Under-18s: Manchester United 1 Newcastle United 1
Manchester United’s run of three straight victories at Under-18 level was brought to an end on Saturday afternoon as Newcastle United claimed a share of the points at The Cliff.
The game was goalless at half-time but both sides found the net after the break - Arnau Puigmal scoring for the Reds and Jack Young striking for Newcastle - in what was a keenly-fought encounter.
Kieran McKenna’s young Reds were back at The Cliff just a week after that spectacular Premier League Under-18 Cup clash against Arsenal, that saw United recover from three goals down to take the points with a dramatic 4-3 victory.
It was an overcast afternoon in Salford with threatening dark clouds above but, thankfully, the rain had kept off as kick-off time arrived. There was a small gathering of spectators in attendance as the match got under way with the Reds defending the indoor-arena end of the ground.
Both sides began the game in a lively mood as they sought to carve out an early advantage but there were no goal attempts of note until the 11th minute when George Tanner’s cross from the right provided Nathan Harker, in the Newcastle goal, with his first serious work of the game. The visitors then forced a corner which the Reds successfully defended, whilst at the other end Ethan Laird fired into the side-netting.
The hosts' wide players, Millen Baars and D’Mani Mellor, were causing Newcastle some problems with their pace down the flanks, but it was still the two sets of defenders who were having the upper hand.
No score at the break was a good reflection of the overall pattern of the game that had offered rare genuine goalscoring opportunities. This was in stark contrast to the game of eight days earlier when Arsenal had plundered three goals without reply before the interval.
The second half provided more in the way of entertainment as both teams showed more endeavour and an appetite to attack.
Laird was proving to be a handful when he rampaged down the left for the Reds and one such run and cross in the early moments of the second half had the Magpies scrambling to clear.
McKenna's team were taking the game to the visitors and it was Laird who looked most likely to break the deadlock. One shot struck the foot of the far post and rebounded away and moments later, another attempt on goal flew inches wide of the target.
The Reds finally took the lead in the 61st minute and was Laird who indirectly provided the assist after he was tripped as he cut inside. Puigmal took the resulting free-kick and with a beautifully struck shot, he bypassed the defensive wall to find the net close to the inside of the post.
The hosts' lead lasted barely thirteen minutes before the Newcastle youngsters, under the tutelage of former Norwich City and Everton defender David Watson, grabbed an equaliser thanks to Young’s shot from the edge of the area.
A couple of long-range efforts from Thomas Allan, in the moments after the leveller, went agonisingly close to producing a winner for the Magpies.
United: Fojticek, Tanner, Barrett, O’Connor, Laird; Puigmal, Garner; Baars (Ramazani 46), Galbraith (Williams 83), Mellor; Burkart (McGhee 78). Substitutes not used: Ercolani, Thompson.