On a night where Britain’s departure from the European Union was plunged into huge uncertainty, one exit that was certain, was Sheffield United’s from the FA Youth Cup after the Blades lost 3-0 to Derby County in the fourth round.
Often, in the Cup, league difference doesn’t matter. Anybody can beat anybody on any given day. This is something Sheffield United U18s, who are in the division below Derby’s youngsters, would have taken hope from before the game. However, this just wasn’t United’s night.
The Blades made their intentions clear early on. They parked the bus and unpacked their tents, seemingly happy to set up camp.
- FA Youth Cup
- Fourth Round
- Tuesday 15 January
- Pride Park
However, it would be unfair to say the goal didn’t spark some life into United. They’d packed an overnight bag and left camp with the aim of getting back into the contest. Unfortunately, their chances weren’t clear with set-pieces either failing to beat the first man or ending up in the arms of the Rams keeper.
They were also left vulnerable to the counter. Connor Dixon and Morgan Whittaker combined nicely just after the half-hour mark but the latter failed to get a shot away after getting the ball stuck beneath his feet. Moments later he did and from less than 10 yards out he forced an excellent save from Marcus Dewhurst low to his left.
County deservedly doubled their lead in the 43rd minute. The chance again came down the left after Tyree Wilson beat his man before teeing up Louie Sibley, whose thunderous half-volley smashed into the top left corner.
Knight was the shining light of the game. Dropping deep, often in the left-back position when Wilson pushed on, his head was always up and the direction of his pass always forward.
And it was his pass to Wilson which created County’s third in the opening stages of the second half. Wilson embarked on a fantastic overlapping run and cut into the box before being hacked down. Wilson himself despatched the subsequent spot-kick into the top right corner.
A similar move almost created a Derby fourth in the 54th minute. This time Wilson’s cross fell to Connor Dixon whose driving shot was just narrowly wide of the left-hand post.
While it would be unfair to claim the Blades headed back to base camp, zipped up their sleeping bags hoping to never see Knight and co again, they were unable to create much.
For the rest of the game Derby saw the better of the ball with their keeper remaining untested. Substitute Jack Stretton had two good chances and will have been disappointed to not have made it 4-0 with at least one.
The Rams’ reward for a professional performance is a home tie against either Manchester City or Nottingham Forest.