Captain Magnus Eikrem scored an injury time equaliser to prevent Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team from slipping to their second consecutive defeat in the league.
Solsjkaer was forced into two changes from the side that defeated Bolton Wanderers with Ravel Morrison & Marnick Vermijl replacing the now on loan Nicky Ajose (Bury) and Cameron Stewart (Yeovil Town).
In a fairly drab first half Robbie Brady opened the scoring on 32 minutes via the penalty spot after clever play between Eikrem and Morrison lead to the latter being fouled inside the penalty area – referee Andy Madley had no hesitation in awarding a penalty. Before that David Hoilett, Keith Andrews and Josh Morris had opportunities for Blackburn, especially Andrews who made poor contact with his effort ten yards out from United’s goal – Conor Devlin was rarely tested. Vermijl playing in advance right wing role looked the most likely for United with a couple of shots flashing across the face of goal and one innovative flick.
After taking the lead United surged forward in search of a second – for a period the game turned into Frank Fielding v Manchester United – the England U21 goalkeeper made a string of fine saves. Vermijl was the first to test Fielding, the resultant corner brought a stunning save from a curling effort by Eikrem and moments later an Oliver Gill header was tipped over the crossbar. That pretty much brought to an end to the first half. Fielding seems a decent prospect – he impressed with his shot stopping and was quick off his line acting as a sweeper for the Blackburn defence.
The second half started in a similar manner to much of the first; however the influence of the experienced strike force of Hoilett and Jason Roberts started to grow. On 59 minutes the pair combined to bring the scores level – Hoilett fed a pass (in between Reece Brown and Scott Wootton) into the path of Roberts who finished through the legs of Devlin. Without a recognised striker United lacked a focal point. Obertan tried, but his hold up play was poor and he became frustrated & looked lost at times – as a consequence the normal influential Eikrem had less impact on proceedings. Solskjaer tried to rectify this with John Cofie replacing Vermijl. After his debut against Bury the young Belgian further impressed with his attacking instinct.
Moments after the replacement Blackburn took the lead after a long punt forward by Fielding found Hoilett in plenty of space – through on goal he was brought down by Devlin just inside the penalty area leaving Madley no other option but to award the second penalty of the game – the young United goalkeeper received a yellow card for his misdemeanour. Hoillet stepped up and slotted home the penalty, 2-1 Blackburn after 72 minutes.
Now with the lead Blackburn controlled the game – the Lancashire club maintained good possession and wound down the clock very easily as United failed to make an impression. On 87 minutes United had a rare opportunity when Obertan found himself one on one with Fielding. Obertan never had full control and the ball was easily smothered in the Frenchman’s attempts to round Fielding. Obertan never looked confident and his effort summed up his performance in an unaccustomed role.
In the fourth minute of injury time when all looked lost, Eikrem grabbed the bull by the horns. Outside Blackburn’s penalty area with two opposition players in front of him, the Norwegian jinked to his right and fired a low shot into the bottom left hand corner of the goal. Cofie, Obertan and Tunnicliffe were all involved in the build up. Eikrem had scored with virtually the last kick of the ball and earned United a deserved draw – soon after Madley blew his whistle for the final time.
On a side note, Morrison impressed with his appetite for work in attack and defence.
Starting XI: Devlin; R. Brown (Thorpe 76 min), Wootton, Gill, Fryers; Evans, Eikrem, Brady (Tunnicliffe 84 min), Morrison; Obertan, Vermijl (Cofie 71 min).
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