Under-23s defeat Magpies on night of positives
It was a case of normal service being resumed as Manchester United’s Under-23s collected maximum points after defeating Newcastle United 2–1 at Leigh Sports Village Stadium on Friday evening.
United were two goals to the good at the break courtesy of a Jude Swailes own-goal and a James Garner thunderbolt but the visitors produced a strong finish to score in the last minute of normal time through Elliot Anderson.
The Reds were back in action just four days after the trip to face league leaders West Ham United in Dagenham. That game, of course, ended in defeat for Neil Wood’s charges for the first time since September and also the first time we had failed to score all season.
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Despite the setback against the Hammers, United remain firmly in the shake-up for promotion at the season’s close (perhaps via the play-offs) and were relishing this opportunity to get back to winning ways.
United included Eric Bailly and Tim Fosu-Mensah, both back after recovering from injury, in the side which, having been announced earlier in the day, surely persuaded some supporters leave the warmth of home to take in the game. The hosts certainly hit the ground running and could easily have been in front as early as the seventh minute when Aliou Traore was one-on-one with Newcastle keeper Jake Turner but he couldn’t make the most of the opening.
The Reds were looking hungry for goals and, in the 15th minute, we took a rather fortuitous lead when Teden Mengi’s shot deflected off Magpies defender Swailes before wrong-footing Turner and nestling in the back of the net. If there was more than a hint of luck attached the opening goal nobody could possibly claim that when, eight minutes later, Garner blasted the second in off a post after being teed up superbly by Hannibal Mejbri.
This was looking more like the free-scoring Reds following that barren journey south on Monday and there was almost another to add when Arnau Puigmal’s angled drive thumped against the far post.
With half-time closing in United had a couple of let-offs when skipper Elias Sorensen had a goalbound shot hooked away by Di’Shon Bernard and, moments later, Ludwig Francillette’s header hit the woodwork.
The half-time break did nothing to alter United’s appetite for goals and it was only a finger-tip save from keeper Turner prevented Fosu-Mensah from increasing the advantage, after a surging run from inside his own half led to the opportunity on the break.
Garner fires in a beauty
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The pace of the game was maintained throughout the second spell but the action in front of goal couldn’t quite match the first 45 minutes. Having said that, Newcastle enjoyed an encouraging last few minutes and their hopes were raised when Anderson found the net, but they couldn’t complete the fightback in the moments that remained.
Jacob Carney showed his agility in the Reds' goal, pulling off a few smart stops, to help Wood's team get over the line to close the gap again on leaders West Ham at the top of the table.
United: Carney; Laird, Bailly (Devine 61), Bernard, Mengi; Fosu-Mensah (Levitt 58), Garner; Puigmal, Mejbri, Traore; Mellor.
Substitutes not used: Mastny, Taylor, McGhee.
Scorers: Swailes og 15, Garner 23 | Anderson 90