Manchester United were beaten 4-2 by Blackburn Rovers at the J. Davidson Stadium in the final league game of the U18s season. Ethan Hamilton opened the scoring, but his chance was cancelled out moments later by a lovely strike from Jack Evans. A controversial header from Brad Lynch gave them the lead, which Ben Paton extended. Hamilton scored a second but ex-Red Lewis Thompson secured the win for the visitors.
The u18s fielded a slightly less experienced side for the final game of the merit group and the 2016/2017 U18s Premier League. Lee O’Connor and Aidan Barlow are at the U17s European Championships, while Kieran McKenna also used this game as an opportunity to give players who hadn’t had as many minutes over the season some game time, like Luca Ercolani and Harry Spratt.
United started brightly. Indy Boonen linked up well with Nishan Burkart to carve out an early opportunity which he sent wide. DJ Buffonge, found Ercolani in the box with a decent ball which the Italian defender headed just wide. Meanwhile, Ethan Hamilton had a couple of chances from distance saved by the Rovers’ goalkeeper Matthew Campbell.
Boonen squandered a good chance by taking too long on the ball in the box, after Zach Dearnley‘s cross was flicked on by Burkart. However, United weren’t left rueing that missed chance for long with Hamilton opening the scoring just after the half-hour mark. Boonen played the ball towards Burkart but Campbell intercepted it. Campbell wasn’t able to gather the ball as Burtkart was there and so the ball came out to Hamilton who struck into the back of the net.
Unfortunately the lead was cancelled out very quickly. Jack Evans scored a screamer from 25 yards out to put the teams back on level terms, with a goal appreciated all around the ground.
Towards the end of the first half however there were a few moments of controversy. United were awarded a free-kick when Boonen was fouled just on the edge of the area. Boonen took the free-kick which struck the wall and hit the crossbar. The ball rebounded out to to the oncoming Burkart who headed it into the back of the net. The assistant referee flagged for offside against Burkart, however, he was clearly onside when the free-kick was taken and the ensuing play couldn’t have resulted in an offside.
Shortly afterwards, Blackburn took the lead. Brad Lynch headed home his tenth goal of the season but the United players and fans will be aggrieved as Harry Spratt was clearly fouled in the build up and a free out should have been awarded.
United didn’t show much improvement in the early stages of the second half, and Ben Paton added a third goal for the visitors. George Tanner allows the ball to run across the box to Paton and while Theo Richardson got a hand to the ball, it wasn’t strong enough to push the ball around the post.
At that point McKenna brought on two substitutes, James Garner and Dion McGhee, who was making his debut at u18 level. The introduction of these players had a positive impact on United’s play. There were chances from Dearnley, McGhee, and Ercolani but it was Hamilton who grabbed United’s and his second of the game, again from distance, into the bottom corner. It was the midfielder’s fourth goal in his last five games.
Ex-United youth player Lewis Thompson had started for Blackburn and he sealed the victory for his current side in the final 10 minutes of the game, killing off any chance of a United comeback. His shot had picked up a slight deflection off Ercolani but Richardson still got a touch of the ball, only his hand wasn’t strong enough to prevent the goal.
It was a disappointing end to a decent season in the U18s Premier League. The Reds still have an end of season tournament coming up before they get their summer break. On the whole, Kieran McKenna will be pleased with his team’s performance in his first season albeit that the form shown in the merit group stage could have been better.
Man United: Richardson, Tanner, Ercolani, Barrett (Garner 57′) , Spratt (Williams 83′), Boonen, Whelan (c), Hamilton, Buffonge (McGhee 57′), Dearnley, Burkart.
Unused Substitutes: Fojticek, Levitt.
Goal(s): Hamilton (33′, 73′).
Blackburn Rovers: Campbell, Wright, Jackson, Blackburn, Thompson, Wilson (Khoury 46′), Buckley, Evans, Paton, Lynch (Pike 84′), Dolan (Chan 46′).
Unused Substitutes: Winterburn.
Goal(s): Evans (35′), Lynch (45’+1), Paton (55′), Thompson (81′).
Booking(s): Wright (67′), Chan (78′).