United’s youth team went out of the Football League Youth Alliance Trophy in round one, losing against Chesterfield with an unfortunate 1-0 defeat.The game was played at Chesterfield College on Saturday morning.
United introduced their quick passing tempo to the game from the kick-off and showed their dangerous attacking promise within the first minute but were matched by good Chesterfield defending in the early stages.
In the fourth minute, Chesterfield sent in a corner, which lead to a shot on target from their big number 5, central defender Brad Holmes after a Jacob Hood mis-kick and Iron’s keeper Ben Ledger was happy to make a comfortable save into his chest.
Former Sheffield Wednesday captain and now Chesterfield youth team coach Mark Smith’s team brought a physical presence and a very direct approach to the pitch meaning the Iron youngsters faced a different threat for the first time this season.
The home team’s approach of playing the long ball forward and contending for the ball in the air caught United’s defence out on several occasions and the visitors struggled to deal with their opponent’s approach.
United were not stopping crosses coming in to their penalty area from either wing and just to demonstrate this a cross flashed across the front of United’s goal with home strikers not far away. The Spireites delivered the ball forward at every opportunity and in the 12th minute a forceful header from number 9, Tope Fowodu, hit the woodwork and gave Scunthorpe the wake-up call they needed.
Just a minute later the Iron responded with their first effort of the game. Connor Purdue tried his luck and drove a long distance shot from outside the box that flew just over the crossbar.
The home side showed how eager they were and responded to Purdue’s effort with an impressive switch out to the right wing, Jack Dyche at left back was beaten for pace and Chesterfield winger Daly’s cross was turned home at the near post only to be disallowed for offside.
The Iron’s back four had to be alert to deal with Chesterfield’s aggressive attacks and Jacob Hood cleared several through balls as the home team continually tried to get behind the visitors defence.
However, United’s back four and goalkeeper failed to work as a unit in the 20th minute and a lack of communication and poor decision making put the visitors behind in the game. Another long forward ball fell in the space on the edge of the box behind United central defender Charlie Cleminshaw and in front of Iron keeper Ben Ledger. Both seemed to hesitate and appeared to leave the ball to each other allowing Spireites’ striker Jake Beesley to pounce on the indecision and he sped on to the loose ball before side footing past Ledger who was now too far out to protect his net and the home side went in front.
It was the first time this season that the Iron youngsters had gone behind in the four games played and today was going to be a real test for them.
After going behind, the United boys tried to respond in a positive manner but Chesterfield made it very difficult for the Iron to create anything as the home team broke up United’s play and intercepted almost every ball played from midfield to the centre forwards Noel Burdett and Kyle Wootton.
Captain Levi Sutton attempted to restore some pace to the Iron’s game before the half time whistle, closing down and tracking the ball from midfield all the way back to Chesterfield’s number 1, Jake Smith in the goal.
Wootton demonstrated good feet when the ball broke to him in the Iron’s final third. The big striker took on two players before releasing a shot on target; however, the effort lacked power and didn’t test Smith at all in the home goal.
United were struggling to control the game in the manner in which they are used to doing and Chesterfield were proving formidable opposition as their more direct approach put United on the back foot and gave Ledger plenty to do in goal.
Iron strikers Wootton and Burdett were finding it very difficult to hold the ball up against the home team central defenders aggression which meant that United couldn’t mount their usual number of quick counter attacks.
Chesterfield’s giant central defender number 6 Lawrence Maguire, presented a very physical challenge as he competed aggressively for every ball to dominate the visiting strikers in the first half and he was ably accompanied by Brad Holmes.
The 41st minute saw a last attempt from Chesterfield’s Joe Massey whose strike at goal was saved by the fingertips of Iron keeper Ledger as the first half drew to a close.
After a half time team talk, the visitors looked a different team in the second half as they brought a new desire back to the field and were contenders for the win as they tried to get themselves level.
Scunthorpe began to revive their passing game as Sutton and Purdue showed some excellent vision, picking out decent runs from Jack Dyche and new signing De’Andre Watkis down the left wing.
Their new motivation began to pay off and United started to create chances.
On 59 minutes, they should have levelled and they would have but for an outstanding point blank reaction save from Chesterfield keeper Jake Smith.
Levi Sutton closed down the opposition early and regained possession of the ball in the final third. He immediately drove forward with the ball before whipping in a quality cross that found Wootton whose spectacular volley was somehow kept out to thwart the Iron.
Minutes later, Chesterfield turned a long ball forward in to the final third and it was Spireites number 8, Lewis Sugden, who managed to find a clear shot on target between United’s back four forcing Ledger to make a save. The shot exemplified the lack of communication and authority among the defensive 5 and the United lads were struggling to present a strong, compact unit to deal with Chesterfield’s direct attacks.
United were pressing for an equaliser and striker Noel Burdett got involved on 75 minutes when he received a nice ball from Sutton on the left side of the box. Burdett beat an opponent and drove in to the Chesterfield penalty area going past two opponents in the process. As he composed himself to shoot, Burdett was clearly scythed down from behind on his back foot, preventing a clear goal scoring opportunity.
The referee’s decision of ‘no penalty’ was, to say the least, very disputable and rather unbelievable as United saw their hopes of staying in the cup slipping away as the full time whistle grew closer.
The Iron tried to maintain the tempo and Jack Mawson battled his way through players with the ball but struggled to deliver anything to a waiting Kyle Wootton.
With 73 minutes gone, United introduced Matt Stockill to their team as he replaced new signing Watkis. On 82 minute United tried to invest in fresh legs again as Connor Purdue was substituted for Matthew Welsh and the system was changed in a final push for the equaliser.
The last 10 minutes were made slow by the Chesterfield boys as they tried to hold on to their lead and time wasting was a plenty. United had posed a real threat in the second half which had put Chesterfield on the back foot for a lot of the second half.
Wootton tried to use his magic feet in the 86th minute by guiding the ball to his back foot and releasing a powerful shot but the Spireites youngsters seemed to swarm in and the blast was blocked, as many had been during the final quarter of the second half.
The final whistle confirmed a goalless second half to the Youth Alliance cup game and deemed the home team as winners. The battle the two teams put forward was commendable and the Spireites deserved the win because of their first half performance.
Academy Manager Tony Daws said: "From our point of view, although we lost the game, there are positives to take from defeat, none more so than that this was a great learning curve for our youth team players.
"Credit to them, Chesterfield’s style of football was different to what we’ve previously encountered this season. Their philosophy today was clear, to get the ball forward and around our penalty box as quickly and as often as they could and it presented a real physical challenge for our players.
"The first 45 minutes, we didn’t deal with it and it cost us a goal, and in the end, it cost us the game. The second half however, we got to grips with it and the lads did improve their game, although we didn’t play anywhere near like we’re capable of today.
"Football is not always about passing and playing nice pretty football; it’s also about rolling your sleeves up, working hard with and without the ball and competing with the opposition for 90 minutes. Today I felt that we didn’t compete well enough physically, as a result we lost the game."