A great week for football in Bristol continued when Bristol City’s U23s side beat Sheffield United U23s on Monday afternoon.
The result means that the Young Robins go one better than last season and will contest the National Final of the PDL2 competition (the second tier of youth football in the country; there is no promotion and relegation however), after this semi-final win.
Owura Edwards smashed a beauty into the top corner to seal the victory, a year after he netted the early opener in last year’s semi-final that saw Bristol City cruelly defeated in the last seconds by Birmingham City.
Not so this year, as Tommy Conway and Saikou Janneh had chances to find the net too. Sheffield United dominated the game for large parts but failed to create big opportunities.
The Blades had won the Northern section of the competition to face second-placed City, who had been toppled from top spot in the PDL2 South section by Ipswich Town in the final two rounds of the tournament.
A single enforced change was made to the starting team that saw Coventry undone up at Failand the week before.
Ayman Benarous suffered a dreaded ACL injury on the Thursday of last week, but City were boosted by the return of Edwards from loan at Colchester United, who would go on to star.
The home side fielded former Mangotsfield defender Miguel Freckleton in their line-up, as the Blades defender was booked for a bad foul on Dylan Kadji in the first half. And in truth this was a scrappy, niggly game with neither side able to get on top.
As assistant senior coach Stuart McCall and Blades coach mentor - whatever that is - Aidy Boothroyd watched on from the sidelines of York City’s LNER Community Stadium, where the match was played due to Sheffield United being in the Championship play-offs, the final beckoned.
A year ago, Sheffield United ousted Bristol City from the FA Youth Cup. Here it was the West Country side who march on however, with a second successful year in the competition still in progress.
Tale of the game
Conway threatened in the early moments as he danced across the box, but was unable to get a shot away. A long Josh Owers pass almost found Sam Bell peeling off the Blades rearguard.
Zac Bell then wasted a good crossing opportunity as the visitors made good inroads early on.
Sydie Peck fired a free kick over the cross-bar on 17 minutes for Sheffield United, and goalkeeper Jordan Amissah was quick off his line to clear from outside his area not long after.
Amissah than saved from Sam Bell from a corner before Wood’s cross almost created a chance, with neither team able to fashion a real opening to score this far.
City went close when Saikou Janneh met a cross following a free kick and Will Buse did well to claim a high ball before Kadji whacked over the bar from distance, with the game ending all square at half-time.
Andre Brooks fired just wide after the restart and Buse did well to save at a corner from Kyron Gordon as Sheffield United were the brighter side after the restart.
A brilliant last ditch tackle from Zac Bell kept the score at 0-0 as substitute George Broadbent threatened with under half an hour to play, following an error on the ball from Idehen.
Brooks fired just wide from range and City’s best soon came: Sam Bell and Tommy Conway combined well down the right for Edwards to smash against the bar from close range as he met a low cross, though Amissah may have got a touch to it.
As Sai Sachdev sliced wide with eight minutes remaining when well-placed in the area, time was running out for a winner.
Former Bristol youth player Freckleton headed over from a corner but the Robins were to break the deadlock with minutes remaining.
Edwards collected the ball wide, after Callum Wood’s cross had been palmed away by th and shifting onto his right foot outside of the area, he created half a yard of space to let fly - straight into the far top corner.
And it could have been two immediately afterwards as Conway nipped in at the nar post to poke just wide.
No matter, job done. On to Ipswich or Coventry City in the final.
Owura Edwards was back from his loan at Colchester United and his footwork helped the visitors get out of several tight situations, though he had a quiet first half.
The best was to come in the second half when first he hit the cross bar, then he fired in a goal worthy of winning many an occasion.
Dylan Kadji was a menace throughout, and in a tight game the midfielder’s energy and dynamic play kept the Robins ticking over.
Josh Owers was excellent alongside him in midfield, with much of City’s good stuff coming through his cultured left foot.
While there was little service for the front three, Conway, Janneh and Sam Bell, there were good shifts from Callum Wood and Zac Bell at full-back too, while Idehen and Towler were resolute in defence, both reading the game well.
For the home side, local lad Miguel Freckleton was as good as anyone on the day. The Blades have a top prospect there.
Bristol City U23s XI:
Buse; Z Bell, Idehen, Towler, Wood; Owers, Kadji; Edwards; Conway, S Bell, Janneh (Rose, 58’)