SHEFFIELD United’s campaign to reach a second successive FA Youth Cup final gathered pace last night after a hard-fought 8-7 victory on penalties over feisty Port Vale.
John Pemberton’s side, who now travel to Southampton in the third round, appeared destined for a comfortable win when Elliott Whitehouse and Danny Deakin fired them in front until Chris Salt’s own goal and Jack Pryor’s 86th minute equaliser ensured the tie entered extra time.
However United progressed via a marathon penalty shoot-out when Deakin converted the decisive effort after George Willis had saved from Douglas Price.
One of the survivors of the team which battled so admirably during last season’s two-legged showpiece - Joe Ironside - had already made his presence felt in a series of aerial challenges before playing a central role in the move which saw Whitehouse hand United a seventh minute lead.
The striker flicked the ball into Callum McFadzean’s path and when he was sent tumbling in the box, United’s captain duly converted from the spot.
Ironside’s combination of power and poise continued to impress but it was Deakin who doubled the hosts’ advantage with a cool 29th minute finish.
Salt’s misfortune on the stroke of half-time following Ryan Lloyd’s corner handed the Vale a lifeline which they gratefully accepted when Pryor pounced from range.
Meanwhile, Danny Philliskirk and Chris Porter netted for United’s reserves in their 2-2 draw with Nottingham Forest yesterday.
UNITED: Willis, Montgomery (Hodder 63), Anderson, Whitehouse (Heather 46), Salt, Kennedy, Hinchliffe, McFadzean, Ironside, Smith (Pemberton 84), Deakin. Not used: Lynch, Williams.