Boss hails Leeds United youngsters with reassurance over star and brilliant Whites admission

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Rich praise has been issued for Leeds United youngsters with objective achieved - in typical Whites style

United's under-18s faced a huge night at Elland Road on Thursday evening with the visit of Millwall's under-18s in the second semi-final of the FA Youth Cup. Leeds were looking to seal a place in the final for just the third time in the club's history and Rob Etherington's young side ultimately edged out the young Lions in a 4-3 Elland Road thriller.

The young Whites had to recover from falling 1-0 down with just 18 minutes on the clock and a plucky Millwall side would not lie down, twice fighting back to equalise at 2-2 and 3-3. The Londoners even threatened right up until the seventh minute of second half stoppage time when keeper Rory Mahady produced a fine save to deny Lions captain Josh Stephenson who then walloped his follow-up attempt over the bar.

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In driving rain, Thursday's semi was not for the faint-hearted as a bumper crowd of 10,493 witnessed a superb see-saw cup tie in which Charlie Crew netted for the Whites fresh from two outings on the bench for Daniel Farke's first team.

PERFECT: Occasion for Leeds United's youngsters and Charlie Crew.PERFECT: Occasion for Leeds United's youngsters and Charlie Crew.
PERFECT: Occasion for Leeds United's youngsters and Charlie Crew.

Crew later went down injured in the closing stages before being substituted but boss Etherington provided a positive update on the midfielder's condition post-match, declaring that the 17-year-old just had tired legs.

Leeds - and their fans - were well and truly put through the wringer - but that, quipped Etherington, was just the Leeds United way as the boss saluted mission accomplished of making the final in which they will face Manchester City.

"I'm really proud," beamed Etherington post match. "The objective throughout this journey has been to get to an FA Youth Cup final. That was definitely the objective coming into the game.

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"We prepare the players to win, that's part of their development. We are all delighted and we are over the moon for them. We prepare the players to be Leeds United players and to play like a Leeds United team. It wouldn't be a Leeds United team if we did it the easy way.

"We will look back and reflect on certain things but these are the experiences that we want to provide to our young players because nights like tonight, the normal games programme don't offer.

"We have had a bit of adversity, we conceded first for the first time in this journey which is a big thing for them to experience but ultimately they played their way, they stuck at it and they did all the things they needed to do.

"From a coaching point of view, there might be a few things that we can reflect back on but overall we are delighted."

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Asked about man of the moment or boy of the moment even Crew, Etherington declared: "He's a top young person, he's a top player and everybody at the club in the games like this wants our best players, our best Academy players, to play on that stage.

"There were certainly no real conversations about that. For him to come out and try and be the best player on the pitch, for him and where he's at, is a perfect experience and exposure for him."

Asked if he was okay, Etherington reasoned: "Yeah, I think he's just got some tired legs. But he's not the only one!”

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