Ben Whiteman insisted Sheffield United’s under-21’s should be proud of their efforts this season despite losing the Professional Development League Two play-off final.
Late goals from William Boyle and Jacob Hanson, either side of Whiteman’s strike, propelled Huddersfield Town to victory over John Dungworth’s side in front of a four thousand strong crowd at Bramall Lane.
But the United captain, acknowledging United should have established a healthy lead before relinquishing control during the closing stages, said: “We’re gutted to lose, totally gutted, but I think we showed what we’re about. We’re a really tight group and we wanted to do it for the club and also each other. But there were some good performances out there.”
Intriguingly, one of those was delivered by Terry Kennedy who featured less than a week after announcing he was being allowed to leave the club by former manager Nigel Adkins. With the 51-year-old’s replacement Chris Wilder watching from the stands, it remains to be seen whether the centre-half did enough to prompt a rethink. But Kennedy’s courage, desire and flagrant disregard for his own safety will not have gone unnoticed by the new regime. Especially given Wilder’s assertion that he wants to surround himself with “proper people.”
“At the end of the day it’s about winning and we didn’t do that,” Whiteman said. “I thought we created enough chances to have scored at least two goals to begin with so there’s a lesson for us to learn there. We should have put the game to bed and it’s really tough to take.”
United survived an early scare when a Town corner hit the foot of Aaron Ramsdale’s near post before taking charge. Diego De Girolamo forced a good save after collecting David Brooks’ pass before Kennedy and Whiteman also went close. Louis Reed, one of six players with first team experience named in Dungworth’s squad, shot over from long-range towards the end of a first-half which saw the partnership between Adams and De Girolamo begin to click after a series of miscommunications and false starts. The Italy youth international, having been chastised by United’s coaching staff for failing to close down Town’s defence, then drew applause after testing Ryan Schofield’s handling following a clever run.
When Boyle’s deflected effort handed Town an 80th minute lead, it appeared the trophy was heading back to West Yorkshire. Whiteman equalised 60 seconds later when he showed more conviction than Schofield to meet a loose ball. But Hanson sealed Town’s victory by scooping home soon after following a defensive lapse.
Sheffield United: Ramsdale, Cummings, Kelly, Whiteman, Kennedy (Hall 90), Semple, Gilmour (Hamilton 65), Reed, Adams, De Girolamo, Brooks (Smith 86). Not used: Eastwood, Hallam.
Huddersfield Town: Schofield, Hanson, Senior, Booty, W Boyle, Kane, O’Brien, Coughlan, J Boyle (Williams 67), Bojaj, Charles. Not used: Brooke, Scott, Horsfall, Wilkinson.
Referee: D Middleton.