Match report: Sheffield Wednesday U23 2 Sheffield United U23 1: Owls hit back to win rousing derby

Owls Almen Abdi hits  the winner. Photos: Steve Ellis
Owls Almen Abdi hits the winner. Photos: Steve Ellis

The players were not quite as famous and the atmosphere a little more subdued.

But last night’s Professional Development League derby at Hillsborough was contested every bit as keenly as the Championship fixture between these great footballing rivals six weeks ago.

Blades scorer Tyler Smith

Blades scorer Tyler Smith

On this occasion, it was Sheffield Wednesday who triumphed thanks to strikes from Lucas Joao and Almen Abdi after Tyler Smith had earlier edged Sheffield United in front.

Chris Wilder, the architect of the visitors’ win here in September, watched the action unfold from the stands.

As expected, Marco Matias and Joao provided Wednesday’s main attacking threat although Abdi’s influence grew during the second-half of the contest and was eventually rewarded with a goal. But Smith handed the visitors a lead they would not relinquish until the 66th minute after applying the finishing touch to a move expertly drafted by Jordan Doherty.

United’s Hugo Warhurst produced a series of excellent blocks to keep Wednesday at bay before Joao drew them level. Then, with less than a quarter-of-an-hour remaining, Abdi ensured the hosts’ greater experience told.

Owls match winner Almen Abdi is mobbed by team mates.

Owls match winner Almen Abdi is mobbed by team mates.

With United resisting the temptation to select the likes of Richard Stearman and Samir Carruthers, who have both played sporadically in recent months, the trip to PDL leaders Wednesday represented an excellent learning curve for Binnion’s young squad.

Captain Regan Slater was a tenacious presence while fellow teenager Sam Graham acquitted himself well against Matias, a former Portugal under-21 international with over 100 senior appearances on his CV. Abdi, capped six times by Switzerland, also featured in Neil Thompson’s team.

But it was Joao who created the first real opportunity of note, finding Matias with a slide rule pass on the edge of the area. Warhurst gathered the resulting shot but an offside flag had been raised.

Joao went close again soon after as Wednesday wrestled control of the game. However, United responded by forging a chance of their own when Smith surged forward and Jordan Hallam prodded wide.

Matias drew another fine save from Warhurst before Frederik Nielson, peeling away from his marker, followed suit. Warhurst’s intervention proved crucial when, moments later, Smith gave United a 43rd minute lead.

Abdi and Matias peppered United’s net soon after the re-start but Smith nearly snatched another after beating Wednesday’s rearguard to the punch. Joao’s effort - swept home from the edge of the six yard box - eventually restored parity before Abdi threaded a low 79th minute shot past Warhurst. The young goalkeeper, who was powerless to prevent the midfielder scoring, then excelled himself to deny Matt Penney and Joao during the closing stages.

Sheffield Wednesday U23: Dawson, Baker, Clarke, Murphy, Nielson, O’Grady, Matias, Abdi, Joao, Kirby, Penney. Not used: Williams, Wallis, Preston, Borukov, Shaw.

Sheffield United U23: Warhurst, Broadbent (Cutts 80), Ferguson, Gilmour, Graham, Cantrill, Doherty, Slater (Portman 68), Smith, Greaves, Hallam (Moore 64). Not used: Belehouan, Potts.

Referee: Thomas Parsons (Lancashire).