FC Halifax Town’s youth team was beaten 1-0 by Sunderland U18’s at The MBi Shay Stadium in the First Round Proper of The FA Youth Cup. A Ryan Lennon penalty put the young Mackems ahead in the 21st minute which was the vital difference between the two sides.
The young Shaymen came into tonight’s game on the back of beating Litherland Remyca 5-0 in the last round of The FA Youth Cup (4th Qualifying Round) while Sunderland came into the competition at this stage.
The game began with the visitors from the North East enjoying some early possession and we’re making their intentions known with their game plan from the get-go. Looking to move the ball quickly out from the back and getting the ball to the pacy outlets of Ryan Leonard and Sean Kennedy.
The first chance of the game came from Sunderland, as Bali Mumba was able to cut inside towards the danger area and produced a shot from 10 yards out which caused the goalkeeper no issue but was deflected behind for the first corner of the game. The corner fell to the head of Andrias Edmundson who found himself free eight yards out but his header went wide of the right-hand post but Sunderland were showing their threat early on.
The young Shaymen were free flowing in the final third last time out against Litherland but they were unable to get a foothold in the game in the early stages as Sunderland hunted for the ball in packs. Halifax’s first chance came in the tenth minute as Ellis Wade found himself on the edge of the box but his tame effort fell into the hands of Adam Cameron in the Sunderland goal.
The only goal of the game came in the 21st minute. Ryan Leonard raced down the wing with Jay Benn hunting him down, but despite his best efforts Benn pulled Leonard down inside the box, resulting in a penalty for Sunderland. Leonard took the spot kick himself and tucked the ball home into the left-hand side netting.
Town were unable to create any real opportunities up to this point, but they were able to spring a counter attack ten minutes later. Ellis Wade attempted to find Mark Adiele but his pass was too delayed which led to an offside call from linesman Adam Watson.
Another half chance fell for The Shaymen, Jay Benn was able to maraud down the wing and cut the ball back towards Wade on the edge of the box but his shot was blocked away.
They slowly worked their way into the game as the first half progressed. Wade was able to deliver a good ball into the box from a free kick but again the Sunderland backline stayed strong.
Just before the half time break, Mumba was able to pounce on a loose ball and found himself having only the goalkeeper to beat, but as he tried to round Carl Rushworth in the Halifax goal, the Town No.1 was able to smother the ball well and avert the danger.
Chances few and far between but Sunderland went into the break with the one goal advantage.
The second half began with neither side making any changes to their team. Sunderland picked up where they left off, moving the ball quickly from side to side, using the overlapping full backs and wingers to create their patterns of play.
Town found themselves being able to express themselves for essentially the first time in the game in the early stages of the second period. Wade, Gary da Costa and Adiele were able to work some nice interplay in and around the box but as was the case for a lot of their first half opportunities, the final ball just didn’t come to any fruition.
There was certainly an improvement and added bite from the young Shaymen in the second half, with the midfield sliding into challenges as the rain began to fall at The Shay. There was an appeal for a Town penalty in the 58th minute as Adiele and Edmundson came together inside the box but referee Matthew Scholes waved away the appeals from the Town players.
Minutes later, Halifax got themselves a corner which led to confusion in the Sunderland box as the ball bobbled around the danger area in the pouring rain. The loose ball eventually fell to Benn but his shot was blocked by the resolute Sunderland side.
The young Shaymen rallied as the second half went on, getting themselves into the final third on a few occasions but as aforementioned, the final ball was lacking. Town began to play Sunderland at their own game, pressing them leading to the Sunderland players being unable to find that perfect pass.
Sunderland’s Adam Cameron was forced into his first big save of the game in the 68th minute as Jay Benn tried a spectacular low driven shot from range which Cameron had to palm away.
Sunderland were able to steady the ship as the minutes ticked by, with their midfielders eventually being able to pick their passes following the prior pressing from Halifax. Sonny Best came on for Sean Kennedy to provide a different option for the young Mackems.
The next real chance came from the new man Best as Sunderland were able to work the ball well around the edge of the area, and the ball fell to the No.12 whose shot from the edge of the box was turned away by Rushworth.
To turn the game around, Steve Nichol made his first change with ten minutes remaining as Jos Veitch replaced Gary da Costa.
With the game going into the closing stages, the visitors were able to calm the game down with some patient possession as some of the Town players began to tire. The next chance came from Sunderland as skipper Kane Evans drove down the right side and tried to find Slack in the box but Rushworth was able to collect before the No.9 could capitalise.
Alex King and Jean Jaques Kirongozi were introduced by Nichol as Town pushed for an equaliser but it wasn’t to be their night on a rainy evening at The Shay.
A good test for the young Shaymen who now return to league action on the 14th November against Gateshead.
MOTM: Ryan Leonard
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