FAPAL: United U18’s 1 Sunderland U18’s 5
Posted by nickogs20 on March 30, 2008
A makeshift United side put in a performance every bit as miserable as the Mancunian weather as Sunderland’s youngsters took a big step towards the Academy playoffs at a sodden Carrington. Injuries, international call-ups and reserve team duty deprived the u18’s of the several regulars and gave the starting eleven a decidedly unfamiliar look – Reece Brown was drafted in from the under 16’s to partner Kenny Strickland at the heart of defence, while the ever-versatile Jimmy Derbyshire slotted in at right-back. In midfield, there was a first Academy start for 16 year old Norwegian Joshua King, a January recruit from Valerenga. A tall, athletic centre-forward by reputation, King made his u18 bow on the right flank, just outside countryman Magnus Eikrem who partnered Oliver Norwood in central midfield. Fresh from his reserve debut on Thursday, Robert Brady was given a free role behind Evandro Brandão. Sunderland fielded Martyn Waghorn upfront, a player who had already faced United this season at first team level (Waghorn made his debut in the Black Cats’ 4-0 Boxing Day drubbing by the Reds), and came into the game sitting atop Academy Group D and having only last week narrowly lost to Manchester City in the FA Youth Cup semi-finals. A tough test for the young Reds even without taking the absentees into consideration, and so it was to prove.
The first half was a relatively even affair, the first twenty minutes especially with neither side really settling into a rhythm or managing to keep possession effectively. The pace of United’s frontline caused a few early problems (King in particular showing a fantastic turn of speed) and brought about the game’s first real chance, Brandão failing to convert Danny Galbraith’s left wing cross. It was Sunderland who were to draw first blood however and United were made to pay for the young Portuguese’s profligacy just before the half-hour mark as Noble’s long range effort beat Ben Amos with the aid of a slight deflection off Strickland.
The goal in truth had been coming as Sunderland had gradually started to gain control in the five or ten minutes prior to Noble’s opener, and its aftermath saw increased pressure from the visitors as they looked to press home their advantage. With a little help from the woodwork United did well to keep the deficit at one for the rest of the half, and despite having to make three changes (Curran on for the injured Brady just before half-time, Gill and Ajose replacing Dudgeon and Galbraith at the break), Paul McGuinness’ side would have harboured hopes of still getting something from the game as they lined up for the second 45 minutes. Those hopes were emphatically extinguished in a devastating eight-minute spell as Sunderland capitalised on some woeful defending to secure the three points. First a lapse of concentration from Strickland allowed Waghorn to play Henderson in for the second goal, and just two minutes later Waghorn made it three with a peach of a strike from 25 yards out.
Just four minutes later United’s misery was further compounded as a flowing team move (and some non-existent marking) resulted in Luscombe heading home a fourth, and things were starting to get embarrassing for a home side disappointingly lacking in fight and resilience in the face of trying conditions and tricky opposition. Oliver Gill was extremely ill at ease in an unfamiliar left-back role and Sunderland were capitalising on this at every opportunity, while the disappointing Brandão’s lethargy upfront was hampering any attempts by the willing King and Ajose to make something happen at the other end of the field.
United did finally get on the scoresheet inside the last ten minutes, Chris Curran running onto Norwood’s precise throughball to round the keeper and coolly finish, but as if to hammer home just how much of a consolation effort that was, Sunderland went straight back up the other end to take advantage of yet more sloppy defending – Luscombe smashing home a loose ball for his second of the game. When the referee’s whistle sounded a few minutes later, it appeared akin to a ref stopping a boxing match because one fighter is taking too much punishment. Sunderland were undeniably excellent and their display showed they are more than worthy of their league position, but everyone connected with the United Academy will be disappointed by just how easy this was for the visitors.
There is some mitigation in that the Reds’ squad was already depleted before the match and the injuries to Brady and (in particular) Dudgeon only served to emphasise that, but several of the starting lineup will need to ask themselves serious questions after this performance, Brandão and Strickland in particular. After conceding 5 goals for the third time this season, question marks about the defensive capabilities of the current crop definitely remain, and McGuinness will be looking for a reaction as the young Reds finish their campaign with away games against Sheffield United and Newcastle over the next fortnight. The performances of Joshua King and Reece Brown stand out if you’re looking for positives to take from today, but this will really go down as one to forget.
Derbyshire – Strickland – Brown – Dudgeon
King – Eikrem – Norwood – Galbraith
Brady – Brandão
Subs: Gill (for Dudgeon 46), Ajose (for Galbraith 46), Curran (for Brady 42), Woods.
Scorer: Curran 83′