Blades youngsters get chance to impress boss Adams

SHEFFIELD United’s youngsters will be looking to lift some of the gloom at Bramall Lane tonight by reaching the FA Youth Cup final.

The Blades have never reached the final of the competition but host Aston Villa in a semi-final second leg tie leading 1-0 from the first leg at Villa Park.

Their success contrasts sharply with the current fortunes of the club’s first team who are sitting seven points adrift of safety in the Championship relegation zone after losing 3-0 away at Queens Park Rangers on Monday night.

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With only seven games still to play, time is running out for the Blades to avoid a return to the third tier of English football after a gap of 22 years.

However, manager Micky Adams will be watching tonight’s clash and has made it known that any youngster deemed ‘good enough’ is also ‘old enough’ to join the club’s battle for Championship survival. Several have already been involved on the fringes of the first team this season including Jordan Slew, Matt Harriott, Kingsley James and Harry Maguire.

Former Blades defender John Pemberton, now in charge of the club’s youth academy, hopes the youngsters coming through the ranks can help give the club a brighter future.

With admission free to season ticket holders, £3 for adults, and only £1 concessions, the Blades are hoping for a healthy show of support at tonight’s game which kicks off at 7pm.

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Pemberton said: “It will be good for the lads to continue their development and play in front of a decent crowd at Bramall Lane. The lads know what we have to do to be successful and, despite a few problems, I am happy enough with how our preparations have gone.

“We know Villa are a good side with some excellent players and despite the lead we know we will have to perform to our best again. I am confident that we will be able to do that and more importantly play the game, not the occasion.”

Striker Slew, 18, is suspended along with Villa defender Daniel Devine because the pair were sent off for violent conduct in the first leg at Villa Park. Slew had made three substitute appearances for the first team this season. The only player in the Villa side with any first team experience so far is midfielder Daniel Johnson, who has played in the Carling Cup.

Among the Blades first-team players who plan to show their support tonight are defender Shane Lowry who is currently on loan with the Blades from Villa.

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“I was at the first leg at Villa Park and obviously knew more about the Villa lads,” said Lowry. “But the United team really impressed me.

“They really pop the ball about and did very well. I think the tie is finely balanced. Villa will know that there is only one goal in it and some of them played in last year’s final, while United will hope to capitalise on having their noses in front and home advantage.”