Crewe 2 United 3: Dream return for Galbraith as U18s return to winning ways
Posted by nickogs20 on March 7, 2009
|Crewe Alexandra U18s||2-3||Manchester United U18s|
|Titchiner 26, 62||–||Brandão 16|
After successive defeats to Manchester City and Stoke, United U18s re-found their form to pick up their eighth win in eleven away matches this season and avenge their loss to today’s opponents Crewe at Carrington back in October. The Reds left it late but undeniably deserved all three points at Alexandra Park, and the way in which they were secured was particularly pleasing, Danny Galbraith marking his return from hellish injury problems by scoring the winner five minutes from time. United had earlier taken the lead twice through goals from Evandro Brandão and Ryan Tunnicliffe, only to be pegged back both times by strikes from Crewe striker Alex Titchiner.
Paul McGuinness’ starting lineup was almost dictated to him by the high number of injuries currently affecting the players available to him, other players also being missing through suspension and due to other commitments. The eleven that took the field was relatively strong, boasting first-choice players like Conor Devlin, Joe Dudgeon, Scott Wootton, Cameron Stewart and captain Ollie Norwood as well as regulars Nicky Ajose, Kenny Strickland, Chris Curran, Brandão and Tunnicliffe, but there was a debut for U16 centre-back Zeki Fryers at the heart of the defence, and the three-man bench featured no goalkeeper, two players McGuinness ideally didn’t want to press into action (Oliver Gill and Robbie Brady, still recovering from reserve duty less than 48 hours earlier) and overage player Galbraith, looking for his first action in a United shirt since the BlueStars tournament last May.
What was noticeable from the start was just how different a game this was to the U18s’ last outing, a dour clash that saw a physically superior Stoke side snatch a goal on the counter and then park the bus. Here at Alexandra Park it was immediately evident that we had two sides who wanted to play football and to attack, and who were capable of doing so in a manner that would entertain those watching in person or on television. This led to a thoroughly watchable encounter right from the off.
United’s early attacking intent was summed up by early strikes from full-backs Strickland and Dudgeon which forced Crewe keeper Daniel Platt into fine saves. Norwood’s typically expansive passing was regularly bringing Stewart and Curran into the game from wide positions while Brandão was proving his usual handful up front. At the other end, the Manchester-born duo of Ben Marshall and Matt Lund were looking every bit as dangerous as they did at Carrington.
Nonetheless, it was the Reds (donning the white away strip) who drew first blood, Lund inadvertantly providing the assist. Norwood’s cleverly-flighted throughball forced Lund to intervene, but in glancing the ball away from the lurking Tunnicliffe he only succeeded in diverting the ball into the path of Brandão, who produced a piece of brilliantly opportunistic finishing to flash a volley past Platt with the outside of his right foot – a trademark strike from the young Portuguese, all about instinct.
Just about a deserved lead on the balance of play, but the hosts weren’t deterred. Devlin had to be alert to claim a couple of dangerous crosses, but there was little he could do to prevent Crewe drawing level ten minutes after Brandão’s opener. The United back four were holding a high line, generally successfully, but the excellent Marshall – who was on United’s books until the age of 13 – floated a terrific ball over the head of Fryers and right into the stride of Alex Titchiner, the home side’s top goalscorer making no mistake with what was a routine but composed finish.
United continued to just about edge things but the final ball wasn’t quite coming off, and it was Crewe who came closest to taking a lead into the interval. Lund went close somewhat fortuitously with a cross-shot that was deflected onto the post, but there was no doubting the intention behind his header shortly after, an effort that thudded against the woodwork with a fair bit more conviction but thankfully, from a United point of view, ultimately went harmlessly behind.
Half-time saw both coaches keep their teams on the field for their team-talks, a decision that I’m sure went down well with all the players on a chilly Cheshire morning. No changes where forthcoming from Paul McGuinness, perhaps understandable given the lack of options available to him, but nevertheless that decision was vinidicated five minutes after the restart as his side regained the lead.
Brandão played in Ajose on the left and Platt made the mistake of trying to beat the United striker to the ball. Ajose duly skipped past the blond keeper and floated a cross to the far post where Tunnicliffe rose well to head towards goal, only to see one of three Crewe defenders back on the line stretch to clear. No matter – the Reds #8 was quickest to react and slammed a volley past the despairing trio.
Deserved reward for an impressive start to the second period but again, Crewe had no intention of throwing in the towel. The Reds’ backline were served ample warning of the threat posed by the home side when a throughball saw Titchiner get to the ball before the onrushing Devlin – luckily for the young Irish keeper Scott Wootton was on hand to get back and prevent the ball trickling over the line, and the home side’s calls for a penalty (Devlin had floored Titchiner as he arrived late) were waved away. A few minutes later, no such luck. Titchiner again was in behind the defence and Devlin – perhaps wary of making contact with the striker after the earlier incident – lacked conviction in his attempt to collect at the forward’s feet, allowing Titchiner to skip around him and slot the ball into the unguarded net.
All to play for in the last half hour then, and McGuinness took the opportunity to make the only real change available to him. Fryers was withdrawn, prompting a rejig that saw Strickland move inside to centre-half, Stewart slot in at right-back and Ajose move to the left wing from his central attacking role, which was taken up by the incoming Danny Galbraith. A great moment for the young Scot, who has spent the past ten months on the sidelines through injury and must have been wondering whether he’d get to ever pull the United shirt on again for a competitive match.
Chances came and went for the Reds – Stewart being denied by a fine block after a brilliant run from deep, Curran headed into the side-netting… the ball just wouldn’t break right and as the clock ticked inexorably towards ninety minutes, a draw looked the most likely outcome. Right on cue, Norwood’s perfect lofted through-ball with the outside of the boot found Galbraith, his brilliantly composed lob found the net, United had a lead and we had a terrific story – the Galashiels youngster’s first competitive goal since September 2006, his first of any kind since a pair at the BlueStars and all within twenty minutes of returning from such an injury nightmare.
All that was left to do for McGuinness’ side was to play out the remaining minutes against a Crewe side who this time, finally, were well and truly vanquished. They did so without any problems, securing a hard-earned and deserved three points, plenty of smiles on the faces of those in white as they left the pitch – none bigger than Danny Galbraith’s. Credit must go to Crewe, undoubtedly one of the best footballing sides United have come up against at this level all season, and three points each from two really enjoyable games this campaign seems like a fair return.
1. Conor Devlin
2. Kenny Strickland
3. Joe Dudgeon
4. Zeki Fryers (15. Daniel Galbraith 66)
5. Scott Wootton
6. Oliver Norwood (c)
7. Chris Curran
8. Ryan Tunnicliffe
9. Evandro Brandão
10. Nicky Ajose
11. Cameron Stewart
Subs not used
12. Oliver Gill
14. Robbie Brady