Another late comeback sees reserves share six goals in St. Andrews thriller
Posted by nickogs20 on September 9, 2008
|Birmingham City Res.||3-3||United Reserves|
|McSheffrey 3||–||Possebon 15|
|Jerome 37, 56||–||Gray 70|
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reserve side added to their reputation as comeback kings with another late turnaround at St. Andrews in their final warm-up game, goals from David Gray and Evandro Brandão hauling the Reds level at 3-3 and ensuring an unbeaten pre-season campaign after a brace from Cameron Jerome had fired Birmingham City into a 3-1 lead. Rodrigo Possebon had earlier cancelled out Gary McSheffrey’s opener with a fine strike from the edge of the box.
Solskjaer was without Ben Amos, Danny Welbeck (England U19 duty) and Danny Drinkwater (injury), while Fábio da Silva was also missing for the second game running, prompting suspicion he may also be currently injured. Tomasz Kuszczak was picked to play in goal (his first match action since pre-season) and David Gray took up an unfamiliar central defensive position alongside captain James Chester. Cameron Stewart and Tom Cleverley flanked a three-man central midfield of Rodrigo Possebon, Darron Gibson and Sam Hewson, whilst Federico Macheda ploughed a lone furrow upfront.
Birmingham fielded a strong side full of Premier League experience, with Marcus Bent and Cameron Stewart in attack, Gary McSheffrey on the left wing and Radhi Jaidi at the heart of the defence.
United started promisingly and barely gave the home side a kick in the first couple of minutes, only to go and concede from Birmingham’s first attack of the game. Gray committed himself to cutting out Agustien’s through-ball to Jerome but didn’t make the interception, allowing the England U21 forward (making his way back from an injury layoff) to run at Chester and draw a foul inside the box. The referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and McSheffrey duly sent Kuszczak the wrong way.
The Reds instantly set about making amends and Sam Hewson should have done a lot better with a free header from 6 yards out after Rafael had linked up well with Stewart on the overlap and played in an inch-perfect cross. The equaliser wasn’t much longer in coming however, and it was very very special when it did. Rodrigo Possebon has made something of a name for himself this pre-season as a long-range goal specialist, but this one put his efforts at Burscough and Altrincham well and truly in the shade.
The Brazilian midfielder recieved the ball from Chester 35 yards out and with his back to goal – there didn’t appear to be any immediate threat to the Birmingham lead. Rodrigo had other ideas, turning sharply, taking a touch to get the ball out of his feet and launching an absolute missile from 30 yards which flew past Blues’ keeper Dean Lyness and into the net off the underside of the bar – a truly breathtaking strike.
Richard Eckersley went close to putting United into the lead, cutting in from the left flank but just dragging his low shot wide of Lyness’ left-hand post, before Birmingham went one better, Jerome unleashing a long-range exocet of his own that was too powerful for the diving Kuszczak to keep out. The Blues were well on top for the remainder of the half and it was clear that Solskjaer and assistant Warren Joyce would have some re-organising to do at the break.
Half-time: Birmingham 2 United 1
Whatever was said at half-time had the desired effect and the Reds looked a good bet to get back on terms but a moment of collective defensive naivety made their task a great deal harder. Rafael attempted to run the ball out of defensive from his right-back position but over-ran the ball, allowing Bent the opportunity to find McSheffrey in acres of space on the left flank. The Scot’s cross was devilish, the type defenders and goalkeepers hate to have to deal with, but a lapse in concentration from Gray meant the unmarked Jerome had a far easier task than he otherwise might have had at the far post – he duly clipped the ball past United’s Polish keeper for his second of the game.
Corry Evans, fresh from impressing for Northern Ireland’s U21s on Friday, was introduced not long after and he had a big part to play in the goal that gave the Reds a lifeline. United had not long served notice of their threat from set pieces via a just-too-high Macheda header from Gibson’s freekick when Evans won a corner on the right and, from Hewson’s deep delivery, Gray made up for his earlier errors with a looping header that eluded everyone and dropped just inside the far post.
As several personnel changes were made by OGS and red shirts poured forward in an effort to salvage a draw, United had Kuszczak to thank for a stunning save at the other end. One of the Birmingham defenders sent a towering header towards the bottom corner, only for the Polish stopper to plunge to his right and divert the ball to safety in a manner than MUTV’s David Stowell compared, with only minimal exaggeration, to Gordon Banks’ famous stop from Pele at the 1970 World Cup.
The Reds duly made the most of that let-off and secured a draw that preserved the new manager’s unbeaten record, Rafael this time being the one to redeem himself after an earlier costly mistake. The young Brazilian recieved the ball from a throw-in and set off on a mazy run at the heart of the home side’s back four, expertly drawing Jaidi out of position before playing a clever reverse pass into the path of the now-unmarked Brandão, whose crisp finish earned him his first reserves goal.
Full-time: Birmingham 3 United 3
1. Tomasz Kuszczak
2. Rafael da Silva (16. Jimmy Derbyshire 88)
3. Richard Eckersley
4. David Gray
5. James Chester (c)
6. Cameron Stewart (12. Corry Evans 58)
7. Rodrigo Possebon (17. Evandro Brandão 75)
8. Darron Gibson
9. Federico Macheda (14. Magnus Eikrem 75)
10. Sam Hewson (15. Reece Brown 87)
11. Tom Cleverley