U18s: Bolton 1 United 1 – Reds made to wait as Trotters halt title charge
Posted by nickogs20 on May 1, 2010
May 1st 2010, 11am
Lostock Hall Farm, Bolton
|Bolton Wanderers U18s||1-1||Manchester United U18s|
|O’Halloran 11||–||W Keane 19|
United’s title-chasing U18s had to endure a frustrating morning at Lostock Farm as a stubborn, resilient Bolton side paid no heed to the form book and denied the Reds the three points required to clinch the Premier Academy League Group C title.
Bottom of the table and on a run of five straight defeats, the Trotters rocked United with a dynamic, physical start and an early goal from Michael O’Halloran. A scrappy effort from Will Keane got the league leaders back on terms after only eight minutes in arrears, but despite controlling the rest of the game and going close on a number of occasions, Paul McGuinness’ side couldn’t find the goal they needed to be crowned champions with a game to spare.
With the title up for grabs, McGuinness’ team selection has been very consistent lately and that was the case again here with just the two changes to the side that won so dramatically against Manchester City in midweek. Sam Johnstone came in for Conor Devlin between the sticks, while skipper Scott Wootton – perhaps being kept in reserve for the second string’s national playoff on Monday – was replaced at the heart of the defence by Michele Fornasier.
Both teams have played a lot of football lately, particularly United, so it was perhaps no surprise to see the game start in scrappy fashion with the Reds looking especially weary. For a side that hadn’t won a league game in seven months, Bolton were surprisingly confident and full of attacking intent in the early stages and duly deviated from the script just after the ten minute mark, Michael O’Halloran arriving late and unmarked at the far post to volley home a deep left-wing cross.
United were rocked by that and Bolton’s tenacity and work-rate prevented the Reds settling into any kind of rhythm going forward. This was one of those games where the superior team are required to roll their sleeves up and earn the right to play their football, and as that message began to sink in to the players, some tenacity of their own got them back level. Nicky Ajose’s cross from the right looked overhit but Ryan Tunnicliffe did well just to keep it in play, giving Will Keane the chance to throw himself in front of an attempted clearance and duly deflect the ball into the net. It was probably the scrappiest of Keane’s 12 goals at academy level this season but provided further confirmation of a real poacher’s instinct to go with his obvious class.
The goal settled United down and they proceeded to control the rest of the half, Bolton heads perhaps dropping a little, unsurprising given their recent form. The Trotters’ back four – superbly marshalled by Rhys Bennett – remained resilient however and the Reds had to wait until just before the break before genuine chances presented themselves. First goalkeeper Jay Lynch (a former United schoolboy) almost gifted Joshua King a tap-in with a calamitous fumble, only being saved by a belated offside flag, before King then somehow headed wide with the goal at his mercy after fine work by Paul Pogba and a great cross by Sean McGinty.
There was one change in personnel at the break, Zeki Fryers replacing McGinty in a straight swap at left-back, but there was little change in the flow of the game, the second half starting in much the same vein with United pushing forward looking for the decisive goal. King was again a central figure, looking to add to four goals in his last two games, and the Norwegian youngster came agonisingly close to giving the Reds the lead twice in a five minute spell. After seeing his spectacular effort from the left hand side of the box cannon away off the crossbar and then a much more convincing header superbly saved from point-blank range by Lynch, the 18 year-old must have started to suspect it wouldn’t be his day.
Indeed the whole side must have started to have similar thoughts as the clock ticked down and the massed ranks of Bolton defenders proved impossible to break down. McGuinness threw on Robbie Brady and John Cofie in a bid to provide a new dimension to the Reds’ attacking play but both struggled to really make an impression as frustration started to creep in. When the normally lethal Keane swiped at clean air in front of goal it was apparent that it wasn’t to be today, and with Everton keeping their hopes alive with a win at Crewe, the title race now comes down a decider on Merseyside this Tuesday with the Reds still needing a point to seal top spot. It wouldn’t be United without doing things the hard way now would it?
1. Sam Johnstone
2. Reece Brown
3. Sean McGinty (14. Zeki Fryers 46)
4. Tom Thorpe
5. Michele Fornasier
6. Ryan Tunnicliffe
7. Nicky Ajose (c) (12. Robbie Brady 75)
8. Paul Pogba (15. John Cofie 88)
9. Joshua King
10. Will Keane
11. Ravel Morrison
Subs not used
13. Conor Devlin
16. Larnell Cole
Ref: I Bonney