United starlets shine brightest in Trophy
NEWCASTLE United Under-21s made a winning debut in the Checkatrade Trophy - and, when the victory is compared to other Academy sides’ results on Tuesday night, it becomes even more impressive.
A total of seven invitational Under-21 sides took part in the competition formerly known as the EFL Trophy, yet only Peter Beardsley’s Magpies triumphed.
Goals from Liam Smith and Luke Charman put Newcastle 2-0 against Crewe Alexandra and, although the home side scored late on through Jordan Bowery at Gresty Road, United held on for a debut win in the competition.
Of the other six Academy sides who were in action on the same evening, Reading Under-21s drew 2-2 at Colchester United - before being defeated 6-5 on penalties, meaning the Royals missed out on an additional bonus point for a shoot-out win - yet the other five Under-21 teams all suffered defeats in their opening matches.
Sunderland Under-21s lost 3-1 at Scunthope United, Blackburn Rovers defeated Stoke City Under-21s 1-0, Southampton Under-21s fell to a 2-0 defeat at Peterborough United and Milton Keynes Dons triumphed 2-0 over Brighton and Hove Albion Under-21s.
However, the standout result of the evening was Leicester City Under-21s slipping to a humiliating 3-0 humbling at Fleetwood Town, showing how big a step up this really is for these Academy sides.
When Newcastle Under-21s’ result is put into that context, then it becomes all the more impressive.
Some have argued that Beardsley should offer game time to fringe players from the firstteam squad, but he resisted the temptation to do so for United’s debut in the competition.
Rules states that six of the starting XI must be 21 or under for the Academy sides in the tournament, meaning five elder players can be fielded.
But the only player in the starting line-up over the age of 21 was Curtis Good, who is part of Beardsley’s Under-23 set-up anyway.
Newcastle are looking to nurture their youngsters, while also attempting to progress in the tournament at the same time.
Their motivation for entering a side this season has been two fold and they should be applauded for that, rather than taking the easy option of flooding their side with fringe first teamers.