A sublime goal three minutes from time by Simon Russell, direct from a corner, rescued a 1-1 draw for Gainsborough Trinity in their pre-season friendly against Sheffield United U21s last Saturday.
Russell’s effort curled home with a bit of wind assistance and levelled up an end-to-end match with the Blades youngsters just seven days before the start of the new season in the National League North.
The Blues had fallen behind only 12 minutes earlier to a cool finish by last season’s loanee CJ Hamilton, who returned to haunt his former side. Taking advantage of sloppy play at the back, Hamilton charged into the box, cut on to his right side and placed a fine effort into the corner.
It was against the run of play when Russell’s flagkick deceived the United ‘keeper, who seemed to lose the flight of the ball and backpedalled all too late.
However, Gainsborough boss Steve Housham was pleased that the match proved to be “a good test” for his team.
“You aren’t going to get many sides in our league who keep the ball as well as United’s youngsters did,” said Housham.
“Some of their young lads are quality. We did well to come through it, and I think we can step up a little bit more.
“In the first half, I thought we got near enough to the mark we want to be for next week.
“The only disappointing thing was the second half for the Sheffield goal. We have to eradicate those mistakes because, as it showed, you get punished for them at any level.”
The match opened with Jamie McDonaugh sidefooting wide for United. But Trinity were soon on the front foot and after Jamie Yates had forced a fine low save from ‘keeper George Willis, they hit the woodwork. A quick counter involving Russell and Yates ended with a diagonal ball from Nathan Jarman that found the head of trialist striker Phil Bignall, whose effort struck the inside of a post and somewhow stayed out.
Bignall went close again with a powerful drive across the face of goal, while Jake Picton also flashed a header wide. And not until well past the half-hour mark did United threaten once more.
The second half began in a more subdued fashion. But Hamilton was soon displaying his skills, cutting inside for a shot that flew over the bar.
Gainsborough responded with a sidefooted strike from 18 yards by Adam Quinn and a rasping drive from Bignall that both forced saves from Willis. But as the youthful Blades upped the tempo, McDonaugh had a goal disallowed for offside before Dominic Calvert-Lewin wriggled his way through the home defence for an effort that was thwarted by diving substitute ‘keeper Mike Emery.
LINE-UP -- GAINSBOROUGH: Budtz (Emery 45), Roma, Lacey, Binns (D’Laryea 60), Quinn, Picton, Russell, Davis, Bignall (Karkach 87), Jarman. Yates (Rigby 65). OTHER SUBS: Stamp, Bembrose, Millarde, Mann, Hodge.
SHEFFIELD UNITED U21S: Willis, Cartwright, Kelly, Dimaio, Evans, Whiteman, McDo naugh (Wright 72), Khan, Calvet-Lewin, Hamilton, Coustrain (Heh 85). OTHER SUBS: Eastwood, Cockerline, Brooks.