FC Halifax Town bowed out of the FA Youth Cup in the second round proper on Wednesday evening, losing 5-1 to a strong Sheffield United side. The young Shaymen have produced some fine moments in their cup journey this season but this tie proved a step too far. The Blades built a 3-0 lead not long into the second half and despite Kelan Swales pulling one back for Town, it was too big a mountain to climb for Halifax’s youngsters.
Sheffield United started very much on the front foot and Stephen Mallon had swung in two dangerous left-wing crosses within the first minute. From the second of these the ball fell to Jordan Hallam whose shot bounced up off the ground and hit the bar before Halifax were able to clear.
Keegan Burton missed from close range with a header and then Kyle Trenerry made a good save to deny him two minutes later. He was not to be denied for too long though, and put the young Blades ahead in the 23rd minute. Trenerry got something on Tyler Smith’s shot but striker Burton was there to tap in at the back post from point blank range.
Josh Debenham had looked very isolated up front for Town in the first 20 minutes but as they grew into the game a little he did receive more forward support. George Cantrill’s miscued clearance gave Halifax a corner, but Reece Kendall couldn’t quite direct Jack Knight’s delivery on goal with his header.
Marko Basic found himself in the referee’s notebook for kicking the ball away after the official had given a soft-looking foul on the wing when Mallon went to ground. The winger picked himself up and had a golden opportunity to put United two goals to the good, but his shot with his weaker right foot meant he skewed the ball wide from inside the area.
Sheffield United are a side with some considerable FA Youth Cup pedigree – they came runners up to Manchester United in 2011 – and they started to show their class early in the second half. Hallam’s free kick was met by the head of Callum Semple, and after his effort had come off the post he knocked in the rebound to put the Blades 2-0 up. And it was 3-0 moments later as Smith raced clear of the defence and beat Trenerry one-on-one, despite the ‘keeper getting a hand on it.
United thought they had made it four but Burton was adjudged offside. Town refused to give in, and substitute Ousman Cham broke down the left. His lobbed cross floated agonisingly out of the reach of Sheffield United ‘keeper Josh Perryman, and bounced back off the far post. Swales, who has been one of the most impressive players in Town’s cup run, was in the right place to knock in the rebound and get Halifax on the score sheet. His goal restored a glimmer of hope for a side who had produced a miraculous comeback against York City in the last round.
That hope was extinguished by centre half Sam Graham just over ten minutes later, though, as he headed past the unmoved Trenerry from a corner to restore United’s three-goal cushion. Oliver Greaves should have made it five from Smith’s cross but he mishit his shot over the bar from close range. Substitute David Parkhouse did add a fifth for Sheffield United in stoppage time, heading in after a good initial save from Trenerry to deny the lively Smith.
The young Halifax team showed glimpses of their quality, competing throughout with a bigger, more physical side, but after five fantastic victories in the cup their inspiring run was convincingly ended by the Blades.
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