U18s: Wednesday 0 United 0 – Reds held scoreless in Sheffield
Posted by nickogs20 on March 20, 2010
March 20th, 11am
Middlewood Road, Sheffield
|Sheffield Wednesday U18s||0-0||Manchester United U18s|
United’s U18s endured another frustrating morning as a stubborn and committed Sheffield Wednesday held the Reds to a 0-0 draw at Middlewood Road.
With Wednesday having only picked up two points at home all season, hopes were high for a productive visit to Yorkshire but those hopes were dashed by a surprisingly resolute Owls side, who proved difficult – and ultimately impossible – to break down. In a game that certainly won’t linger long in the memory, neither goalkeeper was overly exerted and goalmouth action was infrequent to say the least, with 0-0 looking a likely scoreline from a very early stage. The home side were delighted with the point when the final whistle went, but for United there was an undeniable sense of disappointment at a third successive draw in the Premier Academy League.
With injuries (Brady, Petrucci, Morrison, Tunnicliffe, Giverin), illness (Will Keane), international callups (McGinty, Michael Keane) and reserve duty (Wootton, Brown, Ajose) robbing Paul McGuinness of practically half his squad, the United eleven that took the field was a slightly unfamiliar one. Tyler Blackett and Jack Barmby stepped up from the U16s for their first starts at this level, slotting in at left-back and right midfield respectively, while Scott Moffatt occupied the right-back berth as an overage player. Elsewhere, Larnell Cole played as the forwardmost of a central midfield three, the primary source of support for lone striker John Cofie.
The Reds started strongly, Cofie immediately looking dangerous, but were given an early scare by their struggling opposition when Danny Kirkland rattled the crossbar from 25 yards, Sam Johnstone in the United goal relieved to see it rebound to safety. The response from those in red was encouraging, with Cofie latching onto an incisive pass from Etzaz Hussain and firing just over from a tight angle.
Unfortunately these lively exchanges weren’t to be indicative of what we could expect over the rest of the ninety minutes, and the game soon settled into a scrappy and somewhat mundane midfield battle, with neither defence really being tested and the two goalkeepers almost entirely untroubled. The only real exception throughout the remainder of the first half came when the quietly impressive Barmby whipped in a dangerous low cross from the right and Cofie’s mishit effort forced the Owls’ keeper into a low save from close range. If the big United forward could have made better contact, the Reds would almost certainly have taken a 1-0 lead into the interval.
As it was, half-time arrived with stalemate still very much the order of the day. Wednesday were proving surprisingly resilient for a team with just three league wins to their name all season, and manager Sean McAuley – a former United trainee – had set his side up to stifle the Reds, a task they were carrying out with impressive efficiency. United for their part were struggling to get enough men forward to support Cofie, who had cut an increasingly isolated figure as the half wore on, and were sorely lacking the creativity or raw pace usually provided by the likes of Petrucci, Ajose, Brady or King, not to mention Will Keane’s eye for goal.
Of course, due to the sheer number of players unavailable to Paul McGuinness, the only outfield players on the bench were defenders Reece Brown and Scott Wootton – neither of whom could really be expected to change the game for United – so it was the same personnel who were going to be required to step up their game in the second half. In truth, they didn’t, with the second 45 following much the same pattern as the first. One five-minute purple patch saw Cofie go close with another scuffed effort, Lingard nearly latch onto the rebound and Cole force a save from an unfeasibly tight angle, but reasons to get excited were otherwise thin on the ground.
The other goalmouth didn’t see too much action either, although the Reds were grateful to Johnstone for pulling off one terrific save from Jack Poulton to maintain the clean sheet. Wednesday’s attacking intentions were sort of summed up in the last minute of the match however, when they fortuitously won a corner only to absurdly decide to play it short and waste time shielding the ball in the corner. Understandable tactics if protecting a slender lead in an important game, depressingly negative when drawing 0-0 at home in an academy league fixture.
That moment was something of a giveaway that 0-0 was a more than palatable result for McAuley and his charges, but United’s youngsters trudged from the field with disappointment etched on their faces. Two points dropped meant further ground lost to the other teams in the mix at the top of Academy League Group C, with Everton, Blackburn and Wolves all picking up wins. Nonetheless, and without wishing to labour a point about the home side’s approach to the game, United’s youthful and somewhat makeshift side will have learnt a lot from playing ninety minutes against a team set out to frustrate, a scenario they will certainly have to get used to as and when they progress through the ranks at Old Trafford.
STAR MAN: Sam Johnstone – Not a great deal of competition, with only schoolboys Barmby and Blackett otherwise catching the eye, but the England U17 keeper bounced back from a calamitous mistake on his last outing to put in a solid display, dealing with everything thrown at him aerially, showing impressive distribution and pulling off one terrific stop late on.
1. Sam Johnstone
2. Scott Moffatt
3. Tyler Blackett
4. Michele Fornasier
5. Tom Thorpe (c)
6. Etzaz Hussain
7. Jack Barmby
8. Paul Pogba
9. John Cofie
10. Larnell Cole
11. Jesse Lingard
Subs not used
12. Scott Wootton
13. Conor Devlin
14. Reece Brown
Ref: A Wood