Tough start to 2020 for United's Under-23s

Monday 06 January 2020 21:26

Manchester United’s Under-23s suffered only our second Premier League 2 Division Two defeat of the season by losing 2-0 to the leaders West Ham United at the Chigwell Construction Stadium on Monday evening.

The festive season for Neil Wood's side was officially over with this return to action for what was probably our most important match so far at this level in 2019/20. This was a classic top-of-the-table clash with the Reds and the Hammers being far and away the most successful teams in the division.

At kick-off the hosts were just one point better off than us in pole position and in possession of a slightly superior goal difference. To highlight the gulf between these two teams and the rest of the pack, the Reds - with 34 points -  started the game twelve points ahead of third-placed West Bromwich Albion.
And Wood's men hit the ground running at the home of Dagenham & Redbridge and were almost immediately making a bee-line towards the Hammers’ area.
Ethan Laird challenges for the ball.
However, the game was barely two minutes old when the referee halted the proceedings after West Ham defender Goncalo Cardoso had gone down following a clash of heads with United’s Teden Mengi. The game was held up for almost five minutes while the stricken player received treatment. Happily, Cardoso was fit enough to continue after all checks had been made and the damage swathed in a bandage.

The delay did nothing to alter the pace of the game and it was instantly back to the tempo set in those few minutes before the hold-up. Both teams began to produce openings but without success until the 25th minute when the Hammers broke the deadlock after the Reds' defenders were unable to clear their lines. Joe Powell created the opportunity by running on to a short pass before crossing for Alfie Lewis to tuck the ball home.
United’s former boss David Moyes, who recently returned for a second spell in charge of the Irons, was watching from the stands and he couldn’t have failed to be impressed by the standard of play from both sides. And no doubt he was even happier when the team playing in his club's familiar claret and blue colours doubled the lead ten minutes after moving in front.

Manchester-born Nathan Holland, who also played a role in the build-up to his side’s first goal, grabbed the Hammers’ second with a rising shot that thumped against skipper Matej Kovar’s crossbar before nestling in the back of the net.

D’Mani Mellor almost conjured up a first-half response for United but Aliou Traore's close-range shot went the wrong side of the upright. Shortly before the break, West Ham almost went further ahead when Anthony Scully’s audacious lob from almost forty yards was close to dipping into Kovar’s net.
D'Mani Mellor puts a West Ham defender under pressure.
United's hopes looked doomed soon after the restart when Hammers winger Dan Kemp was presented with a gift-wrapped chance but somehow he couldn’t complete the task. A few minutes later, Traore had what looked like a genuine penalty claim for the Reds turned down after being grounded by Hammers full-back Jeremy Ngakia.

Seven minutes from time, West Ham were reduced to ten men when their goalkeeper Joseph Anang was given his marching orders after being shown a second yellow card of the evening. This forced the Hammers into a late reshuffle to accommodate substitute keeper Krisztian Hegyi but while this might have offered the visitors a slight glimmer of hope, the young Hungarian in fact produced a terrific flying save to prevent James Garner from finding the net with an angled drive as the game entered five minutes of added time.

United: Kovar; Laird, Taylor, Mengi, Devine; Garner, Puigmal, Galbraith; McGhee, Mellor, Traore.

Substitutes: Bernard, Fojticek, Ramazani, Svidersky, Iqbal.

Scorers: West Ham - Lewis 25, Holland 35.
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