Kieran O'Hara in action but Manchester United U23 on brink of relegation

Sun, Apr 15 2018

Kieran O'Hara with his Ireland U21 teammates. Credit: Laszlo Geczo

Manchester United were all but relegated from the Premier League 2 after a 1-1 draw with Manchester City at the Academy Stadium on Friday night in a game that saw Benjamin Mendy make his return from injury.

Manchester City took the lead after just five minutes as Luke Bolton scampered down the right before crossing into Lorenzo Gonzalez and he lifted the ball expertly over Kieran O’Hara in the United goal.

O’Hara then made a fine save on 10 minutes as Bolton skipped past Joe Riley before his effort was sprung upon by the Republic of Ireland stopper.

The visitors first chance arrived on 16 minutes when Tahith Chong danced his way around the City defence before his effort hit the side netting when he should have made City keeper work.

O’Hara who was called up by Martin O’Neil to join the Ireland senior squad in last month’s defeat to Turkey was then called into action a minute later as Bolton skipped his way through the Reds defence once again before his shot was tipped away by the United stopper.

City then went close to a second on 31 minutes after very poor defending from United as Matt Smith jinked his way into the box before he pulled his strike inches wide of the right-hand post.

United then took advantage of a goalkeeping error from Daniel Grimshaw as he received a back pass from Ed Francis before his clearance bounced of Chong before bouncing behind much to the keeper’s relief.

O’Hara then made a superb save, on the brink of half time, to deny City a second as Marcus Wood hit a sweet strike that deflected off Lee O’Connor before being pushed away by the young shot stopper.

A minute later the Blues nearly doubled their lead as Iker Pozo linked up well with Bolton before the winger drilled his effort wide of the upright.

However, on the stroke of the interval Indy Boonen met a Ro-Shaun Williams freekick perfectly before heading the ball into the net leaving Grimshaw with no chance of saving.

It was Simon Davies Manchester City who started the second half the brighter and they should have been ahead on 50 minutes as Tom Dele-Bashiru played in Wood, but he was denied by yet another superb stop from the onrushing O’Hara.

United, however, should have been ahead on 55 minutes as Ethan Hamilton played in Callum Gribbin one on one but his effort was well saved by Grimshaw as he clawed the striker’s effort away from the danger zone.

Less than a minute later Ricky Sbragia’s side were inches away from taking the lead as they put City under a spell of immense pressure as Chong was played in by Boonen, but he fired his shot across goal and wide of the target.

With twenty minutes remaining O’Hara made yet another fantastic save as Gonzalez beat Cameron Borthwick-Jackson before his dripping effort was tipped away by the impressive United stopper.

City had yet another fine opportunity to regain the lead as Ian Poveda played a delightful ball into the feet of Wood, but his cutback was well cleared by Williams just as Bolton was about to pounce on the loose ball.

The Blues could have stolen all three points in the 88th minute but they were denied by, yet another O’Hara save after Smith was played in by Bolton but his drilled shot across goal was beaten away by the keeper.

However, the final chance of the match fell the way of United as Gribben was picked out by Zachary Dearnley but his effort deflected off Francis before looping into the hands of Grimshaw.

The draw for United does mean that a win for Derby County against West Ham United on Monday night will push the Reds down into Division Two for next season.