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 If the Kids are United
 Part 18 - Appeared in the Mag Feb 2003

After inclement weather resulted in the postponement of the Tyne-Wear academy derbies, our two main junior sides returned to competitive action with away fixtures against Sheffield Wednesday in mid-January.

And a pair of victories for United completed a 100% return against the Owls for the season, making it a total of 21 goals scored by Newcastle in the four games.

While the U17s secured a deserved 4-1 victory on the Middlewood training pitches in Sheffield, thanks to a Matty Pattison double and efforts from Carl Finnigan and David Edgar (son of ex-toon goalie Eddie), the real fireworks came in the U19 encounter played at the same location on the previous day.

The final score was Wednesday 5 United 7, and a small crowd including Owls boss Chris Turner and old boy turned player’s agent Imre Varadi were treated to some cracking entertainment, although the scoreline could easily have been higher.

Wednesday scored two almost-identical goal in three minutes, as Australian midfielder Mason Palmieri netted in the 29th and 31st minutes and with United struggling in midfield, coach Peter Beardsley opted to replace Beaumont with the more combative Ferrell, and it was the sub who gave us some hope with a 39th minute strike from a Howe pass.

The visitors were then dominating proceedings, with O'Brien causing problems for Wednesday down the left flank and Guy placing a couple of half-chances wide. United could have gone in on level terms when Zola set up Guy in the final seconds of the half, only for the England striker to drag his shot wide of the post.

After having set up the first two goals, Owls striker McMahon then grabbed one for himself, waltzing through a static toon defence before slipping a close-range shot under Bell from a tight angle. 3-1 Owls.

United moved up a gear, another foray down the left from O'Brien caused panic in the home defence and found himself free in the Owls box facing the keeper. He coolly knocked it sideways to Guy and he had the simple task of walking it home for 2-3.

With Newcastle improving as the minutes went by and birthday boy Chris Moore popping up all over the midfield to good effect, it was no surprise when we levelled matters on the hour.

Some pressure on the edge of the Owls area saw O'Brien try a shot that rebounded to him and see his second effort blocked by a defender. However, the alert Kris Gate robbed the defender in the box and then the Newcastle captain shot home for 3-3.

Lewis Guy was then replaced by fellow striker Guy Bates and within four minutes he had given us the lead for the first time in this epic contest. A quick break upfield from the Magpies saw Zola in possession, and a favourable deflection saw him regain the ball and find Moore breaking over the halfway line to the right. 

He tried an angled shot from the edge of the box and although Poulter in goal blocked the effort, Bates was on hand to sweep the ball home for 4-3 on 68 minutes.

The same player was only denied by a fingertip save in the 75th minute, but we forged further ahead on 77, when Zola converted a Ferrell cross with a first time shot from 12 yards for 5-3.

Further poor defending allowed McMahon to reduced the deficit against the run of play with nine minutes to go - 5-4, but the destination of the points seemed in no doubt when Zola restored the two-goal advantage in the 86th minute.

O'Brien was again the provider with a good run and cross from the left which Zola brought down and volleyed into the roof of the net in one movement from ten yards ofr the pick of our efforts.

For our Irish winger this was an effort worthy of note, as he'd been caught in the face moments before and needed a dressing applying across his nose and mouth area. The overall effect from distance was that of Father Abraham from the smurfs running down the wing.....

Back came Wednesday again though, and with four minutes remaining an unmarked Shaw beat Bell from a few yards out. 6-5 to United. Keeper Bell then dived full length to stop a long-range effort from substitute Stevenson that looked as if might just creep in.

Numerous other half-chances then arrived for both sides as the ball pinged from end to end and Newcastle players started to resemble walking wounded - both full backs taking some punishment.

However the game was finally settled in the 94th minute when O'Brien latched on to a long pass, outstripped the Wednesday defence and then tangled with the goalkeeper, who had come well outside his box.

An obvious free kick, the referee avoided showing the miscreant a card and justice was done when Brittain stepped up and popped a twenty yarder over the wall into the top right hand corner of the net. Not bad for a player who had been stretched out on the pitch minutes before after taking a hefty kick in the back.

The whistle blew seconds later to end what was a simply incredible game of football and one that had been scoreless until the half hour mark.

While both coaches will have nightmares about the standard of defending, there was much to admire about the attacking spirit of both sides. And while tackles started to fly in as the encounter heated up in the second half, it didn't degenerate into a kicking party.

Noteworthy performances came from Alan O'Brien who worked well down the left wing and the inspirational Andy Ferrell, who changed the game when he stepped on to the pitch. Top class entertainment!

That sensational scoreline set up a first versus second clash for the U19 side, who entertained table-topping Blackburn Rovers the following weekend, knowing that victory for the Magpies would overhaul the two point deficit and send us top.

On an extremely blustery day at Killingworth, a sparse crowd saw a competitive encounter that ultimately ended in both sides sharing the points in a 2-2 draw.

Despite playing with the wind in their favour, Newcastle failed to impress in the opening exchanges and it took an opener from Gallagher to wake the home side up.

The response was almost immediate, with Bates lobbing a massive clearance from toon goalkeeper Collin over opposite number Drench three minutes later and then Bates turning provider seven minutes later to centre for Moore to make it 2-1 to Newcastle.
That lead lasted to the break and then United looked to extend it, appearing to have mastered the conditions by dropping passes on the edge of the Rovers box against the wind. However no third goal came and a determined Blackburn side always looked threatening without really testing Newcastle’s backline.

The equaliser arrived with only three minutes remaining, after a contentious decision from an unpopular linesman presented Rovers with a free kick deep in United territory.

From the cross, Rovers skipper Alex Bruce powered home a header to keep his side in pole position, much to the delight of his watching family, including father Steve, taking advantage of a free weekend for his Birmingham City side.

As they had after conceding previously, Newcastle redoubled their efforts and almost snatch victory in the dying seconds. First Ferrell looked to have a valid penalty appeal turned down when he was tripped, then Bates squirmed into the box only to hit a post with his low effort and see a home defender hack the rebound clear off the goal line. Close, but not close enough.

Meanwhile over at Bullocksteads, another wind-affected match saw the U17s also draw with Blackburn in a 1-1, the home goal coming from a Marc Walton penalty.

The next issue will catch up on the international adventures of a number of toon youngsters, but there’s just time to confirm that U19 midfielder Neale McDermott has left United to join Fulham, team mate Tommy English is now with Livingston and staying in Scotland, striker Richard Offiong is now on loan with Motherwell after a spell with Darlington.


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