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U23s 1-2 Birmingham - report

27 February 2017

United's U23s face an anxious wait to see if they will progress beyond the group stages of the Premier League Cup, following Monday's loss at Bramall Lane.

Needing a point to ensure progress to the last 16, the Blades slipped to defeat against the Blues with all three goals coming in the first-half. Stephen Mallon equalised superbly after a Graham Kelly own-goal, only for Steve Seddon's strike on the stroke of half-time to prove decisive, despite the home side dominating long periods of the contest.

United started brightly and hit the post inside four minutes. Reed played the ball to the right where Charlesworth whipped in an inviting cross that saw both Smith and Wright challenge for the ball, but the ball deflected onto the woodwork off Harding, before Trueman collected the rebound. Moments later, Doherty played in Wright, but the striker looped his effort high and wide from a promising position.

So it was against the run of play when the Blues opened the scoring in the eighth minute. Rosenthal found Storer and his near post cross was deflected into his own net by KELLY. In response, Reed picked out the run of Charlesworth, but the full-back was unable to divert his effort on target.

But in the 22nd minute, United deservedly restored parity and in some style. Hallam's quickly taken free-kick found MALLON in space and he delightfully curled home left-footed into the top from 25 yards.

United continued to do most of the attacking, but slipped behind in the 43rd minute. The Blades failed to clear a free-kick properly and in the second phase, McCoy got the better of Cantrill before firing across goal where SEDDON scored at the second attempt despite the best efforts of Long.

The second-half was a scrappy affair, but sparked into life on the hour. After Hallam's free-kick was deflected into the air Wright looked to have scored but for an excellent save from Trueman, who reacted instantly to produce an even better stop to deny Cantrill on the rebound. Shortly after, Slater replaced Doherty for the hosts, whilst Baba took the place of Rosenthal for the Blues.

With 19 minutes remaining, Kimarni Smith was introduced with Hallam making way. With the clocking ticking against the Blades, O'Keeffe drew a save from Long following a mazy run, before Storer became the first booking of the night for persistent foul play. Needing a goal, United made another positive change, with Parkhouse replacing Cantrill.

As the game entered its final minutes, United continued to chase a equaliser, this time Cummings coming close, hitting the crossbar with a looping header. Long kept United in the contest with three minutes remaining, denying Storer who had been played in on goal by Mulders, Charlesworth then got back on the line to deny substitute Popa on the rebound.

Cummings was thrown up front in search of that elusive equaliser, but despite their best efforts, the Blues held out through five minutes of stoppage time, meaning United face an anxious wait to see if they progress to the last 16 of the competition.

Blades: Long, Charlesworth, Kelly, Doherty (Slater 63) Cantrill (Parkhouse 78), Cummings, T. Smith, Reed, Wright, Hallam (K. Smith 71), Mallon.
Unused: Hawkes, Eastwood, Parkhouse.

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