Reserves: St Johnstone 2 United 3: Reds leave it late as Ajose nicks another win
Posted by nickogs20 on July 31, 2010
July 31st 2010, 3pm
McDiarmid Park, Perth
|St Johnstone||2-3||Manchester United XI|
|Haber 63||–||Norwood 9|
|N.Main 66 pen||–||King 26|
United’s Reserves continued their encouraging pre-season campaign as Nicky Ajose’s second late winner in the space of four days secured a 3-2 win over St Johnstone in a testimonial for Saints’ keeper Alan Main.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Warren Joyce’s side threatened to run riot in the first half, racing into a 2-0 lead with goals from Oliver Norwood and Joshua King, but the hosts responded after the break with a quick double-salvo from Marcus Haber and Nicholas Main. Having seen his son level the scores, Main Senior was introduced from the bench for his final appearance at McDiarmid Park and received a rousing send-off from all in attendance, although not before the increasingly prolific Ajose rained on his parade just a little with his 88th minute decider.
While the front six in Solskjaer’s XI retained a familiar look, with Joshua King, Magnus Eikrem, Ravel Morrison and Rodrigo Possebon continuing as ever-presents through pre-season, there was a bit of tinkering at the back, partly enforced by the last minute withdrawal of James Chester (whose presence was required in Carlisle to tie up a loan deal). Joe Dudgeon made a rare appearance at right-back, with Scott Wootton and Oliver Gill forming the central defensive partnership. There was an unfamiliar face in goal as well – the man of the moment, Alan Main, for whom the plan was to start the game with a brief spell between the sticks for United before departing and later re-appearing to see out the game wearing the gloves for the Saints, the club he has appeared for more than any other player in their history.
Main was barely troubled as he kept a clean sheet for the Reds for the first eight minutes, after which he was replaced by Sam Johnstone, just the twenty-two years his junior. The crowd had barely finished applauding the 39 year-old off the field when United spoilt the moment somewhat by taking the lead, and while the goal had more than a bit of luck about it, there was no denying the quality of the build-up. Morrison played a smart one-two with Possebon before playing Eikrem in with a brilliantly nonchalant pass. The Norwegian couldn’t maintain control of the ball, but as the promising Liam Caddis attempted to clear his lines the ball ricocheted cruelly off the lurking Ollie Norwood and left Saints keeper Graeme Smith helpless.
United were well on top, and while the home side started to get into the game a little, the Reds certainly looked the most likely to notch the next goal. So it proved just after the 25 minute mark, as a sublime Norwood cross from wide on the right touchline found King perfectly in-stride, his volleyed finish both impressive and emphatic. Norwood soon had Smith scrambling with another terrific effort, and it was clear that just days after his first senior Northern Ireland call-up, the 19 year-old was the undoubted star of the first half.
Not for the first time this pre-season however, United let slip a relatively commanding position after the interval. Saints started the second 45 the brighter and after a couple of chances went begging, they found their way back into the game just after the hour mark. It all came about from a United free-kick deep in the hosts’ half, where some casual play from Morrison and Possebon left the defence stranded as a long ball down the left-hand channel freed Marcus Haber to bear down on goal. The Canadian forward, on loan from West Bromwich Albion, kept his cool to slot the ball confidently past Johnstone.
One St Johnstone goal quickly brought another, and with it came one of those classic testimonial moments. Gill brought Haber down right on the edge of the box, and referee Tumilty pointed immediately to the spot – cue the arrival of Nicholas Main for the briefest of cameos. The 17 year-old is on Rangers’ books and was given special dispensation to play in the game in order to share a pitch with his father before his retirement. Having expressed a desire to score against United before the game, he duly trotted on, sent Johnstone the wrong way from the spot and headed back to the bench.
The game thereafter lost its way a little with the usual raft of substitutions on both sides. United introduced Chris Backhouse, a former United academy goalkeeper now playing part-time for Buxton who was called up at the last minute in an emergency, but the most notable change was the reintroduction of Main Sr and Main Jr for the final five minutes to a rapturous reception. After that, it was almost a shame that the Reds’ insatiable appetite for winning and ability to find late goals came to the fore, especially as it meant effectively the final act of the veteran goalkeeper’s career was to pick the ball out of his net. Sentiment was no obstacle for Nicky Ajose however, and after playing a clever one-two with sub Jesse Lingard, he cut in from the left flank to caress the ball past Main and into the far corner for his fourth goal in five games, and ultimately the winner.
15. Alan Main (1. Sam Johnstone 8; 13. Chris Backhouse 73)
2. Joe Dudgeon
3. Zeki Fryers (14. Robbie Brady 46)
4. Scott Wootton
5. Oliver Gill
6. Rodrigo Possebon
7. Oliver Norwood (12. Ryan Tunnicliffe 69)
8. Ravel Morrison
9. Joshua King (15. Jesse Lingard 73)
10. Magnus Eikrem (c)
11. Nicky Ajose
St Johnstone: Smith, Caddis, Grainger, Morris, Rutkiewicz, Anderson, Millar, Craig, Haber, Milne, Taylor.
Subs: Duberry, Gartland, Alan Main, Trialist, Davidson, May, Jackson, Samuel, Parkin, Nick Main.
Referee: Mike Tumilty