Salford City Under-18s held firm to bring three points home from Scunthorpe United in their first EFL Youth Alliance Cup group game.
Dougals James-Taylor scored twice in the first half, while there were other good chances before the break to extend the lead with Scunthorpe unable to trouble the back.
After Salford were reduced to 10 men in the second half the hosts pulled one back, but The Ammies stood firm to secure all three points.
It took just three minutes for Salford to take the lead, and it came as punishment after Scunthorpe had skied an effort that should have tested Max Williams more. From the goal kick the Welsh youth international picked out Clayton Gorman on the left, who advanced before whipping a ball in that James-Taylor chested past the United stopper.
A second nearly came a couple of minutes later as Taylor Dyson broke down the left-hand side and shot from a narrow angle. The effort beat the oncoming keeper, but a covering defender cleared from just a couple of yards out. In reply Scunthorpe won a free-kick on the left, but Will Hall got a clearance in.
Harry Ditchfield tried his luck from distance but couldn’t find the target, and Ben Rydel had an effort that met a similar fate. The pace of the forwards had Scunthorpe troubled all afternoon, and Gorman was denied in the 17th minute after cutting back inside with the blocked shot falling for Ditchfield whose effort was saved.
Five minutes later and Scunthorpe found themselves further behind when James-Taylor broke into the area and was taken down, with a penalty unhesitatingly awarded. He picked himself up and confidently stroked the ball low to the left, with the keeper unable to get down quick enough to keep the ball out.
Unaided by his defence, Scunthorpe’s stopper was called into action again a minute later to deny Gorman, and then five minutes later he had to be alert to keep Rydel out after denying Gorman another opportunity. The assault continued before the half time whistle as Ditchfield curled a central free kick over, and Callum Burton shot wide after winning possession high up the field.
A prosperous first half for the Under-18s, although maybe the scoreline should have been greater. As things transpired it was enough, and a great deal of spirit, character and resilience saw them through to 90 minutes.
Scunthorpe looked a more dangerous side in the second half and within seven minutes of the restart they nearly had one back. Williams came out of his goal to close down an attacker who tried to lob the keeper, but misjudged the angle and watched as his effort bounced wide. Salford retaliated with James-Taylor being played in down the left, but his first time shot was saved.
The hosts were gradually seeing more of the ball and as Salford pushed to get out, they were leaving the odd gap open at the back. Scunthorpe’s number 11 tried to take advantage in the 66th minute as he raced onto a ball over the top, but he only endeavoured to lift his shot over.
Things weren’t helped when Sam Twist was given his marching orders for an off the ball incident shortly after, and with 13 minutes to go Scunthorpe pulled a goal back. Having moved into the attacking third, a patient sequence of passing culminated in the number 7 hitting a shot from the edge of the area, to the right, that found it’s way through the area and past Williams.
A free kick from the right was glanced wide with 10 minutes to go, and a moments after an equaliser was ruled out for offside after the Scunthorpe forward had made his run a fraction too early.
The pressure continued although a wasteful shot from 45 yards from the centre back wasn’t how the hosts were going to pull level, and as added time started a cross from the right was teasing and needed just a touch, but no blue shirts were present to oblige and Scunthorpe were left with nothing.
Head of Academy Jamie Russell said afterwards: “I’m really, really pleased with the attitude of the lads; their game management was excellent, always making sure they were compact in the defensive third which meant Scunthorpe were reduced to long-range efforts.
“In midfield we showed resilience to work hard for each other, and in the final third the forwards took the game to Scunthorpe.
“The game was a lesson in taking chances as we should have been further ahead at half time, but I’m pleased that the lads did enough to earn a first three points in the group, and they’ll use this as a learning experience for future performances.