United 3 Blackburn 0: Reserves outclass Rovers to regain top spot
Posted by nickogs20 on October 23, 2009
October 22nd 2009, 7pm
Moss Lane, Altrincham
|Manchester United Reserves||3-0||Blackburn Rovers Reserves|
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Reserves kept up their 100% home record and moved back to the summit of the Premier Reserve League North this evening by defeating their Blackburn Rovers counterparts 3-0 at Moss Lane.
United were good value for the win, but were made to wait until the final ten minutes of the game to clinch all three points and give the scoreline some gloss. Magnus Eikrem’s superb 18th minute freekick had given the Reds an early lead, but despite proceeding to dominate the remainder of the match, it wasn’t until Febian Brandy rose highest to head home a Zoran Tošić corner on 80 minutes that the points were made safe. Tošić then rounded things off nicely with a well-struck effort from 20 yards inside injury time.
With the likes of Danny Welbeck, Kiko Macheda and the da Silva twins having been part of the first-team squad that headed to Russia this week, Solskjaer’s side almost picked itself. Gabriel Obertan continued his comeback from the spinal injury that has hampered his first few months at United, while Ritchie de Laet and Zoran Tosic returned to the team after missing the win over Oldham due to international duty. Elsewhere, there was a first start of the season for Reece Brown at right-back, while the Norwegian duo of Joshua King and Magnus Eikrem returned to the starting lineup after being restricted to cameo roles against the Latics last time out. One member of the Moscow travelling party, Corry Evans, did take up a place on the bench.
Despite fielding a relatively young side featuring a number of regular U18s (including former Reds schoolboy Michael Potts), Blackburn settled the quicker and made most of the early running, albeit without ever really giving Ben Amos too much cause for alarm. Potts and Julio Santa Cruz, younger brother of former Rovers (and current City) striker Roque, were prominent in the early stages as United struggled to get their usual quick passing game going and were guilty of surrendering possession far too often for Solskjaer and Warren Joyce’s liking.
Happily, and almost as if a switch had been flicked, that all changed with one moment of magic just before the twenty minute mark, and there was a real sense of deja vu about that magic moment. When King was fouled roughly 25 yards out and to the left of centre, facing the open terrace United typically attack in the first half at Moss Lane, minds were cast back to the last home league game against Sunderland where Eikrem had curled home a peach of a freekick from practically the same blade of grass.
Presumably the level of scouting done on the opposition at reserve level isn’t quite the same as it is with senior football, as Rovers’ goalkeeper Kean could only watch despairingly as Magnus found practically the same patch of netting as well, just inside the near post with unerring accuracy. In fairness, even if Kean had known what was coming he’d have struggled to get near it. This is starting to become something of a pleasing habit for the youngster from Molde.
As said, that goal completely changed the pattern of the game. All of a sudden United were first to every loose ball and looked dangerous every time they went forward, while the heads of those in the blue and white halved shirts seemed to drop somewhat. King was narrowly off target with a great chance after being played in by Obertan, before Eikrem, Hewson and Tošić all went tantalisingly close with great efforts from just outside the box. It was one-way traffic all the way until half-time, and how the score was only 1-0 as the players headed down the tunnel for a breather was something of a mystery.
Evans replaced Hewson at the break, but otherwise it was very much a case of more of the same in the second half. The Northern Irish substitute was the first to go close with a glancing header that shaved the far post on its way wide, before Matt James and Tošić again followed suit with decent efforts from range. When Obertan’s fierce effort cannoned away off the post after a wonderful jinking run from the back by de Laet, frustration must have started to creep in at the inability to kill the game off.
Perhaps sensing this, or maybe just wanting to try something a bit different, Ole used his remaining two changes as the game moved into the final twenty minutes, first introducing Febian Brandy in place of King (who had worked hard with little reward) before then replacing Eikrem with Ollie Norwood shortly after. Brandy looked an immediate threat and, with ten minutes to go, made exactly the impact his manager wanted, although I doubt OGS would have realistically expected the diminutive Brandy to score in quite the way he did, leaping highest at the near post to power Tošić’s corner past Kean. Very well-taken by Febian, but when the smallest player on the park is scoring in the manner, questions probably have to be asked about the marking.
The boys in red didn’t care of course, and were able to play out the remaining ten minutes in comfort and with freedom. Indeed, from probably still thinking they were in the game at just 1-0 down, the visitors suddenly looked in real danger of being absolutely routed in the closing stages. Kean pulled off a terrific point-blank stop to deny Evans what looked like a certain goal after Tošić had cleverly pulled back Obertan’s low cross-shot, but as the game entered the three minutes allocated for stoppages, the young Rovers keeper was beaten for a third time, left helpless as United’s Serbian winger – an impressive performer in the second half especially – latched onto a loose ball 25 yards out and rifled a sweet left-footed strike into the corner of the net.
Five wins from six then, and with a goal difference sufficient to see the Reds top the table above fierce rivals Liverpool, who will be the next visitors to Moss Lane in a week’s time as the Lancashire Senior Cup gets underway once more with United looking to win the trophy for a third successive year. The next league action comes the following Tuesday in the form of a trip across town to Eastlands for the first reserve derby of the campaign.
Star Man: Zoran Tošić – frustrated at times in the first half with his tendency to over-elaborate but was a threat all night, switching between the left and right flank to great effect and causing all manner of problems with some terrific set-piece deliveries.
1. Ben Amos
2. Reece Brown
3. Joe Dudgeon
4. Ritchie de Laet (c)
5. Oliver Gill
6. Matt James
7. Gabriel Obertan
8. Sam Hewson (12. Corry Evans 46)
9. Joshua King (15. Febian Brandy 70)
10. Magnus Eikrem (14. Oliver Norwood 75)
11. Zoran Tošić
Subs not used
13. Ron-Robert Zieler
Ref: P Davison