Mark Hudson’s young Terriers put up a spirited performance despite narrowly losing out to a single Leeds United goal from Jay-Roy Grot in the Professional Development League at Elland Road.
Regan Booty skippered the side, with the matchday squad including three trialists. 18 year-old Harry Spratt, on work experience from Manchester United, started at left-back, whereas fellow full-back Josh Hesson, on trial from Wolverhampton Wanderers, was named amongst the five-man substitute bench. The final inclusion saw Andrew Osei-Bonsu also named as one of the replacements; an attacking midfielder on trial from Evo-Stick South outfit Dunstable Town, for whom he has scored four goals this term having left Milton Keynes Dons, where he made two senior appearances in both the EFL Cup and Checkatrade Trophy.
Summer signing Jay-Roy Grot led the line for Leeds, who also had prospects Bailey Peacock-Farrell and Oriol Rey in the starting XI.
Town started brightly. Olly Dyson headed wide an early chance for the young Terriers after Dom Tear had fashioned a cross from the right following patient build-up play.
Leeds’ first real sighting on goal arrived just shy of the 10 minute mark. Jordan Williams recovered well to clear away from Oliver Sarkic after the latter was spotted by Paudie O’Connor’s inventive lobbed pass over the top of the central defensive partnership consisting of Romoney Critchlow-Noble and Rarmani Edmonds-Green.
Sarkic wasted another good chance for home side after excelling away into space between Town’s midfield and defensive lines. The striker’s elected shot was blocked by Rarmani Edmonds-Green, and maybe should have laid in Jay-Roy Grot who had drifted unmarked towards the far post.
Hudson would have been suitably pleased with the way his men had gone about their early business at Elland Road. Looking accomplished in possession, Dom Tear was unfortunate to see his touch evade him having had his central run found by an exquisite through ball from Matty Daly; a pass which caused headaches at the back for the Whites.
Town continued to have the better of the play. A superb tenacity to win the ball back allowed an attack to build down the right, and Jordan Williams would serve up a fruitful, curved cross towards the advancing figure of Rekeil Pyke at the far post. Rekeil, who spent the first half of the season in Sky Bet League Two with Port Vale, did his best to latch onto the end of the cross, but an out-stretched right boot came within a whisker of nestling the ball into opposing ‘keeper Bailey Peacock Farrell’s bottom right corner.
Leeds had a great chance to go in at the interval with the advantage.
Powerful Dutch striker Grot produced a clever turn on the edge of the area before stinging the palms of a relatively quiet Joel Coleman.
United opened up the second period with another key chance.
Coleman was once again on his toes to deny Jamie Shackleton’s accurate effort at the second time of asking after the Whites had picked the pocket of Matty Daly on the halfway line.
The direct running of Jay-Roy Grot would eventually pay dividends as the striker was adjudged to have been challenged unfairly upon entry to the box.
Oliver Sarkic was the man on penalty duty for the Whites, but Joel Coleman displayed excellent athleticism to dive well to his left and tip the spot-kick round the post.
Leeds had been the better side so far throughout the second-half; substitute Jack Clarke tried his luck with a mazy run towards the retreating Terriers’ back-line. Clarke’s low shot took a deflection and fell to Sarkic at the back stick, but the latter failed to make an adequate connection.
Jay-Roy Grot swept the hosts into the lead as he fired home Bryce Hosanna’s cross to make it 1-0 on 64 minutes.
Town looked for an equaliser as Romoney Critchlow-Noble’s cross from the left flank wasn’t effectively cleared by the home side. Dom Tear had done well to make up ground, but was unable to get the better of Tyler Denton to finish.
Two brilliant chances would then go begging for both.
Initially, Lewis O’Brien hammered a thunderous effort directly at Peacock-Farrell who batted away comfortably, before a quick counter at the other end resulted in Rarmani Edmonds-Green crucially recovering to clear away Oliver Sarkic’s goal-bound attempt having rounded Joel Coleman.
Despite being a goal down, the young Terriers looked to move the ball around with purpose and an impressive urgency in a bid break the Whites down. Lewis O’Brien and Regan Booty had commanded well from central midfield; an area which the home side had looked to exploit with a packed, narrow diamond set-up.
As time ticked on towards the duration, the young Terriers’ continued to have good energy levels in the hunt for an elusive leveller, with Regan Booty flashing a free-kick just inches wide of Bailey Peacock-Farrell’s left-hand post.
The Captain would show a high level of ingenuity to spot substitute Luca Colville’s timely surge down the left flank. The move concluded with Luca seeking out a hoard of red and black shirts congregated in and around the penalty area. A teasing cross landed invitingly at the back post, but no Terrier could find the desired touch to earn a share of the spoils.
The Head Coach will take a number of positives out of the contest, with his team dominating much of the first period whilst showing a positive character to respond despite Grot hitting the net just beyond the hour-mark.
The Under 23s are back in action a week on Monday (29 January) as they travel to Lancashire to face Bolton Wanderers, 7pm kick-off.
TOWN UNDER-23 (4-2-3-1): Joel Coleman; Harry Spratt (Josh Hesson, 60’), Romoney Crichlow-Noble, Rarmani Edmonds-Green, Jordan Williams; Regan Booty (c), Lewis O’Brien; Olly Dyson (Luca Colville, 71’), Matty Daly, Dom Tear; Rekeil Pyke (Micah Obiero, 78’)
UNUSED SUBS: Luke Mewitt, Andrew Osei-Bonsu
LEEDS UNITED UNDER-23: Bailey Peacock-Farrell; Tyler Denton, Romario Vieira, Paudie O’Connor (c), Bryce Hosanna (Tom Pearce, 90’); Hugo Diaz, Oriol Rey, Jamie Shackleton, Alex Machuca (Jack Clarke, 58’); Oliver Sarkic (Clarke Oduor, 85’), Jay-Roy Grot
UNUSED SUBS: Harrison Male, Adrian Balboa
REFEREE: Mr L Doughty