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Ethan Hamilton celebrates his goal against Middlesbrough Under-23s with his team-mate Aidan Barlow

Under-23s: Manchester United 2 Middlesbrough 0

Manchester United's Under-23s returned to winning ways, following a largely barren run of late, with this victory at Leigh Sports Village Stadium in front of 787 fans on Friday evening.

The goals from Zak Dearnley and Ethan Hamilton both arrived in the first half and provided a cushion as the Reds negotiated the second half unscathed.

It was a closely fought contest and Middlesbrough could count themselves unlucky in the minutes before half-time when, with a little more accuracy, they may have gone in at least on level terms.
Boro took the field kitted out in black shirts and shorts, which to some degree clashed with United’s red shirts and black shorts. Even the match officials were wearing black shorts as if to comply with the evening’s dress code.
  
Having started the season with an encouraging sequence of eight undefeated games, the Reds have recently been suffering something of blip with just one point being secured from the most recent trio of fixtures prior to this one. The last outing at Leigh Sports Village Stadium had ended with the shock result of the campaign so far being recorded with Newcastle United running out 4-1 winners.
Ricky Sbragia's lads were certainly looking determined from the first whistle to avoid a repeat of that upset and within the opening couple of minutes, Joshua Bohui, Tahith Chong and Ro-Shaun Williams had all tried their luck in front of goal.

The early attacking was a feature of United’s game and, in the seventh minute, their positive opening was rewarded when Dearnley fired past Boro keeper Bradley James.
Zak Dearnley scores the first goal past Middlesbrough Under-23s goalkeeper Brad James
Dearnley slotted the opening goal past Brad James after just seven minutes.
It was a fine start to the game for the Reds but as time wore on, the visitors began to ease their way into the proceedings with Amadou Sylla having what appeared to be a goalbound shot blocked.

Dan Ward then fired over for Boro and in the countdown to the half-time break, their main striker, Stephen Walker, could have found the net a sufficient number of times to have claimed the match ball.

Instead, United doubled the lead two minutes into the first half’s added time when Hamilton’s low shot took a slight deflection before nestling in the net behind substitute keeper Zach Hemming’s net. James, Boro’s first-choice stopper, had been helped from the field with an injury just a few minutes beforehand.
Overall, there hadn’t been much to choose between the sides – apart from the small matter of United’s two-goal lead – and it was much the same story in the second 45 minutes. Both sides enjoyed considerable time in their opponents’ half of the field and while real chances were at more of a premium than before the interval, both defences did well to keep their opponents at bay.

The closest we came to a goal after the break was when Boro's no.9 Walker spurned another chance by heading against the post, but nevertheless the Reds, now in second place behind Reading in Premier League 2, were still worthy winners.

MATCH DETAILS

United: Kovar; O’Connor, Poole, Williams R-S., Warren; Whelan, Hamilton, Barlow (Gomes 73); Chong, Dearnley, Bohui (Burkart 75).

Substitutes not used: Tanner, Fojticek, Ercolani.

Goals:
Dearnley 7, Hamilton 45.

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