Derby County Under-18s are ready for the “tough test” of Sheffield United in the FA Youth Cup on Tuesday believes manager Justin Walker, kick-off 7pm.
The young Rams welcome the Blades for the fourth round of the competition to Pride Park after eliminating Blackpool at Bloomfield Road in the previous round.
Kornell McDonald and Connor Dixon were on target for Walker’s side in that outing as the Under-18s secured a 2-1 victory.
McDonald opened the scoring midway through the first half as he was teed up by Jason Knight before exquisitely turning past two defenders and firing past Sam Kellet in the Tangerines’ goal.
Early in the second half Dixon made it two as he made no mistake in applying the finish to a rebounded Morgan Whittaker strike.
Rams’ goalkeeper Bradley Foster-Theniger also held a key role in the victory as 15 minutes from time he was on hand to keep out Nathan Shaw’s penalty-kick.
Owen Watkinson did pull one back for the home side in the closing stages of the game but that proved not enough to halt Derby from gaining passage to round four.
Speaking to dcfc.co.uk Walker was delighted with how his side progressed in the competition, having won three games, in three competitions over eight days.
He said: “The guys handled themselves fantastically, I think it was a tough challenge for us.
“I think you could see the energy that they’d put into the week towards the latter stages of the Villa game (Under-18 Premier League Cup).
“It was a squad week – we needed everyone to contribute and that’s what we had, managing to secure three wins and three solid performances.”
Tuesday’s opponents, Sheffield United, defeated Middlesbrough away from home to progress to this stage of the competition.
Zak Brunt was on target for the Blades that day, scoring the only goal of the game by applying the finish to a rebounded effort in the first half.
Despite being in the league above United, Walker believes his side will still have to be at their best to progress to the fifth round.
“I think it’ll be a really tough test, they’re a gritty and well-organised team with some good players,” Walker said.
“They went to Middlesbrough away from home and nicked a 1-0 win, I say nicked, but they deserved to win the game.
“So it sets it up nicely for the game, we’re going to have to be at our best to beat them, that’s for sure, and make sure that we’ve done all our preparation and then it’s down to the players.”
The game will take place at Pride Park and will be the first time the Under-18s have played there since they faced Manchester United in the third round of the same competition last season.
Derby were victors on that occasion, claiming a 3-1 win on penalties with the scores drawn at 2-2 after extra-time.
How To Follow The Action…
Kick-off on Tuesday night is at 7pm and for those wishing to attend admission is FREE.
Can’t make it to Pride Park? Catch all the action LIVE and for FREE on RamsTV.
Can’t make it to Pride Park? Catch all the action LIVE and for Free on RamsTV.
RamsTV’s coverage of Tuesday night’s game at Pride Park Stadium begins from 6.45pm and is available to watch through dcfc.co.uk and the DCFC app.
Build-up to kick-off (7pm) includes an exclusive pre-match chat with Lead Development Phase Coach Justin Walker as well as a look back at the win against Blackpool at Bloomfield Road in the last round of the competition.
Owen Bradley will then be joined by Shane Nicholson for full kick-by-kick coverage of the match as well as analysis of all the game’s key moments at the interval and full time.
Words by Andrew Haines