Manchester United’s Reserves returned to Moss Lane for their first game in this season’s Lancashire Senior Cup against Bolton Wanderers to start their title defence but crashed out 5-4 on penalties.
Bolton entered this fixture with confidence having thrashed their first round opponents Blackpool 7-2 away from home but United had already played Bolton twice this season at this level, scoring four goals on both occasions.
United were boosted by the return of captain and defensive stalwart Tom Thorpe who made his return from ankle ligament damage he picked up in his loan spell at Birmingham. Charni Ekangamene also featured after United asked his loan club, Carlisle United, not to play him at the weekend so that he would be available.
There were a few tame efforts from both sides as Zach Clough, Rob Hall and Andreas Pereira had efforts from range. Guillermo Varela picked up an early booking for kicking the ball away after fouling. Thorpe withstood the rigours of his first game back, proving his fitness early on with a perfectly timed last ditch tackle to deny Andy Kellett a goal scoring opportunity.
Midway through the first half there were incidents aplenty as there were penalty calls at both ends. First, Varela was tripped in the Bolton penalty area but nothing was given. Bolton also had a penalty appeal of their own dismissed after Kellett’s cross appeared to strike Thorpe’s hand. Moments later it was United’s turn to break and Joe Rothwell was taken down in the area but this time, the referee awarded the spot kick.
Rothwell stepped up to take the penalty himself, which was a brave step since he missed his last penalty in United colours in the Mercedes Benz Junior Cup. This time he slotted home to give United the lead in the 27th minute.
James Wilson then looked to get on the score sheet. A. Pereira set him up after tricky footwork but Wilson still had work to do. He turned brilliantly and got the shot off but it went just wide.
Bolton then fought back into the game and enjoyed a dominant spell before half-time. Joel Pereira was called upon to make a couple of routine saves and then made an amazing reflex save in the 40th minute to keep out Clough’s close range effort and ensure that United retained the lead going into the break.
There were few chances in the second half as the match became quite scrappy. Ben Pearson had a shot but it went both high and wide. Wilson had a very tame shot at the near post but it was comfortably saved by the Bolton keeper while A. Pereira had a freekick which deflected off the wall towards Lee Barrett in the Bolton goal.
Wilson picked up a knock and was substituted off nine minutes from time presumably with Friday’s game against Chelsea in mind. However, United conceded from a free-kick three minutes from time when Zach Clough was left unmarked at the near post.
Although the referee allowed three minutes of injury time, there was a lack of urgency from the United lads to get forward and the game had to be decided by penalties to determine who would face Wigan in the semi-finals. Bolton converted all their spot kicks. Unfortunately, Reece James skied his attempt which meant that United won’t be defending their title this season.
Manchester United: J. Pereira, Varela, McNair, Thorpe, R. James, Janko, Pearson, Ekangamene, Rothwell, A. Pereira, Wilson. Unused Substitutes: Gollini, Rudge, Weir, Harrop.
Penalty Shoot Out: A. Pereira, Varela, R. James*, Rothwell, Ekangamene.
* = missed.