Burscough 1 United Reserves 3: OGS and his young charges off to a flying start
Posted by nickogs20 on July 12, 2008
|Burscough F.C.||1-3||MUFC Reserves|
|Brookes 88||–||Cleverley 8|
1. Conor Devlin (13. Sam Johnstone ’69)
2. David Gray (c)
3. Richard Eckersley (14. Reece Brown ’29)
4. Craig Cathcart
5. James Chester
6. Rodrigo Possebon
7. Magnus Eikrem (12. Jimmy Derbyshire ’59)
8. Daniel Drinkwater (15. Matty James ’69)
9. Febian Brandy
10. Tom Cleverley
11. Federico Macheda (16. Joshua King ’46)
Gray – Chester – Cathcart – Eckersley
Drinkwater – Possebon – Cleverley – Eikrem
Brandy – Macheda
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reign as reserve manager got off to a fine start at Victoria Park as the Reds ran out deserved 3-1 winners against a competitive and physically imposing Burscough side. Goals from Tom Cleverley, Febian Brandy and Rodrigo Possebon were enough to secure a comfortable victory over the Blue Square North team, who got some reward for a determined display with a late consolation from David Brookes.
The home side started much the better, with United struggling to find their rhythm as the Burscough players incessantly closed them down and gave them no time on the ball. As such, it was a bit of a surprise when the Reds took the lead in the 8th minute. Magnus Eikrem’s right-wing corner was only partly cleared to the left corner of the box where it was picked up by Cleverley. He jinked right and then left, just working enough space to get a scuffed shot away with his left foot that Linnets keeper Ian Lowe could only watch roll agonisingly past him into the far corner.
If that goal was harsh on Burscough, it was exactly what United needed to settle them down. Suddenly Possebon, Cleverley and Danny Drinkwater had more time on the ball and were able to dictate play, bringing Federico Macheda and (particularly) Brandy increasingly into the game. Eikrem went close with a freekick from 25 yards, before Drinkwater went even closer with a rasping drive from the edge of the box which skimmed the top of the bar.
A forced defensive reshuffle on the half-hour saw the injured Eckersley replaced by Reece Brown and skipper David Gray shifting across to left-back, but this did little to disrupt United’s command of the game. Craig Cathcart and James Chester were having to work increasingly hard to deal with the physical threat posed by Burscough’s debutant forward Chris Amadi, who won a freekick from which the home side went close and then nearly presented his strike partner Roscoe with a great chance, but more goals looked likely to come at the other end with Brandy a constant danger. The diminutive Mancunian won a corner on 35 minutes from which Cleverley found himself in the exact same position as for his goal, the midfielder this time making a cleaner connection with his favoured right foot but being foiled by a fine save from Lowe.
Macheda went close shortly after with only a brilliant last-ditch tackle stopping his goalbound shot from six yards out, and United’s youngsters smelt blood, ramping up the pressure in search of a second goal before half-time. It duly came three minutes before the interval as Brandy got just reward for a quality first-half display. Danny Drinkwater played Brandy in behind the defence and, after rounding the keeper, the 19 year old striker pulled the ball back to Drinkwater who had made up ground into the box. The midfielder was prevented from getting a shot away but the ball wasn’t properly cleared, and when it found its way back to Brandy 20 yards out, he made no mistake.
Two-nil, and it could have been three a minute later in the bizarrest of fashions. James Chester stretched to intercept an attempted through-ball ten yards inside his own half and made solid contact. So solid in fact that, aided by the strong wind that had been gusting all afternoon, the ball sailed fully 60 yards and cleared the crossbar by no more than a couple of feet, with Lowe looking on helpless. That would have been very harsh on the hosts, and 2-0 at half-time was just about a fair reflection of the balance of play.
After finally escaping the hordes of autograph hunters, Solskjaer made the decision to bring on his compatriot Joshua King at the break in place of Macheda. That change in personnel and the slight tactical alteration that came with it (King regularly moving over to the left wing with Eikrem tucking inside) may have been partly responsible for a slow start to the second half by United which allowed Burscough to seize the initiative. Rookie keeper Conor Devlin (who only started his apprenticeship a fortnight ago) had displayed impressive handling in the first half but was called into serious action for the first time just three minutes after the restart, producing a smart save from Amadi’s low shot.
Just a few minutes later the hosts went close again, Moogan firing a freekick narrowly over, before Burscough had what looked like a valid penalty claim turned down. Cathcart dispossessed Amadi in the box, but in the process of trying to retain his balance the Ulsterman appeared to move the ball with his hand. Despite strong appeals from Burscough players and fans alike, the referee either didn’t see it or didn’t consider the offence deliberate – either way, no penalty.
That let-off seemed to spark United into life, and shortly after OGS made his third substitution (Eikrem making way for Jimmy Derbyshire, prompting a tactical rejig which saw Derbyshire play wide right, Drinkwater move inside and King switch to a more orthodox left-sided role) his team had a third goal to celebrate. With Brazilian twins Fábio and Rafael watching from the sidelines, their fellow countryman Rodrigo grabbed the limelight in some style. Picking the ball up on halfway, ‘Rodders’ (as Warren Joyce referred to him as all afternoon) drove into the Burscough half and let fly from 30 yards, his perfectly struck shot eluding the despairing dive of sub keeper Zach Hibbert and dipping just under the crossbar – think Carlos Tévez’s goal against West Ham back in May. A wonderful goal and one the Brazilian’s performance really deserved.
United made two more changes with twenty minutes remaining – Matty James replacing Drinkwater in central midfield and 15 year old Sam Johnstone taking Devlin’s place between the sticks – and the last part of the match was played at a slightly lower pace, Burscough unable to keep up the pressing, hard-working game they’d been playing and United content to keep possession and look to pick the non-leaguers off on the break. A terrific one-touch move that drew praise from Solskjaer and Joyce ended with Josh King’s low shot being well saved by Hibbert, and another Brandy breakaway down the right presented Derbyshire with a chance which he screwed wide of an open net (in mitigation the pull-back from Brandy was slightly behind the midfielder).
With time ticking down, United were comfortable – perhaps a bit too comfortable. With two minutes left on the clock Rodrigo dallied on the ball inside his own half and was dispossessed by Grogan, whose simple ball bisected the two United centre-backs and sent substitute Brookes through to coolly slot the ball under the dive of Johnstone and into the far corner. After giving such a good account of themselves, especially considering it was the first time a number of these Burscough players had ever played alongside each other, it was no less than Burscough deserved and was warmly appreciated by the home crowd.
The final whistle sounded shortly after and, to use a classic big team vs small team cliché, everyone went home happy. While audibly keen on their side keeping a clean sheet, Solskjaer and Joyce can’t have too many complaints about the performance and will have been encouraged by a number of individual displays – Brandy, Rodrigo and Cleverley the stand-outs. The reserves’ next friendly is next Saturday, when they face Altrincham at Moss Lane as part of the continued build-up to not just the new season but also the Lancashire Senior Cup Final on July 30th.
Pictures from today’s game are available here.