The game started brightly – within two minutes Stockport had a goal ruled out after Stockport forward Tom Fisher was penalised for pushing Scott Wootton in the penalty area. United soon cranked up the pressure with Stockport aiming to frustrate as the match turned into an attack v defence training session. At points during the first half virtually all outfield players were inside the Stockport half.
Will Keane had United’s first shot on goal with a volley from the corner of the penalty area, which harmlessly sailed wide. Few moments later Ritchie De Laet brought a good save from Hatters’ keeper Owain Fon Williams as the Stockport defence were caught napping after a quick free kick. Three minutes later Corry Evans and Keane had a glorious chance to open the scoring after good work from duo Anderson and Nicky Ajose found Evans unmarked in the penalty area. Evans had his effort parried by Williams with the rebound falling to the feet of Keane, who ballooned his shot over the bar with the goal at his mercy. Stockport went up the other end and enjoyed a rare sight on goal with a Fisher volley bringing a good save from debutant goalkeeper Sam Johnstone.
United continued to pile forward, after short intricate passing between Evans and the influential Magnus Eikrem, Ajose’s name was added to those denied by the excellent Williams. Finally the deadlock was broken after United were correctly awarded a penalty after a foul on De Laet. Keane coolly converted the penalty to make the score line 1-0 after 26 minutes. De Laet (selected at left back) was a constant attacking threat during the first half, often finding himself with crossing opportunities deep in Stockport’s half. Soon after the opening goal Evans should have made it two – he picked up a loose ball inside Stockport’s half and played a one two with Keane. Evans was one on one with the goalkeeper, but was barged in the back as a consequence his shot trickled wide. A second penalty could easily have been awarded.
The second half started as the first ended – United attacking. Keane had an early opportunity after a long pass forward from Wes Brown – the virtually unbeatable Williams made a further fine save to deny the young United striker. Ajose thought he had scored his second goal of the season, but the referee correctly disallowed the goal as the United winger brought the ball under control via his hand. Ajose and De Laet had further chances with Paddy Crerand suggesting the game was Williams v United.
On 56 minutes Anderson was replaced by John Cofie. He made an immediate impact with an acrobatic effort that went marginally wide. Ajose beat the offside trap (after being caught several times by the assistant) and this time the defiant was Williams beaten, unfortunately Ajose’s effort crashed into the crossbar. Eikrem was heavily involved in both moves.
At only 1-0, the match still remained delicately placed. Against the tide Pilkington had two great opportunities to make the score level. The first, he failed to make contact in the six yard box and the second he pounced on a sloppy pass from Wootton. The chances sparked United into life as Ajose and the impressive debutant Ravel Morrison brought a double save from Williams. On the 74th minute United finally converted one of their many chances with Cofie grabbing his first goal for the reserves – two body faints and a low shot, which had too much power for Williams to handle at close range. Reece Brown (younger brother of Wes) provided the assist with a low cross from the right hand side byline. This match is the first time the brothers had started a game for United.
A minute later Cofie could have added a further goal as he smashed an effort into the crossbar after good work from Ajose and Keane. The game continued in the same manner, but United were unable to add to their tally. Impressive displays came from Eikrem, Morrison and Ajose.
United’s Starting XI: Sam Johnstone; Reece Brown, Ritchie De Laet, Wes Brown, Scott Wootton; Ravel Morrison, Magnus Eikrem, Anderson, Corry Evans; Will Keane, Nicky Ajose.
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