By Nathan Youd.
Manchester United’s U18s started their Elite Group Stage campaign with a 3-2 victory over Bolton Wanderers in an enthralling encounter at Lostock Hall Farm.
James Wilson’s last gasp winner secured the three points for United, whilst Bolton will feel aggrieved to have not come out of the fixture with anything to show for their efforts.
Bolton started the brighter of the two sides, pressing forward at every opportunity, giving United no time or space on the ball.
But it was the young reds that created the first opportunity early on, Wilson and James Weir linked up in midfield, the latter skipped past two Bolton defenders, but his finish slid just wide.
That was United’s only real chance during the opening quarter of the game, and it was the home side that took the lead on 16 minutes.
Nicholas Ioannou gave the ball away in midfield, Curtis Woodward found Zach Clough, whose one-two with Tom Youngs sliced through the United defence, leaving the front man Clough to finish well past Sutherland at his near post, to put the home side deservedly ahead.
The goal sparked United into action, and they were next to threaten. Breaking quickly in midfield, James Weir’s reverse ball found James Wilson, whose smart run left him in space behind the Bolton defence. The angle was tight however, and his shot whistled just wide.
Midway through the first half, it was Clough who again caused United problems, quick feet on the edge of the area gave him an opening, but his deflected effort dipped straight into the hands of Sutherland.
But with Bolton threatening, it was United who got the equaliser against the run of play.
Ben Pearson won a free kick 25 yards out, Jack Barmby played a quick one two with the latter, before unleashing a beautiful dipping strike into the top corner, leaving the Bolton Keeper with no chance.
With United in the ascendancy, a good passing move including the goal scorer Barmby gave right back Donald Love an overlap, his fantastic ball fizzed across the face of goal, but nobody was on hand to turn it in.
United finished the half the better of the two sides, but 1-1 was a fair reflection of the game at the break.
HALF TIME: BOLTON WANDERERS 1-1 MANCHESTER UNITED
The home side threatened first in the second half, a dangerous delivery from the left foot of Tom Youngs was driven into the box, but Jonny Sutherland was alert to fist the ball away from danger.
Bolton then made a change to try and gain some authority in the middle of the park, with Jordan Hendrie replacing Dylan Wolstenholme.
The game suddenly sparked into life during a frantic minute, which led to both teams protesting furiously at the referee.
Firstly, Jack Barmby found Mats Daehli on the left hand side, the Norwegian skipped inside before falling to the floor under a challenge in what looked like a penalty on first look. The referee waved play on, and the replay confirmed that the official made the correct decision.
With United protesting, Bolton broke down the other end, goalscorer Clough found Tom Youngs in the area, who looked to have pushed United defender Donald Love before finishing past Sutherland.
The referee looked to have awarded the goal, before agreeing with his linesman, who had raised his flag for a foul on Donald Love in the build up.
With 15 minutes to go, United took the lead. Jack Rowley found space down the left hand side, before delivering a fantastic ball that was met by on the volley by James Weir, who side footed the ball into the roof of the net.
Bolton then began to soak up the United pressure as the reds pushed forward to try and find the killer goal. But with the Bolton counter attack always carrying a threat, it was no real surprise that home side equalised with five minutes to go.
Ben Pearson gave away a free kick on the edge of the box following a swift break from Bolton, and first half goal scorer Zach Clough stepped up to curl the ball brilliantly into the top corner, past the despairing dive of Sutherland in the United goal.
A draw would have been a fair result for both sides, but United refused to lie down in the final stages, and their attacking efforts were rewarded with the winner they would have felt they deserved.
United worked the ball into the box, and Jack Barmby juggled the ball superbly away from two defenders, before slipping the ball through to James Wilson, who finished powerfully across the keeper, securing all three points for United.
FULL TIME: BOLTON WANDERERS U18s 2-3 MANCHESTER UNITED U18s
United U18s starting XI: Sutherland; Love, Grimshaw (c), Ioannou, Rowley; Weir, Pearson, Rudge, Barmby, Daehli; Wilson.
Bolton U18s starting XI: Sievers; Bailey, Holding, Maher, Gibson; Woodland (c), Wolstenholme, Newby, Youngs, Walker; Clough.
Latest Manchester United U18s statistics HERE.
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