Ricky Sbragia’s Under-23 team returned to the summit of the league table after grinding out a 1-0 win over Norwich City in deepest Norfolk.
The win also preserved and increased the Under-23s' unbeaten opening to the campaign to seven games, and maintained our record of having scored in every match to date.
Norwich, who have only been beaten twice in their opening six games, were two points adrift of the Reds in fifth spot. United made three changes from the side that defeated Middlesbrough, 2-0, in the North East at the weekend. Callum Whelan, DJ Buffonge and Barlow were included in the starting line-up in place of Angel Gomes, James Garner and Tahith Chong.
There was little or nothing to choose between the two sides during the first half and the game rarely looked like being decorated with a goal. United had a penalty shout turned down by referee David Middleton, when Barlow was fouled early on and Joshua Bohui, displaying excellent footwork, very nearly got in behind the Canaries’ defence a few minutes later.
The home side enjoyed a good spell before the break and United needed the defence to be focused as the Canaries attempted to get their noses in front.
The wind had freshened as the game progressed and both teams reacted accordingly by playing the ball along the ground.
United’s six matches before this trip to Norwich showed a remarkable symmetry with the sequence reading: draw, win, draw, win, draw, win and the way this match was unfolding there appeared every chance of the pattern continuing.
DJ Buffonge attempted to break the deadlock as the hour-mark was reached, but his shot failed to cause City keeper Jon MacCracken too much distress. A point apiece began to look more and more the likely outcome as time moved on, but then, in the 71st minute, United found a spark that was enough to break the stalemate.
Lee O’Connor initiated the move with a fine ball to Bohui, who instantly stroked his pass to Barlow. The Salford-born midfielder was being closely policed by Canaries’ defender Ciaren Jones, but he managed to shake off the attentions of his marker before placing his shot past McCracken.
Norwich’s cause wasn’t helped in the 85th minute when midfield player Anthony Spyrou was sent off after being shown two yellow cards.
UNITED: Kovar; Warren, Poole, R. Williams, O’Connor; Barlow, Whelan, Hamilton; Buffonge (Gribbin 70), Dearnley, Bohui.
Substitutes not used: Woolston, Ercolani, Sang, Baars.
Scorers: Barlow 71