Hallam netted a first-half brace and now has 16 goals for the season, before a goal of the season contender from Nathaniel Crofts and a fourth from defender Emmanuel Adebowale made sure of all three points for the hosts. It is also the second victory by the same scoreline at Shirecliffe in 2016, with Crewe Alexandra the victims in January.

Against opposition that had won five on the spin themselves, United made the best possible start, scoring in the sixth minute from a penalty.

Excellent work by Mallon put HALLAM into the area and his quick feet invited a challenge from the defender with the referee instantly pointing to the spot. The marksman dusted himself down before confidently dispatching the ball into the net from 12 yards.

The home side continued to be in the ascendency and Semple hit the post with a bullet header from Hallam's free-kick on the quarter hour. United looked a real threat throughout and Hall, Hallam, Mallon and Crofts all had chances to double to advantage.

But those missed opportunities proved costly in the 27th minute as a defensive misunderstanding allowed the Blues a chance to equalise, which they duly took. That goal could have put the home side on the back foot, but United regained their lead before the break with Crofts and HALLAM combining before the latter calmly applied the finishing touch to an excellent move.

On the stroke of half-time, Semple had the ball in the back of the net for a third time, but the goal was harshly disallowed with the referee adjudging that the defender had fouled his marker in the build-up. The visiting goalkeeper then denied Hallam his hat-trick, somehow saving with his legs from close range.

Gilmour and Kelly replaced Gordon and Semple at the break and the Blades went further in front in the 48th minute. CROFTS latched onto Gilmour's clearance and showed excellent skill to get the ball under control and beat his man before drilling home from 25 yards.

On the hour, City gave themselves a potential lifeline by pulling a goal back, but United regained their two-goal cushion almost immediately with ADEBOWALE volleying home from Hall's flick on following another pinpoint delivery from Hallam.

With time running out, Birmingham set up a tense finale by pulling another goal back in the 80th minute and deep into stoppage-time the Blades were indebted to Eastwood who produced an excellent reaction save at the back post to deny the visitors a last gasp equaliser.

Blades: Eastwood, Charlesworth, Brown, Gordon (Gilmour 45), Adebowale, Semple (Kelly 45), Mallon (Nugent 61), Ford, Hall, Hallam, Crofts.
Unused: Cummings, Perryman.

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