Derby County and Sheffield United played out a seven goal thriller in front of over 1,000 supporters in an exciting Academy League fixture at Pride Park on Saturday morning.
The game allowed the Ram’s to showcase their stars of the future in front of fans eager to see who will be the next youngster off Darren Wassall’s production line to follow the likes of Jeff Hendrick, Mark O’Brien and Callum Ball in to Nigel Clough’s first-team squad.
While the Blades ultimately spoiled the party Derby pushed the visitors, last season’s FA Youth Cup finalists, all the way.
Derby started the better of the two sides and took the lead on 21 minutes through their 15-year-old forward Mason Bennett.
Bennett who was a substitute in the Club’s Carling Cup defeat at Shrewsbury and has been capped at youth level by England expertly slotted the ball home after beating the visiting goalkeeper to a ball over the top.
But the Blades hit back with two goals in two minutes as half-time approached.
Joe Ironside headed past goalkeeper Mats Morch to equalise on 39 minutes before adding his and United’s second moments later when he created a yard of space in the box to fire past Morch.
After a halt-time pep talk from Wassall, Derby responded in positive fashion and their pressure told just before the hour mark when substitute Kwame Thomas converted a Callum Ball cross.
But goals from winger Danny Deakin and Ironside, to complete his hat-trick on 76 minutes, effectively put the game out of Derby’s reach.
Ball pulled a goal back in injury time from the penalty spot to ensure a tense finale but United held out to travel back to Yorkshire with all three points.
Academy Manager Wassall was delighted to see fans turn-out in force but challenged his players to add consistency to their game.
“It was great to see so many fans turn up at Pride Park to support the players and it was a good experience for the players as well,” Wassall told the clubs website.
“We were disappointed with the goals we conceded and the fact we lost the game, although there were plenty of positives too.”
“We performed well in spell and when we did we looked a real threat going forwards, so it is about finding a level of consistency with the players – which is always the challenge in youth football.”