U18S PLAY-OFF SEMI-FINAL REPORT | Sheffield United 2 Charlton 0

George Jones reports from Bramall Lane

Charlton U18s’ defence of the Professional Development League 2 national title came to an end on Friday evening as they suffered defeat against Sheffield United at Bramall Lane.

The Addicks had been crowned national champions in the last two seasons and following another impressive league campaign, in which they second in the southern division, they again reached the end-of-season play-offs.

That set up a semi-final tie against United, the champions of the northern division, but second-half goals from Jordan Hallam - from the penalty spot - and Sam Graham ensured that the Blades progressed to the final.

Sheffield United dominated possession in the early stages and created the game’s opening chance on nine minutes when Hallam saw a bobbling strike well blocked by Harry Pollard.

Blades skipper Regan Slater thumped an ambitious volley wide of the target on 17 minutes, as the hosts continued to make the early running, and the Addicks then made their first real inroads into opposition territory when Brendan Sarpong-Wiredu beat his man to win a corner.

United got the set-piece clear but Charlton threatened again on 32 minutes. Sarpong-Wiredu played Alex Willis in on goal and he slotted the ball into the net, only to be denied by the linesman’s flag.

The Blades responded by created a chance of their own three minutes later. A corner was delivered from the left and George Cantrill rose to power a header over the crossbar.

Alfie Doughty saw a strike blocked on 38 minutes and the same man then came within a whisker of giving the Londoners the lead. A quick free-kick from Albie Morgan released Jordan Zemura on the left and he, in turn, glanced possession on to Doughty.

The wideman – who had Willis in a good position in the middle – drove towards goal and, from a tight angle, sent a cross-shot inches wide of the far post.

Having absorbed a lot of United pressure, the Addicks’ chance was the best of the match so far but the visitors could not take it and the two teams went in goalless at the break.

United’s Tyler Smith curled a strike just wide of the far post for the opening chance of the second period and the Blades were then handed the chance to take the lead when Pollard fouled Horatio Hirst in the box.

Hallam made no mistake with the penalty, firing it straight down the middle to make it 1-0.

Doughty looked to reply instantly, but home stopper Hugo Warhurst held on to his powerful strike, and the Blades’ Smith then sent an arrowing drive just over the crossbar.

The hosts doubled their advantage on the hour mark. Rhys Norrington-Davies flighted in an in-swinging corner from the right and Graham rose highest to head home from six yards out. 

A brave block from Cantrill took the sting out of a Morgan volley as Charlton looked for a route back into the game and at the other end Ashley Maynard-Brewer made a fantastic, improvised save to keep out substitute David Parkhouse’s close-range shot.

A stoppage time free-kick from Taylor Maloney smashed into United wall and that proved to be the final opportunity of the match, as the Blades progressed to the final.

Sheffield United U18s: Warhurst, Charlesworth, Norrington-Davies, Gilmour, Graham, Cantrill, Smith, Slater (c), Hirst, Hallam (Parkhouse 80), Greaves (Ford71).

Subs (not used): Perryman, Parkhouse, Doherty, Ferguson.

Goals: Hallam 51, Graham 60

Charlton U18s: Maynard-Brewer, Bangura-Williams, Zemura, Birch, Pollard, Maloney (c), Dempsey, Sarpong-Wiredu, Morgan (Sarmiento 80), Doughty, Willis (Anderson 68).

Subs (not used): Harvey, Nwosu, Isiaka.

Referee: D Middleton.

Read Time: 3 mins