Salford City’s best ever FA Youth Cup run came to an end in the Third Round against Manchester United.
The Under-18s conceded a goal in each half to Daniel Gore and Charlie McNeill, but put in an encouraging display against last season’s semi-finalists.
The visitors carved out the first opening of the game as Isak Hansen-Aaroen’s defence-splitting pass down the left played Noam Emeran into space. The winger drove forward into the box and lashed a ball across the face of goal and wide of the far post.
It was enough of a warning and Salford settled into a rhythm whereby they contained United, albeit without troubling Radek Vitek too much. At the other end Hayden Evans hadn’t been called upon, but he was required in the 28th minute.
A through ball from deep found its way through to McNeill but Evans was out quickly to smother. The young American reacted fast to keep out Gore before Charlie Savage hit the loose ball from distance and glanced the outside of the post.
Kelly N’Mai’s adventurous run forward on the right culminated in a corner for Salford, but United broke from the overhit cross with Alejandro Garnacho on the right. The Spaniard cut inside of the recovering Finn Bartram but his low shot to the near post was saved by Evans.
It was Salford’s turn to attack next, and the high press forced Vitek into a short pass intended for Bjorn Hardley. Possession came to Ben Finley on the right whose cross was cleared high into the air and fell for Ben Rydel on the of the box. The captain nudged the ball to the right and let fly with a shot that rose over the bar into the West Stand.
However for all the good work so far, The Ammies were undone by a sharp move in the middle. Gore started it off himself with a pass into Martin Svidersky before heading towards the area, and in the meantime possession was moved to the right where Garnacho fed a pass into the overlapping Iestyn Hughes. The Welshman’s cross was on a plate, and Gore rose at the back post to plant a header past Evans.
Salford heads didn’t drop, and a couple of minutes before the break N’Mai’s run down the left was worthy of a corner. Tom Shepherd drilled a delivery in from the left that came off the post before United cleared their lines.
An encouraging first half performance, Salford certainly weren’t being over-run and they started the second half on the front foot. Unfortunately Vitek was still to be tested though and Lucas Berry’s block denied Garnacho at the other end after the winger raced onto a through ball.
United were in a bit more control in the second period, but it wasn’t until the 68th minute when the next chance materialised and the visitors made it count. There seemed to be relatively little danger when McNeill received possession on the left, but after finding a way past Lucas Kirnon the centre forward lifted a shot from a tight angle that doubled United’s advantage.
After the goal Salford made a substitution as Phil Perry replaced Ben Finley, and shortly after the full-back won possession midway inside the United half before blasting over from quite a distance.
The young Ammies pushed and tried to force the issue but United maintained their composure and should have gone three ahead in the 87th minute. McNeill raced forward on the right this time but fired wide of the far post.
Chance came for a consolation a minute later when Anton Smith’s free kick dropped towards the back post, but neither Kirnon not Djavan Pedro could quite get there to apply the final touch it needed. And there was time for one more chance for the visitors as Kobbie Mainoo was allowed to turn in the six-yard area, but he could only lift a blind shot over the bar.
A valiant showing from Luke Morgan’s side against the competition’s most successful Champions, and no doubt some of the names on the team sheet tonight will appear in World football in years to come.
It can’t be overlooked that this is Salford’s best performance in the FA Youth Cup, and credit where it is due to Luke Morgan and his staff. For some of the team it will be their final bow in the FA Youth Cup, and now they have a bit of time left to earn a contract with the Development Squad, while for others there is a decent core who will be hungry to go again next season.
SALFORD: Evans, Timmis, Kirnon, Rydel (c) (Collins 82’), Berry, N’Mai, Bartram (Lescott 73’), Smith, Pedro, Shepherd, Finley (Perry 68’)
Subs: Rose (GK), Collins, Jones, Roberts, Ghaly, Lescott, Perry