United 1 Boro 0: Fab-ulous finale as Reds grind out another win
Posted by nickogs20 on March 5, 2009
|Manchester United Reserves||1-0||Middlesbrough Reserves|
|Fábio 90 (pen)||–||–|
It would be fair to say that this one won’t live long in the memory. After 91 minutes, every hardy soul left in the ground was surely wondering whether spending the evening at a freezing Moss Lane was really worth their while and very much looking forward to getting home. Thankfully, those who stuck it out to the end were rewarded and made their way home in much better spirits, United winning the game in the third minute of stoppage time as the last kick of the game saw Fábio da Silva coolly slot home a penalty kick won by Cameron Stewart. A relatively even game – which may have been lacking in excitement but certainly wasn’t in effort – saw Boro spurn the better chances in the first half before the home side had the best of a second 45 which looked to be petering out until that late, late winner.
Ole Solskjaer’s side featured a number of changes from the eleven that were narrowly beaten on Wearside three days ago. Kiko Macheda’s suspension for the red card he picked up against Wigan kicked in yesterday and thus deprived the side of a natural striking option, Robbie Brady instead leading the line with Lee Martin continuing in a free role behind the lone frontman. Elsewhere, Magnus Eikrem and Oliver Gill came in for Danny Drinkwater and James Chester, while the late withdrawal of Tomasz Kuszczak gave Ron-Robert Zieler the chance to replace Conor Devlin in goal, his first appearance since returning from his loan spell at Northampton. The notable inclusion on the subs bench was Danny Galbraith, involved for the first time since the BlueStars tournament last May after a nightmare season of injuries.
If the first half was a boxing match, Boro would probably have won it narrowly on points. While United probably shaded the possession, it was the visitors who posed the greater goal threat. Zieler’s palms were warmed first by the much-hyped Nathan Porritt, before James Gray’s strike skimmed the outside of the right-hand post with the Reds’ German stopper helpless. Soon after, Jonathan Franks – hugely impressive when these two sides clashed at academy level last season – went even closer, his instinctively low strike being brilliantly kept out by Zieler, who got down superbly to tip the ball onto his near post and wide.
In contrast, United never really put England U19 keeper Jason Steele under any real pressure down the other end, moves more often than not breaking down thanks to a poor final ball or some iffy decision-making. Matt James and Rodrigo Possebon battled gamely in the centre of the park but the lack of a genuine striking presence upfront and the tendency of the Reds’ wide players to cut inside limited their options and the killer ball was never really on. Lee Martin looked the most likely to make something happen, continuing his impressive form and commitment since returning from Forest, while Zoran Tošić probably had the home side’s most promising moment, a mazy run into the area briefly looking like it would lead to a great opportunity to shoot but a moment’s hesitation ultimately snuffing the move out.
Distinctly mundane fayre it has to be said, and the second half was little different in that regard. Where it did differ though was in and around the Middlesbrough penalty area, where the Reds looked much more of a threat. Early second half corners saw Brady head wide and then Gill loop another header against the bar, while Martin twice got in behind the defence but chose to look for non-existent support rather than really taking responsibility and going for goal himself. James and Possebon started to impose themselves in midfield while Fábio started to become a real threat on the left in tandem with Tošić, who was having perhaps his most impressive reserve outing so far.
No goal was forthcoming though and Ole looked to his bench, first bringing on Ollie Norwood for the ineffective Magnus Eikrem and then, after a further twenty minutes of goalless frustration, replacing the exhausted Brady with Cameron Stewart. United were the only side pushing for the win at this stage but Boro weren’t unduly stretched at the back, and as slightly desperate long-range efforts started to become the order of the day, 0-0 was looking heavy favourite. This United side don’t know when to quit though, and deep into stoppage time Boro’s backline was breached again, this time by Stewart. James’ excellent through-ball put the Mancunian winger clean through on goal and, just as he looked set to pull the trigger, Boro’s John Johnson scythed the 18 year-old down with a desperate lunge which seemed to get a bit of the ball but plenty of the man.
It’s not hard to see why the referee pointed to the spot, especially after seeing the incident from his angle, and having made that decision a red card for Johnson was inevitable and duly shown. The responsibility of handing the Reds the unlikeliest of wins from 12 yards out was firmly grasped by Fábio, who – fittingly given his man-of-the-match display – sent Steele the wrong way with every bit as cool a penalty as the one he netted against Bolton three weeks ago.
Harsh on Middlesbrough perhaps, although every credit to the Reds for keeping going to the last when their opponents were only too happy to settle for a point. The result leaves the Teessiders marooned at the foot of the Premier Reserve League North table, while three points for United moves Solskjaer’s men into striking distance of second-placed Manchester City. It’s City up next for the Reds this coming Monday as well, albeit in the Manchester Senior Cup – Liverpool away next Thursday is the next league clash.
1. Ron-Robert Zieler
2. Ritchie de Laet
3. Fábio da Silva
4. Corry Evans (c)
5. Oliver Gill
6. Matt James
7. Magnus Eikrem (14. Oliver Norwood 56)
8. Rodrigo Possebon
9. Robbie Brady (15. Cameron Stewart 76)
10. Lee Martin
11. Zoran Tošić
Subs not used
12. Jimmy Derbyshire
13. Conor Devlin
16. Daniel Galbraith
Boro: Steele, Corker, Johnson, Robinson, Bennett, Gal-Andrezly (Martin 76), Gray, Smallwood (c), Cronesberry, Franks, Porritt (Otte 86).
Unused subs: Knight, Bassi, Oliver.
Ref: Mark Haywood.