Barclays Premier League Under-18s
Manchester United vs. Tottenham Hotspur
Venue: AON Training Complex
Date: Saturday, 12 April 2014
Kick-off: 11:00 BST
Manchester United U18s ended Tottenham Hotspur’s five match winning run and themselves ended a run of five matches without a win with a narrow but hard-fought 1-0 win at home to the North London outfit.
Ashley Fletcher’s goal just before the hour mark was enough to separate the teams as United kept only their second clean sheet of the campaign, their first since the second game of the season back in August, in a 0-3 victory away at Stoke City.
With hopes of a semi-final spot already gone, United faced an in-form Spurs side that had conjoured up five wins on the bounce, four of those coming away from home, scoring six and conceding just one in the process.
Spurs dominated the play in the opening exchanges but it was United who looked more of a threat going forward, with Ben Barber’s over hit cross eluding Fletcher at the back post and Demetri Mitchell’s mazy run down the right producing a corner in which Cameron Carter-Vickers managed to clear.
Left-back Luke Amos ventured forward for the visitors and he saw his right-foot shot deflected wide of Joel Pereira’s right-hand post.
Mitchell was then careless in possession as Anthony Georgiou raced clear down the left, only to see his shot saved before Shayon Harrison had his rebound smothered by Pereira, who seemed as determined as ever to attain his first clean sheet of the season, as Dean Henderson was the man between the posts on the only other occasion.
A Spurs counter-attack saw William Miller play in Kyle Walker-Peters down the right, and the number seven teased Barber before dragging his shot wide without troubling the goal.
Channing Campbell-Young looked solid at right-back throughout but he was dispossessed by Fletcher who played in Croskery, only to see his left-foot shot saved by Harry Voss.
A 50 yard pass from Sean Goss picked out Mitchell before he slid in Ruairi Croskery, who couldn’t out-muscle Maghoma, before he returned the favour only for the resolute Spurs backline to clear once more.
A testing ball by Amos saw Ryan McConnell clear the ball behind for a corner, with a short one catching United off-guard, as Japan under-17 international Cy Goddard laying off captain Anton Walkes, but his curling right-footed effort flew high and handsome of the top left-hand corner.
With five minutes to go until the break, Fletcher, Barber and Croskery combined to great effect, before teeing up Mitchell, whose first time shot with his weaker left foot was deflected behind by Maghoma.
The resulting corner saw Walkes initially head clear, before Riley headed the ball back into the mixer as Fletcher expertly brought it down from the sky with an immaculate piece of control. Surrounded by a number of bodies he somehow managed to get a shot a way in such tight space, in a crowded and congested penalty area, only to see a stubborn Spurs defence block and clear.
Fresh from his first goal at this level in last week’s 2-1 defeat at Reading via the penalty spot, Jordan Thompson was looking for his first goal from open play, as his dazzling run ending with a shot just wide.
On the stroke of half-time, Campbell-Young fired the ball in from the right, and such was the venom of his cross, Harrison’s touch ended up going out for a goal-kick.
Spurs must have thought that was it for the half as they switched off to allow Croskery to release Mitchell down the middle, but as he bore down on goal, his tame effort was saved as the referee blew for half-time.
The start of the second half saw half-time substitute Luke Ross have his shot comfortably saved after a 20 pass move.
As the wind began to pick up, Barber showed great awareness and vision to send Fletcher running with a superb pass with the outside of his boot, only for the ball to just escape the on-rushing striker.
However, he managed to get to the next ball that fell his way as the deadlock was broken.
A neat give and go between Riley and Mitchell saw the former race clear down the right flank, before he slotted the ball across goal to pick out Fletcher, who could hardly miss, for an easy tap-in, and his 12th goal of the season.
Spurs reacted by sending on top scorer Daniel Akindayini, but the 15-goal man was largely ineffective as his eye-opener flew way over the top of the bar.
Goss tested Voss from distance before Mitchell shot over as United looked to press home their advantage and wrap the game up.
And they should have done just that, with Thompson’s cut back to Mitchell cleared off the line before Miller had his shot tipped over at the other end.
Second half substitutes Marcus Rashford and Callum Evans linked up with Fletcher who nearly doubled his tally for the game, only to see the impressive Voss save once more.
United held on for a well-earned three points, as they ended a run of three defeats in four, and five without a win.
The side top of the Southern group standings showed why they are there, as they looked controlled and composed in possession, but United fought hard and had the better chances against a talented and athletic Spurs side.
With Spurs averaging 2.6 goals per game this season and United averaging 1.7 goals per game against, this scoreline would come as a shock, but on merit, United were more than worthy in the end, with Paul McGuinness’ side looking at a potential third place finish come the end of the season.
Manchester United: Pereira; Riley, McConnell, Ioannou, Barber; Goss, Willock; Mitchell (Borthwick-Jackson 87), Croskery (Evans 64), Thompson (Rashford 87); Fletcher
Subs: Borthwick-Jackson, Henderson, Evans, Rashford, Kehinde
Manager: Paul McGuinness
Tottenham Hotspur: Voss; Campell-Young (Akindayini 63), Maghoma, Carter-Vickers, Amos (Ross 46); Goddard (Hayford 79), Walkes, Miller; Walker-Peters, Harrison, Georgiou.
Subs: Hayford, Priestly, Ross, Akindayini