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Manchester United Reserves & Academy News

United 0 Bolton 0: Shootout setback for Solskjaer’s side

Posted by nickogs20 on October 30, 2008

Man Utd Celtic
Manchester United Reserves 0-0 Bolton Wanderers Reserves

Bolton Wanderers win 9-8 on penalties

A drab and largely uneventful ninety minutes was followed by a tense quarter of an hour as Bolton Wanderers edged a lengthy penalty shootout to take all three points at Moss Lane. The Reds were left with the consolation of one point for their efforts and the knowledge that they were comfortably the better side, but will be rueing a lacklustre attacking performance that saw few chances created and the handful that were go begging.

As said in our preview, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made just two changes to the side that won 3-0 away to Manchester City last week – Ben Amos replaced Ben Foster in goal and James Chester returned in place of Rafael da Silva, with David Gray reverting to right-back. Corry Evans continued at centre-half alongside Chester, the five-man midfield from last week remained intact – Cleverley on the right, Drinkwater on the left – and Manucho was the lone striker, the continued absence of Danny Welbeck and Kiko Macheda through injury somewhat forcing OGS’ hand in that regard.

United looked in total control but a bit toothless in the first 45, with possession and territory very much in their favour but a paucity of real goalscoring opportunities. The best fell to Manucho, Richard Eckersley’s far post cross presenting the big Angolan with a glorious chance to open the scoring that he could only glance narrowly wide with Bogdan well beaten in the Bolton goal.

Manucho - twice went close in the first half

Manucho - twice went close in the first half

Bogdan was well beaten again shortly afterwards and could only watch on in hope as Sam Hewson’s shot from the edge of the box swerved away at the last minute and hit the outside of the post. The Hungarian international keeper was then forced into a smart save as a Manucho strike took a deflection that looked to be sending it into the bottom corner.

Sissons went close for Wanderers with a well-struck shot that whistled past Amos’ post but there was no denying it was United’s half on points, even if they had failed to land anything resembling a knockout blow. You hoped the Reds would be able to find their shooting boots in the second half and really push on to get the win against opponents they beat in the league just a fortnight ago, but as it happened Bogdan and his defence had an easier time of it after the break.

Possebon and Cleverley threatened from range and Hewson missed a sitter shortly after the interval, but most of United’s efforts at goal in the second period took the form of hopeful and increasingly wayward strikes from distance which left Bogdan untroubled. Gray and Eckersley tried to force things and got forward to good effect as the half wore on but the final ball was consistently lacking, while the plethora of central midfielders were, if anything, getting in each others’ way.

Solskjaer attempted to remedy this slightly by replacing the subdued Possebon with Antonio Bryan, who took up a position wide left with Drinkwater moving inside. Bryan’s pace and direct running posed a different threat to the visiting defence but he’s not a natural wide player, and it showed. Unfortunately Ole’s options in this area are sorely limited with Daniel Galbraith and Fábio da Silva out injured and the wide players in the Academy perhaps not quite ready to make the step up yet.

Magnus Eikrem replaced Drinkwater as the game inexorably headed towards what looked like an entirely inevitable penalty shootout. A late scare aside (Sam Sheridan’s ‘goal’ being rightly chalked off for offside), United never remotely looked like losing the game in the ninety minutes but, truth be told, in the second half they never really looked like winning it either. Manucho battled valiantly upfront and always looked the most likely to make something happen, but nothing quite came off for him and he’s in that stage that all strikers go through (especially in new surroundings) where a goal is urgently needed to get him off and running.

David Gray - first to slip up in the shootout

David Gray - first to slip up in the shootout

So to penalties it went. Much to the disappointment of the brilliantly supportive fans from MUSC Polska (who didn’t stop singing all night) on the Hale End Terrace, the away side won the toss to decide ends and chose the Golf Road End. What followed was one of the more impressive penalty shootouts I’ve seen, the first 14 penalties all being scored and 13 of those giving the keeper no chance (Eikrem’s somehow crept in under Bogdan’s dive). With the scores level at 7-7, David Gray’s weak effort was saved and Bolton had the chance to win it – the pressure told and the kick was blazed over the bar.

Sadly, before the United fans behind the goal had the opportunity to get a Viva Nathan Woolfe song up and running the teams had traded another converted penalty each and it was Bryan’s turn to step up – the Reds forward sent his kick high and wide and this time there was to be no reprieve, Wanderers skipper Eckersley blasting straight down the middle to dash United’s hopes of making it three wins from three in the competition this season.

Ultimately the result isn’t the end of the world – United still get a point for losing via shootout and remain second in the table with trips to face City and Stockport left in the schedule. Two wins would guarantee qualification for the final, less may well do the trick. Of more concern will be the fact that, not for the first time this season, the Reds really struggled to break down inferior opposition on home territory, with the formation that has proved so effective in away games so far lacking in creativity and penetration against teams who get men behind the ball.

This isn’t a criticism of the Solskjaer/Joyce management team at all – as said, they really have extremely limited options, especially in the key wide areas and upfront, and are doing a fine job with what is available to them. The return from injury of the likes of Macheda, Welbeck, Galbraith and Fábio certainly can’t come soon enough though.

In a game not exactly overflowing with outstanding individual performances, I’d single Corry Evans out for praise – the young Ulsterman continues to look at home out of position in the centre of defence and put in another assured display. The back four as a whole looked solid, if generally untroubled.

The reserves are next in action in Glasgow next Wednesday, when they take on their Celtic counterparts in a precursor to the Reds’ Champions League clash with the Bhoys at Celtic Park that evening.

1. Ben Amos
2. David Gray
3. Richard Eckersley
4. Corry Evans
5. James Chester (c)
6. Rodrigo Possebon (16. Antonio Bryan 60)
7. Darron Gibson
8. Daniel Drinkwater (14. Magnus Eikrem 80)
9. Manucho
10. Sam Hewson
11. Tom Cleverley

Subs not used
12. Jimmy Derbyshire
13. Ron-Robert Zieler
15. Scott Wootton

Booked: Gibson

Penalty Takers (in order):
Gray (missed)
Bryan (missed)

2 Responses to “United 0 Bolton 0: Shootout setback for Solskjaer’s side”

  1. lorenzo23 said

    So the rest of the season’s home games have been switched to Moss Lane, Altrincham. Attendances might get bigger now? Seriously thinking about going to see Accrington Stanley in the Lancashire FA Cup. Well maybe more visitors from Poland and Nederlands as on Thursday night. Whatever is going on at Northwich (unpaid electric bills or floods?)I’ve got my wish Reserve football has come back to Manchester.

  2. nickogs20 said

    Unpaid electric bills by the sounds of it, certainly seems as though the switch to Moss Lane will be permanent (for this season anyway). Would be nice to get some bigger crowds, it’s certainly a lot easier for anyone in Manchester to get to and we used to get decent crowds when we were there between 2002-2005.

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