United 1 Everton 2: Windswept Reds blown away by Toffees
Posted by nickogs20 on October 3, 2009
October 3rd 2009, 11am
Trafford Training Centre, Carrington
|Manchester United U18s||1-2||Everton U18s|
|Ajose 85||–||Craig 11|
Academy league football is nothing if not unpredictable, and once again that was emphatically highlighted this morning as United’s high-flying Under-18s were turned over by bottom-of-the-table Everton at a remarkably blustery Carrington. The Toffees had lost four of their six games so far and conceded 14 goals in the process, but produced a performance that belied that dismal run of form and lowly league position to deservedly inflict a second home defeat of the season on Paul McGuinness’ team and take all three points back to Merseyside.
Nathan Craig’s early strike got Everton off to a great start, and although United thereafter dominated possession, the visitors produced a display of well-organised, dogged defending that their goals against tally so far this season suggested they were incapable of. As conditions worsened in the second half and the wind really started to affect proceedings, the Toffees took full advantage with a killer second goal as Lewis Codling headed home from a set-piece, and while United got one back late on in bizarre fashion as the wind sent a Nicky Ajose corner past the despairing Everton keeper, they couldn’t muster an equaliser in the remaining five minutes.
McGuinness’ team selection has been pretty consistent this season, but the coach took the opportunity to change things up a little, most notably at the back where there was a long-awaited debut for Michele Fornasier, who in midweek finally recieved clearance to play after his summer move from Fiorentina. The 16 year-old Italy youth captain took up a position at the heart of defence alongside Scott Wootton, with Tom Thorpe moving to right-back.
Other changes saw the goalkeeper rotation continue, with Conor Devlin returning and Sam Johnstone dropping to the bench, and a first start of the season for Jesse Lingard, who replaced Ravel Morrison on the right wing. Etzaz Hussain missed out through injury, which meant a chance for Larnell Cole alongside Ryan Tunnicliffe in the midfield engine room.
Any expectations of this United side, currently sitting 2nd in Group C, coming out and steamrollering their low-on-confidence opponents right from the off were very soon discarded as the visitors settled quickest and immediately looked the more threatening outfit. The Reds were fast made aware that they were in for a tough ninety minutes, all the more so when Everton took an 11th-minute lead. Adam Forshaw broke from midfield and struck a low shot across Devlin, who could only watch on helpless as the ball rebounded off the far post and presented itself to Craig for the simplest of tap-ins.
United’s response to that setback was promising, with no hint of panic or concern as the Reds set about getting their quick passing game going and defying the conditions. The football was decent to watch for spells, but tangible reward was in short supply thanks to an extremely well-drilled Everton backline who were ably assisted by the five-man midield in front of them. Chances were scarce, and when the hosts did get in behind the massed ranks of blue shirts, it was generally down the left flank with Brady, whose teasing crossed didn’t get the attention they deserved from his attacking colleagues.
Indeed, the better chances continued to fall to Everton on the counter attack, with Devlin having to make excellent saves with his feet either side of the interval to keep the deficit down to just the one goal. The Toffees also somehow failed to get a touch to a wickedly curled cross from the right that flashed across the United goalmouth and ultimately ran away to touch.
By the time United’s Northern Irish keeper made the second of the saves mentioned above, conditions had taken a turn for the worse. The Reds were now playing with the wind at their backs, but – barring a Robbie Brady freekick which caught a gust and clipped the top of the crossbar – this was of little advantage, such was its strength at this point. The second half was a tad farcical at times as a result, and the quality of the football seriously suffered.
Everton, to their credit, dealt with the adverse conditions far better than their hosts, and it was from a wind-assisted corner that they took what proved to be a decisive lead with just over twenty minutes remaining. McGuinness had just introduced Ravel Morrison, Nicky Ajose and Reece Brown from the bench in a bid to try and get back on terms, but the trio had barely been on the pitch three minutes before their task was made twice as formidable.
Kinsella’s right-wing corner held up in the breeze and Toffees substitute Codling was quickest to adjust, getting in front of Wootton to glance a header which hit the far post and, according to the linesman, just crossed the line before the despairing Devlin could claw it away. United’s keeper and his defenders disputed the call, but the official seemed to have made the right decision.
The Reds really hadn’t got going in the second half, and any potential injection of energy and momentum that the triple substitution may have offered had been snuffed out almost instantly. Effort wasn’t lacking but Everton were never really troubled as they sought to see the game out, and it took an intervention from the Carrington microclimate to set up an exciting finish. Ajose pitched a right-wing corner into the swirling draught and the unfortunate Toffees keeper Davies was left floundering as the ball deviated wickedly, leaving him unable to do anything other than palm it into his own net.
Suddenly United were energised and an unlikely draw began to look like a real possibility, further set pieces causing more havoc in the Everton box and the last five minutes of the game being played out almost entirely in the blue half of the field, but it wasn’t to be. The Merseysiders hung on and registered a win they were certainly good value for, while United’s five-game unbeaten run came to a blustery end.
Hard to judge individual players, or indeed the team performance, in this one simply because of the effect the weather had on the game – as said, the decisive factor was Everton’s greater ability to get to grips with the conditions, although in fairness to them, the defensive effort they put in would have posed real problems to any academy attack whatever the weather. Will Keane stood out as the Reds’ best attacking outlet with some excellent examples of close control and hold-up play, while Brady shone in fits and starts, mostly in the first half.
At the back, Fornasier’s introduction to English football will have been an eye-opener for the Italian teen – he generally acquitted himself well, albeit with a couple of shaky moments. We’ll hopefully see plenty more of him in the coming weeks, although competition for the two centre-back berths looks set to be fierce, with Scott McGinty another who has yet to get a real run of games under his belt. Finally, Conor Devlin’s tidy and efficient showing in horrible conditions for a goalkeeper shouldn’t go unmentioned.
STAR MAN: Will Keane – tried his hardest to get the Reds going in the attacking third, to little avail.
1. Conor Devlin
2. Tom Thorpe
3. Zeki Fryers
4. Michele Fornasier
5. Scott Wootton (12. Reece Brown 65)
6. Ryan Tunnicliffe
7. Jesse Lingard (14. Nicky Ajose 65)
8. Larnell Cole
9. John Cofie (15. Ravel Morrison 65)
10. Will Keane
11. Robbie Brady (c)
Sub not used
13. Sam Johnstone
Ref: S Durbin
Everton: Davies, Nsiala, Garbutt, McCarten, Barkley, Forshaw, Orenuga (Codling 46), Kinsella, Donovan, Craig, McAleny (Sheppard 80).